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Lachine Canal
Photograph: Eva Blue

The best bike routes in Montreal for a scenic ride

Bucket list bike rides in and around Montreal to explore on two wheels

Isa Tousignant
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Isa Tousignant
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For a city that’s lost under snow for half the year, biking is surprisingly important in Montreal. Of course intrepid cyclists do it even through winter! The rest of us enjoy cycling from April to the first snow, when the air is sweet, the BIXIs are at our disposal and Montreal’s 1,000-ish km of bike paths are kept clean and clear. Whether you’re looking to bike to some of the best bakeries in town, to get to the next big thing or for a proper excursion that’ll give you a whole new perspective on the city and its surrounds, these 11 unforgettable rides explain why Montréal was ranked North America’s top cycling city on the Global Bicycle Cities Index.

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The best bike routes in and around Montreal

1. Up and down Mount Royal

Length: 9 km, 35 minutes

It’s almost too obvious to mention, but when the weather’s right, renting a BIXI and struggling your way up the top of our beloved mountain before zipping thrillingly down is a rite of passage. Rent a bike in Fletcher’s Field, make your way to the Sir-George-Étienne-Cartier monument, and head up the main gravel path up Mount Royal. Catch your breath at the Kondiaronk Belvedere lookout before pushing through for the extra loop to see the Mount Royal cross from up close, then relish the wind in your hair on the way back down. (Note that Google estimates this ride at half an hour, but the elevation may well double that time.)

 

2. From Jarry Park to the Olympic Stadium

Length: 10 km, 40 minutes one way

Tennis fans will know the sportsman’s appeal of Jarry Park, which hosts the National Bank Open every summer but is also the place to watch free games of cricket, baseball, softball, soccer—even pétanque. It’s a fitting starting point for a bike trip to another sports landmark, the Olympic Stadium. After a tour of Jarry Park head south on Clark to Beaubien, then take the pleasant bike path along the train tracks in Mile End all the way to Molson. The path will lead you along Rachel eastward to the stadium, and then past it into Maisonneuve Park, itself a mess of trails and a great place for a pit stop before you head back. 

 

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3. From Parc Outremont to Westmount Park

Length: 7 km, 40 minutes one way

Travelling from one 'mont to another is a great way to soak up the distinct vibes of these tawny Montreal neighbourhoods. Start at the pretty Parc Outremont, complete with fountain and Art Deco monument by Henri Hébert, and meander your way up the hill (be ready to huff and puff a little) and back down again through the neighbourhood of Côte-des-Neiges until you hit Westmount. The park is a fitting place to end your journey and spend some time—stop by the Conservatory for a mini botanical garden experience.

 

4. Along the Lachine Canal

Length: 14 km, 45 minutes one way

This bike ride is easy, flat, has shady passages and looks out onto water the whole way through. If you start in the east of the Old Port at Clock Tower Beach, your ride will weave around all the Old Port’s landmarks—the Grande Roue, the Science Centre, the Tour du Grand Quai—and past onto the Lachine Canal through Griffintown, St-Henri and finally Lasalle, into the picture-perfect René-Lévesque Park. It’s a peninsula park with a sculpture garden, views on both sides and lots of picnic tables and benches—the perfect picnic stop.

 

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5. Over the bridge to the South Shore

Length: 13 km, 1 hour one way

Start this ride at Parc La Fontaine (itself zigzagged with nice trails) and head south and over Jacques-Cartier Bridge, where you’ll want to stop for a while to Instagram the view. Once across the St. Lawrence you can take the riverside path to Vieux Longueuil, a really pretty village with good food and nice cafés, or ride right into Parc Marie-Victorin and the Belvédère de Longueil for the off-island perspective, public art sighting and forest bathing.

 

6. Riverside along La Petite Voie du Fleuve

Length: 15 km, 1 hour one way

Kicking off on Nun’s Island, this trail across the Victoria Bridge and along the shores of the St. Lawrence River on one side and the South Shore Canal on the other is a moderate ride with incredible views and lots of open terrain (wear a hat under your helmet). Your end point is Récréo-Parc in Sainte-Catherine, where there’s a beach, volleyball courts, even camping — take the time to explore around there and cycle the wooded trails before turning back.

 

 

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7. From Bois-de-Liesse to Île-de la-visitation

Length: 18 km, 1 hour one way

Get an eyeful of green with this ride from one incredible Montreal park to another. Parc-nature du Bois-de-Liesse is so big and lush that it intersects a whole bunch of neighbourhoods: Ahuntsic, Cartierville, Pierrefonds, Roxboro, Saint-Laurent and DDO. Come at it from any angle and explore its many trails, then set off eastward along the waterfront with occasional diversions onto Boulevard Gouin and soak up some fascinating historic residential architecture, including some of the city’s oldest remaining farmhouses. You’ll end up at Parc-nature de l’île-de la-visitation, much smaller than Bois-de-Liesse but oh-so-picturesque—it’s got a sandy beach that feels like a hideaway.

8. Around Parc Jean-Drapeau

Length: 25 km, approximately 1.5 hours

One of the greatest legacies of Expo 67 and the concomitant construction of Montreal’s metro system is Parc-Jean-Drapeau, a giant green space set across two islands: Île-Sainte-Hélène and the man-made Île Notre-Dame, built from the earth cleared by the metro. Today it’s a huge playground with world-class event spaces, La Ronde amusement park and sports facilities, and it’s zigzagged with bike paths. Start your trek at the Jean-Drapeau metro station, where you can rent BIXIs (or bring your own bike on the subway), and explore with impunity. Make sure you spot the Casino, the Biosphere, La Toundra, the Jamaican Pavillion (all remnants from Expo 67), and take a breather at Jean-Doré Beach.

 

 

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9. Around the island of Île Bizard

Length: 35 km, approximately 2.5 hours

Just off the West Island of Montreal, Île Bizard is a picturesque island-biking destination in Lac des Deux-Montagnes. You can bike the whole way around the coast, half on the paved road lining the Royal Montreal Golf Course, which you’ll share with cars (but it’s very quiet), half in the lush green landscape of Parc-nature du bois de L’Île-Bizard. The 20+ km of fine-gravel paths in the nature park are surrounded by woods and bird-watching marshland—bring a swimsuit, you might be inspired to take a dip in the lake mid-ride. The Wilson-Cherrier lookout is worth a stop, as is Parc Cardinal, and there are a few bakeries (Pâtisserie Maison Mallet, notably) to check out.

10. Out into the fields of Route des Champs

Length: 50 km, 2.5 hours one way

This completely flat ride across the fields of the Eastern Townships is totally beginner-friendly, paved, and has the advantage of being dotted with rest areas along the way including loos, bike pumps, rudimentary tools and in some cases water fountains. It’s very exposed for long stretches, however, so a hat is a must. Start in Chambly and ride toward all the pretty shops, landmarks and eateries in Marieville, Rougemont, St-Paul D’Abbostford and Granby, before hitching a ride back — or turning around and doing it all over again the other way.

 

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