Great Runs in Montreal
Montreal is a city of running extremes. It can be either really hilly or really flat. It can be hot, or bitterly cold. But there are some wonderful running opportunities. The city is probably best defined by the Olmsted-designed Mount Royal, which is in the heart of the city and can be accessed from downtown. It is a thrill to run to the “Croix”, the cross at the summit. Other pleasant running is along the Lachine Canal, and also along the St. Lawrence River through Old Montreal and the Old Port. Montrealers embrace their severe but beautifully snowy winters, venturing out on X-C skis and yak-traks.
The Iconic Routes
- Mount Royal, to the summit
- Lachine Canal
- Old Montreal/Old Port
- St. Helen’s Island
Olmsted-designed Mount Royal is a beautiful park in the heart of the city. Wide, well-marked, wooded trails criss cross the mountain, switchbacking their way to the summit. The highlights of running Mount Royal are up to the 700-foot summit (“Croix”), the entire “up and over”, and a the thigh-burning Olmsted Stairs.
Here is a map of Mount Royal with some notations
- Run to the Summit. 3.7 miles RT. Numerous points of access. A good place to start is on off Ave Des Pins. at the Olmsted Stairs. Downtown access from Peel Ave — straight up Peel to Ave Des Pins. Follow “Chemin Olmstead”, which switch backs you around the mountain, by Beaver Lake, the Cross, and to the Summit. It is a good climb, about 400 feet.
- The “Full Mount Royal”. There are numerous additional paths within the park. It is possible to add 3–4 miles from the above Summit run, using mainly Chemin Olmsted, the main yellow line, to the Cartier monument in Parc Jean-Mance.
A national historic site, the Lachine Canal is a lovely linear park, following the historic canal and its series of locks. A great run is to start at the famous Atwater Market, and run along the flat path heading east, following the red line in the above map, to its terminus in Lachine.
Montreal has a wonderfully preserved and refurbished old port and old city. There are numerous options. This map starts at Place Jacques Cartier, and runs down to the paths in the Old Port and the “Basin de Horloge”. This area is turned into a skating rink in winter. Heading back west, you’ll pass by the famous Notre Dame church. This map is 5.5 miles RT.
5 miles RT
This is a unique and spectacular route, running from downtown to St. Helen’s Island, site of Montreal’s historic Expo 67. The island is now a large park, with pleasant walking/running paths and picnic areas with lovely views of the St. Lawrence River. A Six Flags amusement park is also located on the island. The route I have mapped out here starts at the Papineau Metro, and includes the 3/4 mile crossing of the Jacques Cartier Bridge, then following the perimeter of the island, taking you by sites such as the old U.S. Pavillion, now turned into a biosphere.
Additional option: Ile Notre Dame. This island is used for the annual Grand Prix, and there are wonderful trails covering 3–4 miles around. Access Ile Notre Dame from a small bridge near the Biosphere in St. Helen’s Island.
A few ‘destination’ runs off the main island:
- Ile-Bizard. Several good options possible
- Lachine Bike Path. At13.5 miles long and made up of mainly green spaces, this exceptional, uninterrupted path runs along the St. Lawrence River, starting from the west side of the Bonaventure highway in Verdun to Parc René-Lévesque in Lachine. Take in the magnificent views of Lac Saint-Louis and the spectacular Lachine rapids.
Montreal is a fairly compact city. Access to good running routes is available from the main downtown hotels. The heart of downtown is between Atwater to the west and Bleury to the east. One can access Mount Royal, Old Montreal, and the Lachine Canal from most downtown hotels.
Coin de Coureurs. Three downtown locations. Great running store.
- Run Clubs: Ave De Park and Marche Central run clubs Wednesday 6pm and Sunday 8:30am. Place Ville Marie location Wednesday 12pm & 6pm and Sunday 8:30am.
Boutique Endurance. A great running store in the east end of Montreal that has been in operation for 30 years
There are two main running clubs in Montreal.
Club Vainqueurs. More on the eastern end of the island.
Boreal Run Club. Serves more the western end of the city. Numerous group runs and some good additional running maps.
Montreal has warm to hot summers and very cold winters. Runners will have to plan for a Montreal winter, where the average low temperature in January-February is in the single digits (F) and average annual snowfall is 85 inches with consistent snow/ice on the ground from December to March.