Just a few hours outside Montreal, the Laurentian Mountains and the surrounding small towns offer visitors miles of hiking trails, spectacular views, and sparkling lakes.
Find Small-Town Charm
Your first destination out of town should be the lakeside hamlet of Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, just over an hour northwest of Montreal. The town sits a few miles off Highway 15, the main artery in these parts, but feels a world apart. The town dates back to 1849, when pioneering traders settled here. By the early 20th century, the town had become a popular destination for travelers. In the winter, visitors came to cross-country ski and ice-skate. In the summer, people stopped to enjoy the beautiful, forested hills and wholesome, restorative setting. In fact, the area was home to several sanatoriums where folks would come to convalesce in the healthy air.
These days, you’re more likely to find friendly locals and day-trippers around town. Wander down the Rue Principale, or Main Street, to browse the storefronts and cafés. Be sure to stop by a particularly delightful antiques store called Antiquités Les 2 Continents. Digging through the treasures, you’ll likely find century-old china, estate jewelry, or vintage lawn decorations. It’s a fun hodgepodge to explore for a while and a nice way to get a feel for the town.
Head to Mont-Tremblant
Hop back on the rural Route 117 toward Mont-Tremblant—the name of both the city and nearby national park. One of the most famous destinations in the Laurentian Mountains, the area includes the park, with its hundreds of lakes and streams, a mountain resort, and a village with several hotels and restaurants.
The resort is less than two hours from Montreal and contains an easy-to-access system of trails
Of course, in the winter, the hundreds of miles of trails are perfect for downhill and cross-country skiing, snow-shoeing, and the newly popular “fat-biking,” which has adventurers racing through paths on mountain bikes with extra-wide wheels. In the warmer months, though, the mountain and the surrounding national park come alive with a whole different set of possibilities, thanks to well-maintained but uncrowded trails, where you can easily find an hour to yourself.
Hike the Laurentians
Take the Cabriolet, an open gondola, up from the Place des Voyageurs at the resort. It will bring you to most of the resort’s hotels, restaurants, and shops. From here, you can pick up many of the trails leading up the mountain. Ruisseaux is an easy trail near the base of the mountain that takes you past burbling streams and peaceful waterfalls, then deposits you back near the main gondola. For something a little more difficult, branch off Ruisseaux onto the Caps trail. Halfway up the mountain is a breathtaking viewpoint worth the hour or so of moderately strenuous hiking required to reach it.