5 Best National Parks Near Montreal

Canadian National Parks Vs. Quebec National Parks

First, a little note on “national” parks. Across Canada, there are many parks protected, preserved and maintained by Parks Canada. These are called “national parks”. There are also many parks that are protected, preserved and maintained by individual provinces. These are called “provincial parks”.

Except in Quebec.

Since Quebec is officially recognized as a distinct nation, the parks under the Quebec government’s purview are also called “national parks” and are cared for by an organization called Sépaq, which stands for Société des établissements de plein air du Québec.

Does Quebec have provincial parks? Yes and no. Again, since Quebec recognizes itself as a distinct nation, it uses the term “national park” for those parks that fall within its borders and purview. These are maintained and operated in much the same way a provincial park in say, Ontario or Nova Scotia would be, but you won’t find the term “provincial park”. They are always referred to as “national parks”.

How many national parks are there in Quebec?

There are currently 3 Parks Canada operated parks within Quebec and 24 maintained by Sépaq. How’s that for a prime nature destination?

5 Best National Parks Near Montreal

Here are our top 5 picks for best national parks near Montreal:

There are two important things to take from this:

  1. If you are visiting Quebec, be aware that both Sépaq and Parks Canada operated parks are, in fact, national parks. You aren’t being duped!
  2. Just how amazingly privileged we are to have so many rich, beautiful and diverse nature preservations right in our own backyard.

1. Iles-de-Boucherville

This park wins on proximity alone as it is less than 20km outside the city of Montreal. In fact, the 5 small islands that make up Iles-de-Boucherville national park are nestled right in the Saint Lawrence river.

Take a trip out and you won’t believe how close to the city this stunning ecological and historical haven is. The park is open year-round for visits and activities, and during the summer months for camping.

Activities include canoeing, rabaska (12 person canoe), snowshoeing, kicksledding, fishing, cycling, hiking, rowing, kayaking and more. Most equipment can be rented on site for a very reasonable fee. There is also a golf course on one of the islands, guided tours and activities, a river taxi and incredible sites, tours and activities to learn about the early lives of the indigenous peoples of the area. If you’re lucky, you may spot one of the white tailed deer who live on the islands.

ILES-DE-BOUCHERVILLE is a few kilometres from Montreal, boasting the beauty of St. Lawrence and five natural islands. The national park has picturesque green spaces, waterside trails, and natural wonders.

The park attracts hundreds of thousands of people, including cyclists, walkers, and canoers, to breathe in the fresh air and soothe their minds and hearts. In addition, visiting ILES-DE-BOUCHERVILLE is an excellent way to take a break from the city’s hustle and bustle and relax with your family or friends.

Thanks to the snowy landscapes, ILES-DE-BOUCHERVILLE is also a winter wonderland for snowshoers and skiers. The overall atmosphere is pleasant, peaceful, and serene. You can also spot various animal species and explore the flora.

Hiking in Iles-de-Boucherville

ILES-DE-BOUCHERVILLE has 21 kilometres of beautiful hiking trails, allowing people to discover picturesque attractions, take photos, and create memories. ILES-DE-BOUCHERVILLE also has 15 kilometres of rustic trails with surrounding islands that showcase charming scenery.

Water Games in Iles-de-Boucherville

One of the reasons people visit ILES-DE-BOUCHERVILLE is water games. The national park is a paradise for aquatic lovers, families, and kids. There are multiple pools and water spaces for children to enjoy safe swimming. Various facilities offer numerous amenities, including cafes, restrooms, washrooms, etc.

Sea Kayaking in Iles-de-Boucherville

ILES-DE-BOUCHERVILLE is a gem for kayakers, thanks to the beautiful water trails, allowing people to navigate through various channels and discover the scenic landscapes of the national park.

Fishing in Iles-de-Boucherville

Fishing is a mesmerizing, engaging, and fun activity. ILES-DE-BOUCHERVILLE national park has St. Lawrence River with numerous companies that offer guided fishing tours.

Whether you want to catch Walleye, Bass, Muskellunge, Pike, or Yellow Perch, this national park is an excellent place to spend quality time with your friends. ST. Lawrence River has over 50 fish species. Other activities to enjoy at ILES-DE-BOUCHERVILLE are:

  • Canoeing
  • Biking
  • Beach Volleyball
  • Picnic
  • Pedal Boats
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowshoeing
  • Fat Biking
  • Sledding
  • Wildlife Watching

2. Forillon

If you’re up for a bit of a drive, Forillon National Park is worth the trip. This incredible park is located in Gaspé along the Gulf of Saint Lawrence where the Saint Lawrence river flows into the Atlantic to become… ocean!

