IN: Laval’s Centre de la Nature
As we approach the long weekend, I thought I’d stretch a bit and include a little gem that’s more or less in Montréal for this week’s In & Around – Le Centre de la Nature de Laval. The Centre is one of my favourites in & around Montréal due in large part to the sheer number of activities available to nature lovers of all ages: pony rides, train rides, water / play park, boat / kayak rentals, bocce ball, walking paths, cycling paths, beautiful gardens (a solid #2 to Botanical in my humble opinion) and a seriously amazing up close & personal farm animal experience. The latter is always my favourite thing to do when visiting the Centre. The wee ones can walk beside, around and sometimes on (oops!), a great gang of farm animals that, unless you actually live on a farm, is a truly unique experience. Pack a picnic or hit the casse-croûte because this will be an all day affair! So go ahead and do yourself the favour of discovering a gigantic park with gigantic fun in(ish) Montréal this weekend.
- Access is totally free! Some things are payable (parking, poney ride, kayak rental, etc), but you can hit this amazing outdoor oasis for $0 if you wish!
- Quite accessible via public transport for something that’s off island.
- Tons of activities – everyone will have something fun to do!
- If you’ve got your heart set on riding the train with the kiddos, she gets pretty packed. Get there early.
- If the weekend is dry & hot, and you or your entourage are allergic to animals, the whole farm area will attack your allergic senses.
- Poop. Seriously, watch out for the massive amounts of bird poop.
- Centre de la nature, 901 Avenue du Parc, 450-662-4942.
- Official Website (and the official website for the Fête de la Famille)
- An easy to understand park map.
- This coming Sunday (Sep 4), the Centre is hosting the 17th annual Fête de la Famille with special guests Caillou, pirates, giants and firemen! Here’s theprogramme for all of your planning needs.
AROUND: Sutton’s Parc d’Environnement Naturel (aka PENS)
PENS is an Eastern Township masterpiece as far as I’m concerned. It’s easily accessible (< 2 hours from Montréal), has well marked trails, crosses near or over myriad lakes, grants amazing views of the surrounding mountains & beyond and is maintained by some of the nicest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. For my hike at PENS, I chose the Lac Spruce & Round Top trail (+ a little extra) which covered about 9km. I added a little loop on top of the above linked trail which runs from Round Top onto Sentier de l’Estrie over to Braydon trail down to L’Exil and then back to the regular trail. I hate backtracking while hiking, so I really loved adding on this little loop. I must say that the lakes I crossed past and over (especially Lac Spruce!) were breathtaking and the beauty of the forests really left me in awe of this place. The final push to the summit of Round Top is pretty great as well, with the help of some well-placed ropes, it’s fun to ascend such steeps for an astounding view that surrounds you in all directions. I recommend packing a lunch and taking a moment to stop at Lac Spruce (it’s about half way through the hike) and enjoy the serenity. With so much to offer, I really can’t wait to go back and bag another PENS peak!
- By now you probably know that I like getting outside for free. However, PENS charges $6.00 for the day. That, in my books, is not too shabby.
- The PENS trails network is connected to trails of the Sentiers de l’Estrie and la Réserve naturelle des Montagnes-Vertes (RNMV) which can make for a hike of epic proportions!
- There are myriad trails, and trail combos, to tailor to any level of hiker, young, old, girthy or slim.
- If you catch it on a crappy weather day, the road that winds you up to the Accueil can be… hairy.
- Round Top is quite popular indeed (for the reasons mentioned above), and can get crowded on those perfect days.
- Hikers have got themselves lost at PENS and the surrounding trails on more than one occasion. It would behoove you to have a long hard look at the maps and be well equipped when embarking on your hike.
- Parc d’environnement naturel de Sutton, 900 chemin Réal, 450-538-4085
- Official website (with a direct link to their awesome summary of the main trails)
- You can swim in Lac Mohawk so bring yer trunks and get yer lake on while summer is still hangin on! Check here for a great trail map to find your way.
- Once you have completed adequate muscle and calorie burnage, you must go to Auberge Sutton Brouerie and treat yourself to one of the best poutines in the world (yes!) and some unbelievably tasty, interesting and just plain awesome craft beer by ex-Dunham brewer Patrick Roy.
“The richness I achieve comes from Nature, the source of my inspiration.”
– Claude Monet | b. 1840 | French Impressionist Painter