Montreal's Mount Royal
City tour, 7 miles
Montrealers call it “the mountain.” Really it’s a big hill*, and no trip to Montreal would be complete without making it up the city’s famous icon through one of its loveliest parks. Our favorite way of getting up there is of course by bike, along the wide gravel path through the park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (the same Olmsted who designed New York City’s Central Park).
Don’t be scared to bike up the mountain: the path provides long switchbacks and none of the climbs in this suggested route are very challenging. A reasonably fit person of any adult age can do it, the views are worth a little challenge, and there’s no shame in taking a break or walking your bike for a bit: you’ll be in good company, as the path is shared with runners and walkers and strollers. On that note, weekdays are the best days for this route if you wish to avoid crowds—the main path is thronged on weekends—though the weekend offers its own attractions. Every Sunday, the tam tams, an impromptu, open-to-anyone drum circle, congregate at the Georges Étienne Cartier monument at the base of the mountain (tam tam comes from the French word for drum, tambour) and higher up in the mountain’s treed shade, groups of LARPers (Live Action Role Players) play an intricate game with arcane rules and cardboard swords and armor.
Whichever day you choose to go, please be a courteous cyclist: use caution and your bell when passing pedestrians on this multiuse path. There’s the steep Camillien Houde trail up the mountain for those training for a race; approach the mountain’s main path as a relaxed ride.
*Technically the mountain is an extension of a much eroded volcanic complex. It consists of three peaks; the one you’ll climb through this route is called Colline de la Croix (Hill of the Cross) and stands at 233m (764 ft). Adjacent to it are Colline d’Outremont and Westmount Summit.
map & logistics
Bike Share - Bixi - $5 daily
- Allo Vello - $35 / 4 hours for Trio cargo family trike includes helmet, lock and bike map
- Caroule Montreal - hybrid, tour, road, tandem, kids, trailer, trail-a-bike
- Dyad - $20+ daily for city and electric bikes
- Fitz & Folwell - $30+ daily ($20 half day) for Linus city, cargo, family and kids bikes includes helmet, lock, rack, lights and map
stm - bikes are accommodated with some restrictions
Start & end of ride - Station Mont-Royal (blue line)
What to bring?
Layers of clothing, money for food & drink, water bottle
A. Fitz & Follwell 115 Avenue du Mont-Royal Ouest | www.fitzandfollwell.co | (514) 840-0739
Our shop is conveniently located right next to the mountain, so it’s a good place to rent from if you need a bike. If you’ve already got your own, we’ll be happy to give you free maps of the city’s bike paths, pump up your tires with air or answer any questions you have about cycling in and around Montreal. Tu -Fri 10am–7pm / Sa 10am–6pm / Su 10am–5pm / M closed, tours still running!
B. Monument à Sir George-Étienne Cartier Avenue du Parc
The Olmstead path (“chemin Olmstead”) begins just to the right of George Hill’s sculpture to George-Etienne Cartier, a Canadian politician. Pause for a moment to have a look at the monument, or on Sundays enjoy the Tam tams’ beats (they generally show up in the afternoon and don’t be surprised by a faint herbal smell—it’s quasi- if very unofficially-sanctioned on the mountain on Sundays).
C. Beaver Lake
The bulk of the climb is over when you’ve reached Beaver Lake, so you can take a minute to pause here and enjoy the sight.
D. Kondiaronk Belvedere 1196 Camillien-Houde Road | www.tourisme-montreal.org | (514) 872-3911
Stopping at Beaver Lake is non-essential, but the Kondiaronk Belvedere is a must. It provides one of the best views of the city, including a panoramic view over downtown and across the St Lawrence river. The Mount Royal chalet is immediately behind the plaza of the Belvedere: there are public washrooms and water fountains inside. Kondiaronk was a Huron chief important in forming a peace agreement between French colonists, the Hurons, the Iroquois and other Indian tribes of the area.
Erected in 1924 to commemorate the wooden cross erected there by Paul Chomedy in 1643 to thank God for saving Montreal (then “Ville Marie”) from a flood, this metal cross is the quintessential symbol of Montreal. Visible from almost everywhere in the city and lit up at night, it’s interesting to see what one sees everywhere from a distance up close.
F. Smith House 1260 Chemin Remembrance | www.lemontroyal.qc.ca | (514) 843-8240
Built in 1858, this house was sold to the city when the land became the park. It now houses les amis de la montagne (friends of the mountain, a charitable organization that protects and improves the park), an information center, and a reasonably-priced café. If you’re curious about the park’s history, it’s worth making a stop in this old stone house.
G. Mount Royal Cemetery 1297 Chemin de la Forêt | www.mountroyalcem.com | (514) 279-7358
Descend the mountain through the cemetery: It’s a quieter route than the main Olmstead path and very peaceful. In the spring, the smell of lilacs is heavenly and the autumn colours are gorgeous. There’s a green line painted on the ground that you can follow out of the cemetery and out of Mount Royal park. If you’re up for more challenges, take some of the paths leading from this main one for some steep climbs—all will lead back to the main path and you can again follow the green line out.
H. Cafe Santropol 3990 Rue Saint-Urbain | www.santropol.com | (514) 842-3110
A beloved Montreal landmark, Café Santropol was opened in 1976 to thwart efforts to demolish the building (the project worked!) and was one of the city’s first alternative cafés. The café offers a wide selection of tasty salads, soups and sandwiches and back garden terrace is the best. It's also now associated with a bike and gardening co-op.