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Cherry Lake in Mont Orford national park

Cherry Lake in Mont Orford national park

Mont Orford is the highest peak and the largest national park in the Eastern Townships. It’s run by the Sépaq so has all the standard facilites including parking, a visitor centre, camp sites and trails.

 

In addition to the national park, the mountain also has an area reserved for alpine skiing, and when there is no snow, gondola rides in the cable car.

The national park has several walking trails of different difficulty, although there is not a vast choice compared to other parks. I have the feeling that this park really comes to life during the winter when there are several cross-country skiing and racket trails.

At this moment in time, the change in the colour of leaves is absolutely spectacular throughout the park and in the surrounding area.

Just outside the Sépaq park is the Ski Centre Orford which is set up for skiing on Mont Orford, but during the summer offers hiking trails up to the summet of the mountain. The easy trail is about 4km long. There is also the gondola cable car which will take you up to the top for the modest fee of $6.50 plus tax.

The nearest town is Orford, but Magog is near by too and has many more hotels, restaurants and shops so makes a good base for exploring the mountain and indeed the rest of the Eastern Townships.

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Philippe Quesnel   © Sépaq

Walk in Mont Saint Bruno Park - Credit: Philippe Quesnel © Sépaq

Only 40km from Montréal, Mont-Saint-Bruno park is a wooded delight. It’s managed by Parks Québec and thus is part of the Sépaq network.

 

The park consists of a lot of forest, some grassland, five ponds/lakes and some historical buildings. We took the kids on a 3.5km walk through the forest which was really nice. It was very flat so was pretty easy going, although the paths are earth so it takes some effort to push a stroller. We heard the sounds of birds you usually don’t get to hear in Montréal. The trees are generally quite young, so again it’s a different kind of atmosphere from most of the Sépaq parks. For the kids, the big reward at the end is the nice new playground which is handily surrounded by picnic tables so you can have lunch or afternoon tea while the kids play.

It’s also possible to pick your own apples from the orchard, visit a historic mill and of course have some food at the park’s restaurant. At the time of writing, the restaurant had moved to its winter menu and was only serving chicken soup and banana cake so think to bring a picnic. During the winter time there are lots of cross-country skiing trails and even a ski-school to get you started or improve your technique.

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Oka park is just 40km from Montréal and offers a mix of a beach and forest trails. It’s part of the Sépaq network of national parks in Québec.

The beach area is one of the prettiest that I’ve seen in Québec. There is a magnificient and clean sandy beach on the Lac des deux montagnes. There is a service centre here with a restaurant and a shop, although it’s probably better to bring your own food as the quality is quite poor. It’s very much junk food oriented and there is little for vegetarians.

The car park is just next to the service centre and the beach – a row of mature trees seperates it so once on the beach you don’t know it’s there. The car park is big, but on a hot July day I can imagine that it gets pretty busy.

 

The Service Centre at Oka Park Beach

The Service Centre at Oka Park Beach

 

 

 

Oka park has lots of hiking trails too. If you’re a casual walker, you probably want to do the 3km Grande Baie trail. To get to the start you’ll have to take your car and drive to another service centre (see the map). The Grande Baie is a large marsh land lake with beautiful views of reeds and trees and Canada geese flying overhead.

The trail is marked as easy and it is quite so. There are three or four steepish hills so it’s not totally flat, but otherwise it’s as described. We went around with an umbrella buggy/stroller and found the going okay until the last 500m where there were a lot of rocks and we had to push hard.

 

A swamp at the Grande Baie trail, Oka Park

A swamp at the Grande Baie trail, Oka Park

 

 

The reward at the end of the trail is the observation tower which gives fantastic views and photo opportunities over the bay.

 

The view from the Observation Tower, Oka Park

The view from the Observation Tower, Oka Park

 

 

In addition, there is a jetty that goes out into the lake. First you walk through the reeds and then suddenly you’re walking just a few centimetres above the water. It’s truely amazing and awe-inspiring. Canada’s natual landscape is breathtaking! All of this just 40km from Montréal. Wow!

Oka park is an excellent destination for a day trip from Montréal with the family. As well as hiking you can also take your bikes (or rent one from the service centre) to visit one of the many trails. There are also canoes and pedalos for hire on the beach.

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