Yes, this is ocean coast with gorgeous beaches right in Quebec. You can stroll on the sandy beaches, take a scuba diving lesson or even go whale watching. The stunning forested areas offer some amazing hiking in the summer and snowshoeing in winter, as well as bird and animal watching.

There are plenty of land and water activities, historic sites including a general store from 1864, an underground fort and a lighthouse, as well as whale watching cruises, tours and programs, playgrounds, camping and, of course, truly stunning views of our gorgeous province.

Forillon is one of the best national parks near Montreal, offering a wide range of outdoor activities, such as stand-up paddleboarding, swimming, sea kayaking, hiking, cycling, scuba diving, whale watching cruises, tennis, outdoor pools, playgrounds, picnic spaces, etc.

Forillon National Park also offers RV campsites with exceptional facilities, such as water, electricity, wilderness sites, and glamping options. Some of the best activities you can enjoy at Forillon National Park are:

Whale Watching Forillon National Park

Tourists can observe over seven whale species in the waters off Forillon National Park. It is crucial to take a guided tour to make the most out of your trip. Most companies offer sightseeing boats and cruises for whale watching. Likewise, you can observe whales from the coastal trails of Forillon national park.

Wildlife Observation Forillon National Park

Quebec’s government and the parks administration have made substantial efforts to project various national habitats. Forillon national park is home to a wide range of animal species, such as great black-backed gulls, razorbills, blue whales, dolphins, harbor seals, porcupines, black bears, etc. These wildlife species are easy to observe in Forillon national park.

Hiking and Cycling Forillon National Park

Hiking is one of the pleasures and enjoyable activities adventure enthusiasts can’t ignore or deny in Forillon national park. There are several trails to enjoy hiking and picturesque views of the national forest, Gaspe Bay, and the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

In addition to hiking, cycling and fat biking allows visitors to discover awe-inspiring landscapes and feel the fresh and salty air on their skin. Cycling on the beautiful tracks is a mesmerizing experience, allowing you to breathe in the fresh air and the scent of wildflowers while discovering the scenic mountains and the sea. You can bring your own bicycle or rent one.

3. La Mauricie

La Mauricie, in the heart of the Laurentians, is home to stunning lakes, forests and wildlife. Less than two hours outside the city, this park is a dream location for hikers, cyclists, boating enthusiasts and more.

Take a swim in one of the gorgeous freshwater lakes at the foot of rushing waterfalls. Plan a picnic for the family, with your significant other or on your own to enjoy the unique serenity of being immersed in nature. Or rent some equipment to try one of the many sports and activities available.

Have you always wanted to camp, but were intimidated or had no idea how to go about it? In addition to its many year round activities and tours, Mauricie also has a “Learn to Camp” program to show you the ropes!

La Mauricie national park is two hours drive from Quebec City and Montreal. It is a natural paradise in summer, autumn, and winter, attracting hundreds of thousands of tourists to create memories.

There are plenty of places to see and things to do in La Mauricie national park. For instance, you can hike the beautiful trails at Solitaire Lake, take photos at Le Passage, and enjoy the scenic Laurentian Mountains. We recommend the following activities/places to add to your bucket list.

Waber Falls 

Waber Falls is a beautiful place for adventure enthusiasts, allowing them to enjoy canoeing and hiking. You can enjoy these activities when you embark on a day-long tour to Waber Falls. Don’t forget to explore the picturesque backcountry views.

Solitaire Lake Trail

Solitaire Lake Trail is a scenic trail that allows visitors to view the natural views and breathe fresh air. It is a perfect sight to create memorable experiences with your family or friends.

Cross-Country Ski Trail – La Mauricie national park 

Winter and spring are the best times to enjoy cross-country skiing in this national park. The cross-country ski trails attract skiers of all skill levels, but it is best for professional skiers to enjoy the twists and turns.

4. Tremblant

Many people know about the awesome skiing at Mont Tremblant. What few are aware of is that Tremblant is actually a massive national park with 6 large rivers and over 400 lakes and streams.

