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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Tell us about your Mount Royal

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La Presse turned its attention towards Mount Royal yesterday with an interesting trio of features on social dynamics of the mountain. Not only is it the safest public park in Montreal, it is the city’s best spot for secret noctural adventures. Éric Clément and Martin Croteau report:

La Presse y a circulé de 23h à 5h un samedi de la mi-août, sans rencontrer le moindre policier. Une absence qui pourrait toutefois avoir des conséquences graves à cause des feux à ciel ouvert qu’on y allume souvent, ce qui est pourtant interdit. Il suffirait de braises mal éteintes, par temps sec, pour qu’une partie de la forêt s’embrase.


Grimpant d’abord par les sentiers, nous avons ensuite coupé par le bois pour rapidement nous retrouver à escalader la pente, à la limite du praticable. Parvenus au sommet, nous tombons sur le «Plateau», superbe promontoire au bord d’une falaise, à deux pas du belvédère Camillien-Houde. Des jeunes, un couple et un groupe de quatre jeunes, assis sur le rocher, contemplent les lumières de la ville.

Ils discutent en buvant une bière. Le silence est presque total. Il est minuit quand nous arrivons au belvédère comme tel, d’où l’on a une splendide vue de la ville et du Stade olympique. Là, depuis des décennies, des dizaines de gens garent leur auto pour aller, deux par deux, batifoler au bord de cette scintillante carte postale nocturne ou attendre les premières lueurs de l’aube. Cette activité est autorisée 24heures sur 24 parce qu’il s’agit d’un lieu public, mais normalement les visiteurs ne doivent pas laisser leur auto garée entre 23h et 7h, indique un panneau.

Cette nuit, c’est le party: 100 personnes prennent l’air. Du coffre d’une auto modifiée sortent les rythmes effrénés d’une musique techno assourdissante. Des jeunes boivent de la bière. D’autres, du vin dans des verres à pied. Des habitués nous disent que la police passe de temps en temps.

Nous poursuivons notre chemin jusqu’à l’esplanade du chalet, très fréquentée toute la nuit, même si le parc est interdit d’accès après minuit. Nous trouvons des restes de feux à ciel ouvert à deux pas de la maison Smith. Sur la promenade, une gothique promène son ami. En laisse.

À 1h, retour au lac aux Castors. Au loin, on entend chanter. En approchant de la maison Smith, à quelques centaines de mètres de là, le son devient plus clair. Assis à une table, cinq jeunes gens originaires de l’Inde s’égosillent en choeur au son de la guitare.

Cruising, however — one of the mountain’s more traditional nighttime activities — has been in decline. “15 or 20 years ago, even 30 or 40 years, only gays went up Mount Royal at night. Now, there’s plenty of other people who visit the park,” the editor of the gay magazine Fugues told La Presse.

Still, though, it would seem that some people still hang out on the so-called “faggot trail,” observe the reporters. “At 1:45am, a grey Tercel parks in the lot near the Smith House,” they write. “A single man gets out. He walks a hundred or so metres to a gravel path. One look to the left, one look to the right, then he climbs up the stairs that lead towards a shelter. The forest is dense, somber, not inviting at all.”

All of this leads me to wonder: what are your favourite things to do on Mount Royal? I have to admit that, even though I live nearby, I rarely go up the mountain. A few times a year I’ll wander up (or, if I’m feeling lazy, take the 11 bus) and get lost in the trails on the mountain’s east side. Below the cross, just up from the eastern lookout, are a few rocky outcroppings that give what I think is the mountain’s most breathtaking view of the city.

Sometimes, in the summer, I like to go to Beaver Lake, where big immigrant families from across the city have barbecues on Sunday afternoons. It’s one of those occasions when the diversity of the city’s streets and the natural tranquility of the mountain meet in perfect harmony.



  1. It’s great to go for runs up it (when I’ve been in MTL I always try to go up at least once).

    Like the CN Tower here, it’s role is almost to be looked at rather than be on.

    For those interested in mobile technology and ghosts, you could try this:

  2. I bike over the Mont Royal to get to my placement at the Montreal General Hospital. I love making the transition from road to gravel path to bush to path and then road again. Especially in the early fall mornings, when I can look around and appreciate which trees have changed colour. What a gem!

  3. Shawn – no way! Mount Royal is so much more traveled and enjoyed by the residents of Montreal than the CN Tower is by Torontonians.

    Aahh. I have so many lovely memories of the Mountain. When I lived very close to it, I used the lower paths to get from my apartment downtown to work and school. There were always people (walking, cycling, jogging, skiing, dog-walking, juggling, unicycling), no matter the season. One day in particular stands out. It was raining and I had the path practically to myself. It was fall or late summer, and everything was dripping and lush. Just gorgeous.

    Of course, I have another memory of hearing a voice go “pssst! pssst!”. Against my better judgement, I turned to look where the sound was coming from and saw a demented-looking older man with his pants down around his ankles, masturbating. (It was more comical than anythinge else.) Oh Mount Royal!

  4. The other night after I read this, I went to bed thinking about all the times I’ve been on the mountain and realised that every time I go up there, something weird or wonderful happens. The very first time I went to the mountain there was some sort of strange skateboarding competition happening and I witnessed someone almost die in a crash. The next time I went there was right after I moved to Montreal and a plane landed on Parc Ave. I went up one night to watch a meteorite shower which couldn’t be seen due to cloud cover so i was instead treated to lightening striking the refineries of the East End. I’ve seen mini raves in the gazebo, attended a funeral for my friend’s hamster, and watched a group of Russian tourists climb to the top of the cross. I don’t think there has been one time where I’ve gone up to the mountain without something noteworthy happening. It’s a wonderful place.

  5. After having visited Montréal many times in the past, I was quite familiar with the joys of the mountain in the spring/summer/fall. I moved here last summer and went to the mountain with my francisation class on a -30C day in January. What fun! Most of my classmates were from South/Central America, the Middle East or Asia, and had never played in the snow before. I spent the entire day teaching them how to skate, snowshoe and made countless trips tubing down the slide. By the end of the day, we had completely forgotten the temperature as we had been having so much fun and constantly warmed up with hot chocolate in whichever of the chalets. The mountain made me feel like a 10 year-old again, and it was the most fun that I have ever had in a city, in the winter.

    We are so fortunate to have such a place right in the middle of the city. I returned 2 more times last winter and can’t wait to go again this year! for 20-30$, you can rent all of the necessary gear and buy lunch. the CN Tower is impressive, but it is a go once, no need to ever go back again attraction (especially at 30$+ just to go up). The mountain is there every day, in every season, and it just begs you to go back over and over again. And it’s free!

  6. Igloos on the mountain, i join the fight for that right, no ownership, with a city hall “paysagiste” architect – I know one, – only so when the city sees the mountain in the night with beautiful igloos small and big lit by candlelight, an in some there would be bring your own, heart and soul and maybe a drink, and music may even happen, but it’s beauty and romance to see the moon by candlelight inside an igloo listening to the night in total delight ! let’s fight /Ana

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