I sometimes tend to forget that you don’t necessarily have to drive far from the city in order to fill up on nature. Sometimes, some beautiful hiking trails are only a transit ride away! I actually have often been pleasantly surprised by urban parks (this was notably the case with Nose Hill Park in Calgary or Stony Swamp in Ottawa), and this is what happened to me again when I visited Parc-nature du Cap-Saint-Jacques in Montreal last weekend.
I like to think that I know Montreal well because I lived there during my university studies, but I had never visited the Cap-Saint-Jacques nature park before. In fact, until I visited it, I didn’t even know that Cap-Saint-Jacques was the largest park in Montreal. It was therefore time for me to visit this 330-hectare park located in the western part of the island!
There are several parking lots (where you need to pay parking fees) and therefore several access points to the park. I decided to start my hike from the P1 parking lot (where the welcome centre is also located) and follow the red trail, the longest in the park (also called “Boucle du Lapin”, or Rabbit Loop).
Parc-nature du Cap-Saint-Jacques nature is bordered by the Rivière des Prairies to the east, and by Lac des Deux Montagnes to the north and west. The red trail first follows the river, on which there were a few ducks and several gulls. It was early morning which might explain why I was alone on the trail, but I was struck by the tranquility of the park. It was really hard to believe I was still in town!
The trail therefore runs along the river, crossing wooded areas and fields. It took me to the north end of the park, where Lac des Deux-Montagnes and Rivière des Prairies meet (with a view of Oka National Park on the other side). Then, after walking through a wooded area, I was surprised to arrive at a farm.
This ecological farm is home to goats, horses, cows and so on. They also grow vegetables, which can be purchased on site, at a general store. How fun!
I continued following the red trail, until I came to an intersection with another trail (identified by the brown colour and the shape of a frog). In order to vary my hike, I decided to follow this one. The brown trail goes deeper into the heart of the park, where the forest seemed even more imposing and wild.
After completing the 1.6-kilometre brown trail, I decided to follow the yellow trail next (identified by a beaver shape), another trail that runs through the centre of the park. The hike on this one was rather… interesting. The trail doesn’t seem well groomed and was overgrown in many places. I found myself hiking on a trail where the tall grass was almost as high as my knees.
The yellow trail leads to a few clearings, which were filled with wildflowers. The scenery was beautiful, but again the trail was not very visible. Luckily there were several markers to show me which way to go and I eventually got back to the red trail, and I was able to complete the loop and get back to my starting point!
My initial plan was to then visit the western sector of the park, where there is a natural beach and a 2.8-kilometre trail leading to a lookout on the shore of Lac des Deux Montagnes. But the parking lot was full when I got there, so I decided to postpone this to another time. After all, I had already been able to fully enjoy the nature and tranquility of the park’s trails!
Interesting fact: you can get to Parc-nature du Cap-Saint-Jacques via public transit and, at the time writing this, a free shuttle service from downtown Montreal was also available. All the details on the park’s web page.
***The Rabbit Loop of Parc-nature du Cap-Saint-Jacques is part of the 75S Challenge, an hiking challenge managed by Rando Québec. To learn more about the challenge or to follow my progress, visit this page.***