A stunning spot for a mid-day stroll, Mont Saint-Hilaire is 20 minutes from Montreal but feels like a whole other universe. The silence among the tall, 500-year-old trees is stunning. Like Mount Royal and Mont Saint-Bruno, Mont Saint-Hilaire is one of the Montérégian Hills, which aren’t volcanoes but rather spurts of magma that got lodged into the plain’s rock strata 124 million years ago and hardened. That means their inclines are relatively smooth, making them easy to hike or bike up. Mont Saint-Hilaire offers 25 kilometers of trails winter and summer among one of the few parts of ancient forest in southern Quebec that’ve been left completely intact, including four distinct mountain peaks with the views to go with them. McGill University has owned and protected this national reserve since 1958.
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Out the City and High Up the Mountain
While few people would dare call the region surrounding Montreal as a mountainous area—and they would be right, since most “hills” are not much higher than 1500 feet—this doesn’t mean getting out the city for a day isn’t worth the drive. Be it on the southern shore with Mont Saint-Hilaire, Mont Orford or Mont Saint-Bruno, both of which offer a traditional approach to hikes and thus great vistas of the Eastern Townships’ rolling hills. Up north, the Laurentides region (Val-David and Mont-Tremblant come to mind) is more about dense forests treks and lakeside expeditions with unexpected wildlife sightings like deer, foxes and beavers. Parc de la Gatineau near Ottawa and Parc de l’Arthabaska near Victoriaville are also quite popular.