Three great spaces for outdoor fun

If ever there was a season to discover new places to exercise outdoors and seek out nature, this is it. Here are three parks that might be of interest to families.

great spaces for outdoor fun

Photo credit: Ville de Saint-Lazare

Parc nature les Forestiers-de-Saint-Lazare
2800 Lotbinière, St. Lazare, J7T 3H9
450 424-8000 ext 287

I’ve visited this beautiful site a number of times in summer and fall, and my kids have zipped down the tubing hill in winter on school trips.

Photo credit: Ville de Saint-Lazare

If you’re not into careening down a hill, there’s plenty more you can enjoy. Walking trails are accessible from sunrise to sunset (stay off the ski trails), you can snowshoe over 4 kilometres, and there are more than nine kilometres of cross-country skiing trails of different levels. An illuminated skating ring has free learning aids for beginners, and the obstacle course will have the little ones (and their parents!) trying out their balancing skills.

Cross-country ski (classic and skate), snowshoe, and kids’ sleigh rental is available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and only by prior reservation. Rental info and procedures are available on the park’s website under “plan your visit”. The use of snow tubes is included in the daily and seasonal rates.

To follow health guidelines during the 2020-2021 season, the reception building is only accessible for a few minutes to warm up or to use the bathroom, and no eating is allowed inside. Masks are required. On the nature trails be sure to walk alone or only with your family bubble, maintain a distance of 2 metres from other hikers, and follow all park rules (on the website and posted in the park).

Access is free for residents of St. Lazare and Les Cèdres with a valid resident’s card. The rate for non-residents and accepted payment methods is available here:

Follow the park’s Facebook page at for daily site conditions and information on how to best plan your visit.

Photo credit: Ville de Saint-Lazare

Île Saint-Bernard and Marguerite-D’Youville Wildlife Refuge
480 D’Youville Boulevard, Châteauguay, J6J 5T9

Come for a hike, stay for the wildlife! Héritage Saint-Bernard welcomes visitors to walk, snowshoe, and enjoy nature throughout its vast natural space. Located on Île Saint-Bernard — an island which is surrounded by the St. Lawrence River, the Châteauguay River, and Lac St. Louis — the 223-hectare Marguerite-D’Youville Wildlife Refuge has more than 8kms of walking trails through forests, fields, marshes, and along boardwalks. It’s an idyllic spot close to Montreal where you can view some of the 243 species of birds that have been observed, or admire the white-tailed deer who roam freely.

Photo credit: Andrea Stanford

The site is open every day of the year, from sunrise to sunset. The trails are accessible to pedestrians and people using snowshoes, but off-trail wandering is prohibited, as are dogs and other pets. Access the trails of the wildlife refuge via the Pavillon de l’Île which is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for access to the indoor bathrooms, to enter the trails, and for take-out orders at the Café de l’Ile. Outside of this time period, access to the wildlife refuge trails is free.

Daily rates to enjoy the site vary from $4.13 for children to $15.22 for a family of four. Children 2 and under are free.

Visitors are asked to respect important safety instructions when visiting the island and can find all of the COVID regulations at Due to the pandemic, various services and activities may be adjusted or cancelled. Note that at the time of publication the equipment rental centre (for crampons and hiking poles) was closed until further notice.

Find more information about Île Saint-Bernard on their website and their Facebook page to stay up-to-date

Parc de la Rivière-des-Mille-Îles
345 Sainte-Rose Boulevard, Laval, H7L 1M7

Nature lovers will enjoy the scenery and wildlife at this beautiful protected sanctuary on the shores of Rivière-des-Mille-Îles. For the first time, the park is offering all of its winter activities directly behind its Exploration Centre, to ensure visitors a safe environment adapted to sanitary measures.

 Bring your sleds to enjoy the free groomed sledding run for visitors of all ages, access the 4.8km Owl Trail where you can walk and snowshoe, or practice your fancy footwork on the ice rink. Along with the activities currently in place, the park plans to add ice fishing as well as additional walking and snowshoeing trails on the river once it is safe.

Photo credit: Parc de la Rivière-des-Mille-Îles

In order to respect social distancing measures, the ice rink and sledding hill is available to a limited number of visitors for 2-hour blocks, starting at 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. The park does not take reservations but works on a first-come, first-served basis. Visit the rental centre when you arrive to collect an access armband.

 The owl walking trail is available at all times.

New this year are heated cabins which you can rent for $15 during your two-hour reserved block. For use by individuals or family bubbles; you can leave your belongings, rest, or warm up with complimentary hot chocolate.

All activities and parking are free. Bathrooms and the café remain open and masks must be worn indoors.

For more information visit the park’s website and follow them on Facebook for updates

Photo credit: Parc de la Rivière-des-Mille-Îles