Walking the perimeter of the island of Montreal is a scheme I dreamed up when warming to the idea of long distance walking. What were the local options for multi-day walks? Unaware of the (still growing) local pilgrimage routes, I wanted to try something closer to home. After a postponed trek in Newfoundland (went the next year, click here for the report), this old project resurfaced and within the hour I was rushing out of the house to catch a train. True story: I missed the train but given the excellent public transportation on the island, I was on an express bus to my starting point shortly thereafter. So here is the story of this exploration, first-half, one that didn’t disappoint, four years along and 141+ km later.
Day 1 Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue to Lachine (25 km, 17,5 mi)
For a ‘day one’ it was long, probably too long, but the excitement of a new walk just took over! Starting at a bus stop under the bridges that cross over to Ile Perrot, I quickly made my way to the boardwalk along the canal. It was a short waterside stint, more the exception than the norm for this first day. There is much private, inaccessible shore in this area. The excellent exceptions were St-James Park, the point of Pointe-Claire,(who knew it was a point?!), the Pointe Claire Canoe Club, Stewart Hall, Baie Valois Park, and the water’s edge parks that link Dorval to Lachine.
It was my first visit of my favorite public sculptures in the city; Regard sur le fleuve, by Lisette Lemieux.
Arriving at the Lachine Canal site was so rewarding. It’s a busy, popular public area that I know well. A great spot to get some horizon after being stuck in the city. Called it a day and found me a bus back to the metro and than home.
Day 2 Lachine to Verdun (10-11 km, 6 mi)
This was an excellent day walking along the shore almost the entire way. Perhaps the advantage of a less affluent neighbourhood, is access to the water…but I am making that up. It was a short day, because I was already sore and needed to conserve my strength for an upcoming hike.
Did get to go by the actual rapids where I have watched surfers on warmer days.
Day 3 Verdun – Vieux Montréal. (10 km, 6mi)
Continuing along the Verdun shore park, I managed to get closer to the water walking through a wilder shore landscape. This compensated for a long deviation away from the water’s edge to go through Pointe Saint-Charles. An interesting, working class neighbourhood, this is the first up-close and personal encounter with large industrial sites along the route.
On a short walk like this, you could plan a visit to the Maison Saint-Gabrielle, a fascinating history museum, located at the former school and farm of the Notre-Dame religious order.
Eventually, the route takes you back to the Lachine Canal, and you follow the bike path through the Jardin des écluses, by Silo no. 5 to than cross over to the Old Port itself. I was able to catch a bus straight home from here, since I live almost directly north (west).
Day 4 Vieux Montréal – Pointe-aux-Trembles (18 km, 11 mi)
Another year, and I began the walk with beautiful views of the Old Port, the Old City, (read my report here) and Ile Ste-Hélène.
I decided to risk the walk through the Port without the necessary clearance. (yes, I was stopped, but not actually arrested…escorted off, but very nicely) It was a great opportunity to see that backs of some of the most iconic industries of Montreal, Molson, Canadian Rubber and the port operations themselves.
The alternative would be taking rue Notre Dame with it’s views of the Parc Champètre, and the old LeTourneux Fire Station. It is not great walking, but there are sidewalks and bike paths if one had no choice.
This was also a walk through refinery territory, during more than one stretch.
Arriving at Tetreauville, Parc Bellerive was a lovely green break with access directly to the shore. Pointe-aux-Trembles, which was the end of my walking day, dates from 1674. It was colonised to protect Ville-Marie, the city itself, from attacks. There is the Église Saint-Enfant-Jésus, and many beautiful historical homes, along what was once the Chemin du Roy, the official Montréal-Québec Highway.
Day 5 Pointe-aux-Trembles – Rivière des Prairies (18 km, 11 mi)
This was another excellent day. Some straight forward walking along Notre-Dame, and a certain amount of shore walking, behind the homes along this part of the Saint-Laurent. I saw a number of small movable docks, on shore that late in the season, for access to Ile Sainte-Thérèse, a small enclave of summer homes just off the shore. Eventually, you arrive at Parc du Bout-de-LÎle which is the eastern (or north-eastern) tip of the island.
I was tremendously pleased, knowing that I had walked from one tip of the Island to the other – I just had to make the return journey.
But the day was not over. After a small suburban development for around a km, you hit the naturalised Parc de la Coulée-Grou and l’Ile Haynes. Walking through this un-built landscape you are completely ‘elsewhere’.
The road (Gouin Blvd) continues around to the northern (or north-western) shore of the Island. The area is largely un developed with views over Rivière des Prairies. On the other side of the road, in Parc nature de la Pointes au Prairie, there are two historical buildings, Maison Bleau and Maison Christin-dit-St-Amour.
It is largely bucolic for at least 5 km until the housing starts up again, and that was my signal to stop.
These last two days had many opportunities to walk right along the water, below actual parks and roads or behind houses. depends on how much scrambling you are willing to do, because the uneven shoreline isn’t always easy walking; it can disappear suddenly, leaving you to scramble up slopes, or back-track along the rocks.
Finding my bus home was another adventure, taking me into Rivière-des-Prairies’ industrial heart, and next to a prison. Stay tuned for the other half of the story, in two short weeks.