There are a few unique elements of the Tremblant experience to discover. One is that many of the lakes are quite shallow. This allows them to warm up in the summer, making them perfect for swimming. Additionally, there are nearly 200 km of backcountry trails where you can witness nature overtaking old, disused roads. It is a truly humbling experience to witness. Finally, there is the Via Ferrata Du Diable, a hiking excursion comprised of climbable rock faces, beams, bridges and footpaths, all overlooking Rivière du Diable.

The Mont Tremblant national park attracts locals and tourists all year round due to its picturesque scenery and natural views. The national park has impressive waterfalls, enigmatic hiking trails, and fantastic paddling sports. Here are some of the best places/activities to enjoy in Mont Tremblant National Park.

La Roche Trail

La Roche is the most beautiful trail in Mont Tremblant National Park, offering natural views and a 5.4-kilometer round trip trail. You can complete the hiking trip in less than two hours. La Roche Trail is beneficial for people of all skill levels. You can enjoy the lush green forest and reach the lookout point to relax, unwind, and breathe in the fresh air. You can also bring your pet.

Devil’s Waterfall

Reaching the Devil’s waterfall in Mont Tremblant national park requires you to take a short and easy hiking trail of 0.8 kilometers. It is an impressive waterfall in the heart of this national park with a magical atmosphere and heart-soothing sound of water, allowing families and friends to spend quality time together.

Lake Monroe Kayaking

Kayaking on Lake Monroe is one of the favorite outdoor activities for locals and tourists in this national park. You can rent a kayak and enjoy quality time on the water. Lake Monroe is a picturesque and peaceful place.

The reason is that it does not have motorized crafts. So, you can navigate the different bays and reach the vantage point at the Devil’s River. There are several beaches to spend quality time and relax on a pleasant summer day.

5. Le Bic

Le Bic national park is another far drive, but also completely worth it. We rarely think of Quebec as a coastal province, but the Gaspé region is exactly that. At Le Bic, you can watch the seals bask in the sun, breathe in the salty maritime air and discover the many coves and unique plant life of a seaside ecosystem.

Parc Le Bic is all about education in a fun and truly eye opening way. You will certainly never look at Quebec the same way after your visit. Take part in one of the many activities under the theme of “A Landscape Inherited from the Sea”, download the Park Path Explorer app to personalize your visit and enhance your learning experience, or attend one of the presentations given by naturalists and researchers.

Of course, being a national park, Le Bic is also chock full of outdoor activities including hiking, cycling, canoeing and sea kayaking, fat-biking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and their new Ski-Vel, a unique device that enables wheelchair bound visitors to explore the trails in winter!

LE Bic is another national park and a tourist destination in the St. Lawrence region near Montreal. The park offers numerous places to see and things to do for tourists and locals. These include sea kayaking, hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, etc. We recommend:

Climbing PIC Champlain

Climbing PIC Champlain is one of the best things to do in Le Bic national park. It has an altitude of 346 meters and is the highest point of Le Bic national park, offering picturesque views of the region. You can complete the hike in two hours, enjoy the scenic views, and discover the wildlife.

Bird Watching

LE Bic national park is famous for wildlife exploration and bird watching. The park is home to numerous bird species, including marine birds like green-winged teals, black ducks, and Canadian Gooses. You can also watch sharp-shinned hawk, peregrine falcon, and bald eagle.

One thing all of these parks have in common is that you simply cannot explore them fully in a day. One visit will always have you coming back for more!

Worth it for the weekend or even a full week

If you want to make a weekend or even a full week out of it, but are somewhat camping illiterate, be aware that all of these parks offer fully equipped camping options, meaning you arrive to a tent already set up with floorboards, sleeping cots, camping stove, dishes and often even electricity. Le Bic even has yurts for rent to really experience something different!

There is so much beauty that our province has to discover.

Why not start planning a winter weekend of snowshoeing, book yourself a summer “glamping” trip, or take your kids to see the whales? Your spirit will thank you!

What is the largest national park in Canada?

We’d love to take that credit in Quebec, but we’ve got to hand the prize to Alberta and the Northwest Territories who both share land with Wood Buffalo National Park, weighing in at a whopping 44,807 km2! And that massive area makes it only the second largest national park in the world. The largest is Northeast Greenland National Park, which measures… 972,000 km2! Given that the total land area of Quebec is just over 1.6 million km2, we likely won’t be competing with Greenland in that category ;-)

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