Frederick Law Olmsted, the landscape architect behind New York City's Central Park, is also responsible for designing Montreal's best known green space in the city—Mount Royal Park. More than 5 million people visit it every year, and it is the most frequented park in Montreal. In fact, the name of the city, "Montreal" is named after this small extinct volcano.
Also, you may hear people call it Parc Mont-Royal in the bilingual French and English-speaking city of Montreal. Its 470 acres offer some of the city's most stunning skyline views atop Mont-Royal's three peaks, the highest of which rises a modest 764 feet above sea level. One of those three peaks belongs to Summit Park.
A visitor's must-see and a popular local treasure, Mount Royal Park is packed with free or affordable outdoor sports and activities for all ages, especially in winter months.
The first European to scale the mountain was Jacques Cartier, guided there in 1535 by the people of the village of Hochelaga. He named the mount in honor of his patron, Francis I of France. The city had been called Ville-Marie, but, by the 18th century was going by Montreal.
Mount Royal Highlights
Mount Royal Park has many historic sites, picnic spots, and scenic areas, especially around Beaver Lake.
The park contains two belvederes or outlooks overlooking downtown Montreal. The more prominent Kondiaronk Belvedere features the Mount Royal Chalet, which can host parties of up to 700 people. From its peak, you can see the St. Lawrence River and the Montregian Hills. The Camillien-Houde belvedere offers a magnificent view of the east of Montreal. St. Joseph’s Observatory is another breathtaking spot from which to view the city.
Beaver Lake is a small artificial lake, which freezes over for ice skating in the winter. Mont Royal is perfect for other winter activities like snow tubing, tobogganing, cross-country skiing, kick sledding, and snowshoeing.
The lush forest was badly damaged by the ice storm of 1998 but has since largely recovered. The forest is known for its beautiful autumn foliage. You can take some nice winter forest treks through the terrain, both on your own and with a guide.
Beaver Lake is also a good place for renting a rowboat or paddle boat during the warmer weather. You can go picnicking, walk or bike the trails, and go birdwatching.
The gazebo acts as the bandstand for entertainment. The George Etienne Cartier Monument, named for one of Canada's founding fathers, is the place where "tams tams" take place. These giant drum circles start in the morning, ebb and flow with more and less percussive guests, and conclude by sundown.
They play on Sunday mornings between May and October at the east base of Mont-Royal, around the monument to Sir George-Étienne Cartier. Don't be surprised if you detect a certain herbal smell wafting through the air; the crowd tends to be diverse but heavy on the hippies.
Getting to Mount Royal Lookout
There a number of options for getting to Mount Royal and the lookout, including walking, biking, taking a bus, or driving. Consider the time you have to spend and your fitness level and mobility when deciding.
Walk to Summit
Several walking paths and Olmsted Road lead to parc du Mont-Royal (Mount Royal Park). It's about a 45-minute walk to get to the summit of Mont Royal. Hike up Peel Street and choose from a meandering path known as the “serpentine” road or a more direct route. You can also meet up with Olmsted Road via Park Ave. (Avenue du Parc) at the corner of Rachel. Or, from Côte-des-Neiges Road, take the Trafalgar staircase or Remembrance Road.
Bike to Summit
Olmsted Road has a wide bicycle path that starts at the George-Étienne-Cartier monument on Park Avenue. Rachel St. links it to Montreal’s network of bicycle paths.
Bus to Summit
The No. 11 bus runs to the summit of the park from Metro Mont-Royal and Côte-des-Neiges Road.
Drive to Summit
Take Camillien-Houde Drive or Remembrance Road. Parking is located by Beaver Lake, the Smith House, and the Camillien-Houde look-out for a small fee. Parking is available on some of the streets around the park.