Have you ever been to Montérégie? It’s a superb region of Quebec, perfect for lovers of history and of delicious local products! I sometimes tend to forget that even though this region is really flat, there are also some small mountains like Mont Rigaud, or Mont Saint-Grégoire, which I climbed for the first time a few days ago.
Mont Saint-Grégoire is part of the Monteregian Hills, massive, isolated hills made up of metamorphic rocks and spread out across Montérégie. Mont Saint-Grégoire is one of the smallest of these hills, but because it is located in the middle of agricultural fields, its topography is even more pronounced. From Highway 10, I could clearly see it from far away, so I was even more anxious to reach its summit.
As Mont Saint-Grégoire includes exceptional forest ecosystems, it is protected and managed by the Haut-Richelieu Ecological Environment Interpretation Centre (CIME). CIME maintains a trail network of approximately 4 kilometres and after paying the access fee ($ 5.50) I set off on the Panorama Trail, towards the summit.
As I mentioned above, Mont Saint-Grégoire is not very high (251 metres above sea level), but the Panorama Trail still offers a good challenging climb. In fact, I was surprised to find it was quite steep. Made up of stairs and rocks, the trail is only a kilometre, but I had to stop a few times to catch my breath.
Before reaching the summit, the Panorama Trail comes to a fork with another trail, this one leading to the “Petit Sommet” (Small Summit). This trail is also rather short, but it climbs on rocks steeply along a cliff. It (almost) reminded me of the difficult climbs of Mont Kaaikop in the Laurentians (ok, maybe not as intense as Mont Kaaikop, but it brought back good memories).
The Petit Sommet is only 220 metres high, but I think it was my favourite part of the hike. I think the other hikers decided to skip this section, preferring to go directly to the real summit of Mont Saint-Grégoire. So I had this “small summit” all to myself, and I was able to sit down to enjoy the beautiful landscape stretching out in front of me.
In fact, this is probably what makes Mont Saint-Grégoire so popular. Although not very high, from the top the landscape seems to stretch out as far as the eye can see. I could see Montreal and its skyscrapers very well in the distance, and on a clear day you can even see the Laurentians stretching out on the horizon.
I eventually retraced my steps back to the Panorama Trail. I hiked passed a nice lookout (which was busy with other hikers) and continued to climb steeply under the tall red oaks of the small mountains. These oaks support a rare and fragile ecosystem, also found on other Monteregian Hills.
A large cell tower takes away some of the charm of the summit of Mont Saint-Grégoire, but the almost 360-degree view more than makes up for it. From the flat rocky summit, it is possible to see the Adirondacks and Vermont mountains to the south, Montreal and the Laurentians to the north and other Monteregian Hills such as Mont Rougemont or Mont Saint-Hillaire to the east.
I came back down via the Carrière Trail. A trail that lives up to its name since it passes through an old quarry that was exploited on the sides of the small mountain. Interpretive signs allow you to learn more about the history of Mont Saint-Grégoire and along the trail, you can find a few ruins and artefacts reminiscent of the mountain’s industrial past.
The Carrière Trail brought me back to my starting point. My hike only totaled 2.8 kilometres, but with a elevation of 210 metres, which is not negligible for such a small mountain. It’s a short hike but it still offers a good physical challenge and great views! And judging by how many cars there were in the parking lot, this is a very popular hike too, so make sure to arrive early!