A Guided Moonlight Snowshoe Walk in Montreal, Quebec

We’re perched in our snowshoes atop Mount Royal, gathered around Montreal’s iconic illuminated cross, which stands sentry over Plateau Mont-Royal, the downtown core, and the island’s eastern end. Our guide, Antoné, is a pleasant, bearded fellow in his mid-twenties. Clad in a lumberjack coat and a traditional arrowhead sash knotted around his skinny waist, he could easily be mistaken for a French-Canadian fur trapper of Old. He’s assembled our 20-strong group for a short history lesson:

“In 1642, I think it was, there was a big flood in Montreal. The river rose so high Montreal’s first “mayor,” Paul de Chomedey, Sieur de Maisonneuve, was afraid for the people and the crops, so he prayed to the Virgin Mary. He promised to erect a cross if she ended the flood. So, when the flood stopped, he harangued someone to drag a wooden cross up to the top of the mountain and planted it up here.”

group of people on snowshoes standing beneath illuminated cross at night

The start of the tour beneath Montreal’s iconic illuminated cross. Photo: Elizabeth Warkentin

About Our Guides

Antoné works for Les Amis de la Montagne. This non-profit organization endeavors to protect and preserve the ecosystem of Parc Mont-Royal through educational programs and nature conservation projects. They also run a museum, multiple cafés, and a boutique from Maison Smith, an old stone farmhouse once owned by a farmer named — you guessed it! Smith. The Smith House serves as a visitor welcome center featuring activities to do and see at Parc Mont-Royal.

The 494-acre park has been a year-round urban escape for Montrealers since 1876. Still, in a city where the growing lack of green space is an ever-increasing sore point, the work of Antoné and the rest of the staff at Les Amis de la Montagne becomes increasingly important.

Several years ago, the group revived the tradition of the now-defunct Montreal Snow Shoe Club, founded in 1840. Garbed in white hooded coats, arrowhead sashes at their waist, and blue toques on their heads, the club’s members would gather at McGill University’s Roddick Gates. Then, they undertook 12-mile snowshoe traipses up and around Montreal’s little mountain, lighting their way with lanterns or by the light of the moon.

Read More: Snowshoeing Among Frozen Waterfalls: Lanaudiere Region, Quebec

snowshoeing in Montreal: snowshoers posing for photo in front of Smith's House

The group gathered at Smith’s House, a visitor center for the park. Photo: Elizabeth Warkentin

The Snowshoe Tour

There is no moon tonight, but it’s hardly necessary, given the white opalescence of the overcast sky reflecting off the whiteness of the snow. The air, a “balmy – 10°C” (14 °F), as our guide Antoné puts it, has that quality I most love about winter: that fresh, crisp purity, the kind that might break into shards of broken icicles if you could touch it.

As we shuffle single file along the wooded back trails of the park, I can’t help but notice that, behind me, some young people seem to be having a more challenging time than most on this walk. Unfortunately, they seem underdressed for the occasion. One young man is wearing a short, thin jacket and a pair of jeans to cover his legs. Strapped into his snowshoes is what looks like a pair of tennis shoes.

As we start a conversation, I learn that he and his friends are from France. They moved to Montreal a few months ago, he says.“It’s a lot colder than I expected. I’m going to have to buy some winter boots.” “Yes, you really need them here,” I agree. “And you might consider getting a pair of ski pants and a good winter jacket, too. Especially if you’re going to be doing stuff like this!”

Still snowshoeing behind our trusty guide through the squeaky, well-packed snow, Antoné pauses to point out various sites of interest in Montreal’s Parc Mont-Royal. He describes the gigantic twisted pine that fell after an electric storm but kept growing. Antoné also points out deep holes in the snow where squirrels dug tunnels to get at their hidden provisions. We learn that they are other wild animals (and animal tracks) besides squirrels and birds living here. “There are hares, raccoons, groundhogs, and foxes,” he says. “It’s a good little ecosystem.”

Later, as we sip hot chocolate in the shelter of an oak grove before heading back to our starting point at Maison Smith, I ask Antoné if he knows the story of Hans Marotte. Marotte, in 1988, scaled the cross and wrapped a Bill 101 (Quebec’s pro-French language bill) banner around it. He camped out overnight in -13°F temperatures with frostbitten feet, so others carried him down. But the experience earned him notoriety across Canada and hero status amongst Quebec separatists.

No, young Antoné had never heard that one.

Read More: Pack Your Bags: We Are Moving to Quebec

people on snowshoes gathered near trees at night sipping hot chocolate

Enjoying the delicious hot chocolate after our “balmy” and informative tour. Photo: Elizabeth Warkentin

Explore the Parc Mont-Royal

There are plenty of activities to join all year round in Parc Mont-Royal. Moreover, Les Amis de la Montagne hosts guided tours around the park each season. These tours feature the beauty of Montreal, including snowshoe excursions in the wintertime. Check out their public programming to register and save your spot in their next guided tour.

Have you visited Parc Mont-Royal? Also, have you been snowshoeing in this beautiful Montreal park? Please share your experiences with us in the comments below.

This article was first published on March 21, 2015, and was most recently updated on October 27, 2022. 

Read Next: Quebec City, Quebec: Top 5 Daytrips for Snowshoe Beginners


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Verified by MonsterInsights