If you have already visited Montreal, or if you live in the city, there is a good chance that you have already been to Mount Royal. After all, the small mountain gave its name to the city and is intrinsically linked to its history. But I think that beyond the iconic image of the cross at its summit, we sometimes forget that Mount Royal is also a beautiful green space right in the middle of the city.
As I lived in Montreal when I was a student, I obviously already went a few times to the top of the mountain. But I haven’t been there for several years, even though I still visit Montreal pretty often. I took advantage of a recent trip to Montreal to rediscover the mountain and its trails.
There are several ways to access Mount Royal, but since I was staying downtown, I decided to use the stairs on Peel Street to get to the top.
The famous stairs have 339 steps, and I had forgotten that climbing them still represents a little physical challenge! And I was surprised to realize that even though I was there very early, there were already many walkers and runners en route to the trails of Mount Royal.
After climbing the 339 steps, I immediately decided to head for the Kondiaronk Lookout. Named in honour of a Wendat chief, this lookout is the one that offers the typical postcard view of Montreal. With the sun rising, and a light layer of fog on the horizon, the view was simply stunning.
One can almost imagine the view that French explorer Jacques Cartier had when he climbed the mountain for the first time in 1535. It was Cartier himself who gave it the name “Mont Royal”, after being in awe in front of the beauty of the landscape.
After spending a few minutes at the lookout, I decided to continue my walk by following the summit loop. In fact, Mount Royal does not have just one summit, but three, and the Olmsted Road loop (named after the landscape architect who designed Mount Royal Park) allows you to walk around them.
Mount Royal is part of the Monteregian Hills, massive, isolated hills made up of metamorphic rocks (like Mont Saint-Grégoire and Mont Rougemont, south of the city). And like these hills, they have a diversified fauna and flora, despite them being in an urban area. In winter, there is even a circuit of bird feeders, that offers great opportunities for bird watching.
The summit loop is about two kilometres. It passes very close to the famous cross of Mount Royal, then it follows the north side of the mountain, where there is another lookout. The trail then runs along the Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery (one of the largest cemeteries in Canada).
Then the loop took me back to the Kondiaronk Lookout. Since there are plenty of trails on the mountain, I could have continued my hike, walking down the mountain to Lac aux Castors for example. But I had a train to catch to get home. So I took one last look at the beautiful city skyline, and I descended the 339 steps of the Peel staircase.
What a pleasure it was to rediscover Mount Royal! I promised myself to visit it more often when I am in Montreal.