Montréal’s picturesque city parks and “the mountain” Mont-Royal are stunning natural idylls within a bustling city but you can’t beat a day trip to really appreciate the great outdoors.
A rental car is the best way to see the countryside where lush forested hills sliced with waterways and spoonfuls of Québec culture await. And remember, no Québec road trip is complete without poutine (French fries, squeaky cheese curds and flavorful gravy) from a casse-croûte (fry shack).
Here are six of our favorite day trips from Montréal to get you started.
1. Go hiking at a provincial park
Travel time: 30 minutes
Just 30km (18.6 miles) from Montréal near the suburb of Longueuil, lies the opportunity to go hiking amidst 27km (16.7 miles) of trails at Parc National du Mont-St-Bruno. The lovely park has five lakes and plenty of wildlife including 200 species of birds and endangered Western chorus frogs who sing a mating song. The park also has canoes and stand-up paddleboards for rent, and cross-country skiing trails in winter.
How to get to Parc National du Mont-St-Bruno from Montréal: Drive over the Samuel de Champlain Bridge and take Ave de l’Acier. Alternatively, take a bus from Terminus Radisson Sud and change at Terminus Sainte-Julie.
2. Road trip to the Eastern Townships
Travel time: 1 hour
Québec might not be known for its wine (yet), but Les Cantons de l’Est (Eastern Townships) region is doing its best to change that. The fertile landscape, dotted with cute cottages similar to what you’ll find in New England, is home to a number of wineries pushing the boundaries of what we can expect from Canadian wine. One particularly notable spot is Clos Saragnat, whose owner invented ice cider – similar to ice wine – and offers tastings. Other great wineries to do tastings at include Vignoble du Ruisseau and Vignoble de l’Orpailleur.
The Eastern Townships is also home to great microbreweries like Brasserie Dunham and gourmet food producers such as Le Musée du Chocolat in Bromont. Further east, meet monks at the Trappist monastery Abbaye de Saint-Benoît-du-Lac and taste their delicious cheeses, chocolates and sparkling ciders.
How to get to the Eastern Townships from Montréal: Drive southeast over the Samuel de Champlain Bridge and on Hwy 10 to the Townships. Some villages worth visiting include Sutton, Dunham, Bromont, Granby and Frelighsburg.
Enjoy maple syrup snacks at a classic sugar shack © A&J Fotos / Getty Images
3. Taste maple syrup at a sugar shack
Travel time: 1 hour
In springtime as the snow begins to thaw, so does the sap in maple trees. The sap is collected and cooked down into Québec’s liquid gold – maple syrup. Québécois celebrate syrup season (late February through April) by feasting on traditional food bathed in the sweet stuff at a cabane à sucre (sugar shack). Classic feasts include fluffy crepes, glazed ham, tourtière (meat pie) with homemade ketchup, oreilles de crisse (literally meaning Christ’s ears but referring to fried pork rinds), country loaves, all with plenty of maple syrup to drizzle on top of everything.
It’s also fun to roll the syrup in snow and lick it like a popsicle. You can find sugar shacks on the outskirts of Montréal and across southern Québec, but a dependable option close to the city is Sucrerie de la Montagne in Rigaud, and it’s open year-round.
How to get to Sucrerie de la Montagne from Montréal: Drive west on Hwy 40 and turn off the exit to Riguad. The sugar shack is on Ch St-George.
4. Go kayaking, cycling and rock climbing in Val-David
Travel time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
Surrounded by lush Laurentian hills, Val-David is an artsy, shop-filled town that’s also a gateway for adventure sports.
For a family-friendly experience, À l’Abordage rents out kayaks to meander down the river before setting you up with a cruiser bike to tackle the rails-to-trails Le P’tit Train du Nord bike path back to Val-David. There are other places to rent kayaks and bikes as well if you plan to stay out longer or do something more adventurous.
On the edge of town, Parc Régional de Val-David – Val-Morin is a go-to for rock climbers, with hundreds of traditional and bouldering routes.
How to get to Val-David from Montréal: Take Hwy 15 north or make it an adventure and cycle Le P’tit Train du Nord.
Mont Tremblant is the eastern version of Whistler, and well worth a trip from Montréal © Alpamayo Photo / Getty Images
5. Ski the slopes at Mont-Tremblant
Travel time: 1 hour and 40 minutes
Since 1939, Mont-Tremblant has been Québec’s premier ski resort, with gorgeous runs starting from above the clouds down past evergreen trees weighed down with snow. The town below is made to look like a little European village (though it’s kitschy), with plenty of shops, restaurants and resorts. Warm up after a day on the slopes at Spa Scandinave.
In summer, Mont-Tremblant transforms into a playground for hiking, mountain biking, kayaking and golfing. Visit nearby Parc National du Mont-Tremblant for an escape to the wilderness – it’s a lot of fun to explore by canoe.
How to get to Mont-Tremblant from Montréal: Drive north on Hwy 15 until you get to the resort town. There are a few buses from the town of Saint-Jérôme, as well as shuttles around town.
6. Feed majestic mammals and Parc Oméga
Travel time: 1 hour and 45 minutes
Canada’s vast wilderness is graced with the presence of caribou, moose, elk, bears and many more majestic species, but the chances of running into them in the wild are slim. That’s where Parc Oméga comes in. The reserve protects hundreds of species of Canadian mammals while holding a careful equilibrium that protects the animals, the natural habitat and the humans who visit.
Drive your car slowly through the entrance and you’ll soon be greeted by dozens of gigantic elk. Buy a big bag of carrots to bring with you and stick one out the window – don’t worry, the beautiful beats are gentle. The tour continues past caribou, ibex, wolves, cinnamon bears and more, and there’s a farm where you can get out and walk around with deer.
How to get to Parc Oméga from Montréal: It’s located north of Montebello roughly halfway between Montréal and Ottawa on the Québec side. You’ll need your own vehicle to do the tour.