Montreal Outdoors

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Montreal Outdoors
Montreal is best experienced on foot. From the winding cobblestone alleys of Old Montreal to the tree-lined residential streets of Plateau Mont-Royal, Montreal offers plenty of soft adventures for urban explorers and a few hard-core activities, too.
By Marie-Eve Vallieres, AFAR Local Expert
Photo courtesy of Jean-François Hamelin/Tourism Québec
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    Ski to Your Own Sugar Shack
    Sugaring—the process of tapping maple trees for sap and rendering the sap into syrup and maple sugar—is an annual tradition in and around Montreal. Many producers host visits to their farms during sugaring season, but some go a step further, offering the hands-on experience of tree-tapping and sap-boiling. At Sucrerie de la Montagne, you can even spend the night in a log cabin, complete with a crackling fireplace. But you have to work to get there: The cabins are reached via cross-country skiing. For more exercise, keep skiing along the property's trails, which thread through maple trees.
    Photo courtesy of Jean-François Hamelin/Tourism Québec
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    Snowskate alongside Lumberjacks
    Montreal has no shortage of festivals, and winter sees a surprising number of them; Montrealers love to pass the season fully immersed in outdoor activities. The annual Winter Action Sports Festival, Barbegazi, is held over two days each February, and features wood chopping contests, freestyle snowmobiling demonstrations, and snowboarding competitions. Even if you're not a contestant, you can try snowskating—a cross between skateboarding and snowboarding, perfect for performing tricks—which is one of the activities open to the public during this free festival.
    Photo courtesy of BABAS
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    Hike, Bike, Ski, and Kayak in Montreal's Parks
    Montreal isn't a mountainous area, but its hills are scenic in their own right, and have hikes that make getting out of the city center worth a day trip. And there are plenty of parks in and around the city, too. The flat, multipurpose path at Lachine Canal National Historic Site is perfect for all ages and abilities, and you can walk it, bike it, or ski it. Parc-nature de la Pointe-aux-Prairies and Parc des Rapides, the latter a migratory bird sanctuary, offer the same activities, plus kayaking at Rapides and snow shoeing. The city's Olmsted-designed park, Parc du Mont-Royal, has walking paths for low-intensity strolls and features ice-skating in colder weather. Nearly all of these parks have on-premises facilities where you can rent gear.
    Photo by Tibor Bognár/age fotostock
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    Riding the Rapids in Montreal
    Thrill-seekers should consider white water rafting or jetboat rides, which can both be quite a challenge on the Lachine Rapids, part of the mighty St. Lawrence River. The rapids range from Class II to Class V, so the level of adventure can be pegged to a traveler's level of skill and comfort. Several local outfitters, including Rafting Montreal, offer guided excursions with experienced rafters who speak English and French. The experience makes for a fun afternoon getaway, as the rapids are just 15 minutes from downtown. If you prefer calmer water, consider renting a kayak and taking a slow float along the Lachine Canal.
    Photo by age fotostock
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    It’s Like Riding a Bike
    The first Bixi bike-sharing program launched in Montreal in 2009, and the Bixi brand has since spread to cities around the world. Residents can pay an annual membership fee, but even visitors can pick up a set of wheels, paying $5 for a day pass or just $15 for 72 hours' worth of riding. You'll find your ride at one of more than 400 docking stations around the city. Once you've got your bike, go explore picturesque areas like Plateau Mont-Royal, Lachine Canal, and Rosemont-Petite-Patrie. Enjoy Montreal’s massive cycling lane network, which spreads through lively boulevards filled with bike-friendly cafés (like Café les Oubliettes) and quiet side streets flanked by 100+ year-old trees and colorful, twirling staircases.
    Photo by Marie-Eve Vallieres
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    Climbing Montreal
    Though it may not be known as one of North America's top climbing destinations, Montreal has a passionate community of climbers, and there are several spots, inside and out, where you can join them for a rock scramble. Indoor climbing gyms include Allez Up, Shakti, and Zéro Gravité. Allez Up is open until midnight for night owl climbers; Shakti hosts women-only climbs, as well as potluck dinners and special talks about environmental issues and other topics; Zéro Gravité is housed in a 1930s theater, and also runs popular yoga classes. If you're insistent upon outdoor climbing, Attitude Montagne offers year-round climbs, including ice climbs, less than an hour north of the city. The outfitter also hosts weekend climbing trips.
    Photo courtesy of Christian Savard/Tourism Québec
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    Mountaineering beyond Montreal
    If you've ever dreamed of amping up your mountaineering skills, the peaks just north of Montreal aren't a bad place to get started. The outfitter Attitude Montagne offers mountaineering courses, ranging from one-day beginner classes to three-day trips that test your on-the-ground know-how and survival skills. If you've already passed the novice phase, the outfitter also offers advanced coursework in mountain navigation, rescue training, and avalanche skills training; as with the basic mountaineering classes, these range from one to three days and involve immersive experiences to test your abilities.
    Photo by Ryan Creary/age fotostock