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Mont-Royal, Fall/Automne
Photograph: © Tourisme Montréal, Mathieu Dupuis

The best places to experience fall in and around Montreal

Fall in Montreal is a beautiful time of the year, when the city's 300,000 trees are ablaze with reds, oranges and yellows

JP Karwacki
Written by
JP Karwacki
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UPDATE, September 22: Another fall season has arrived in Montreal, and if you want to know exactly when are where the leaves are turning colour both on the island and across the province, don't forget to check out this map of fall foliage from Tourisme Quebec. Get out there and enjoy the crisp, cool air and all the PSL lattes you can handle.

Once the autumnal equinox comes around, leaves start to turn colour begins and fall in Montreal, a brief but beautiful time lasting from late September until late October to explore the city. This lasts until late December, when the winter solstice begin.

While the island is flush with trees (the Quebec Centre for Biodiversity Science's last count put us at more than 300,000), there's no need to sit indoors watching a tree change colour outside your apartment window. That's like watching paint dry. It's time to go for strolls in Montreal parks, maybe take some scenic drives from Montreal, go hiking near Montreal—anywhere and everywhere you can snag a panoramic shot or fiery red, awesome oranges and mellow yellows.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Montreal

The best places to see the leaves turn in Montreal

Everyone heads to the mountain to hike when fall arrives, but our top pick goes to the two relic islands that make up Parc Jean-Drapeau. Tended to by gardeners and groundskeepers, Île Notre-Dame and Île Sainte-Hélène are great places to spend sunny fall days, afternoons and early evenings exploring the leftover ruins of Expo 67 and the buildings that remain as you snap photos and picnic on beds of fallen leaves.

Offering panoramic views of the city from its three summits—the Camillien-Houde Belvedere, Kondiaronk Belvedere and Outremont Summit—all offer different views of the city below colourful canopies that strech out below you. At the centre of the city, it's the easiest to get to and each winding path up the sides of the mountain (and there's enough to offer a different trip each time) provides some eye candy to stop and admire.

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With its 20 thematic gardens and tends of thousands of plant species, the Montreal Botanical Garden is prime real estate for leafing that's worth the admission costs. Most like to visit the Chinese and Japanese Gardens, but come fall, the First Nations Garden is full of deciduous trees that turn colour above Adirondack chairs by the water. Go for the day and then stay as the sun sets to check out the Gardens of Light event that runs throughout October.

Best visited before the central pond and fountain area is drained for the season, La Fontaine's huge trees rain colourful leaves every which way you look once the city hits peak fall season. We're always keeping this park in mind as it's among the most accessible, and there are tons of restaurants, cafés and bars selling growlers of craft beers to put together a picnic to enjoy while you're bundled up with a bunch of friends.

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If you're less into the heights of the mountain and are looking for somewhere to get lost in the city, the expansive southwestern Angrignon Park is a great place to stroll for hours at a time. Numbering in at 97 hectares (almost a full square kilometre) and fashioned after classic English gardens, its ponds and streams are perfect for lazily relaxing in the sun as the leaves drift by on the surafce of the water. 

Nevermind climbing the mountainside, and skip spending money on gas to cruise through the hillside mansions of this borough. Spread out across 26 acres, Westmount Park is one of the area's—if not the most—wooded areas for Montrealers fto visit in the fall season. With its natural streams, ravines and forestry running throughout the area, there are tons of places to nab a spot in the mornings and afternoons. We've only docked points for this part of town as it gets pretty popular; if you don't mind some minor crowds when the city hits peak foliage, head here.

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What better place than an arboretum to explore the colours of fall near Montreal? Less than an hour's drive from Montreal (and nearly two hours by public transportation), this nature park is open daily from 9am to 4pm. For minor admission fees that are less than $10, people can spend hours hiking the four trails that run throughout the area: The orange loop (3km), yellow trail (5.4km), red trail (1.5km), or the green (1.3km) trail. No matter where you go, you'll be below colourful canopies at all times. Just take care to stay on the paths; you don't want to get bitten by ticks.

A century-old forest of black maples, the Bois-de-Liesse Nature Park above the northwestern corner of Saint-Laurent is separated and secluded from the city core. Here you'll find 13km of hiking trails and 8km of bike paths to explore as you take in the colours of the season. Best of all, you can plan out a picnic trip here as visitors are allowed bring their own barbecues (coal dumping stations are provided) and alcohol is allowed provided you've brought food with you.

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It's not just good for a beach trip during the summer. While everyone heads for the water when it's hot out, Parc-nature du Cap-Saint-Jacques has 16km of hiking trails and 8km of cycling trails inland to check out during the fall season. We won't lie to you, though; once the season hits its peak, there are some awesome shots to get by the water when the reds, oranges and yellows of the season reflect off the surface of the water. If you haven't been, try hunting down where the area's farm's sugar shack is located and come back during the winter to enjoy some tire d'érable.

At the most southern end of Verdun and the entryway to LaSalle, the nature conservation site of Parc des Rapides can get a bit chilly directly by the rapids during fall, but taking a trip there at this time of year is more about taking in the trees along the paths and by the calmer shores of the area's ponds. It's a great place to picnic, hike, cycle, and catching some shots of local wildlife.

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One of the larger parks in the city, Parc De Dieppe behind Habitat 67 might normally be thought of "that places where the surfers go to ride the river's wave." That's half true: The park's a great place just for hanging out in the fall, and a good place to go if you can't be bothered to make the full trip to Parc Jean-Drapeau. Take in the views from the park's observation decks, pack some ingredients and supplies for the charcoal barbecues, and take in the trees that run alongside the Saint-Lawrence.

Best enjoyed for its waterside walks and long strolling paths, Parc de la Promenade-Bellerive is another one of the city's more sizeable parks to see during the fall season. There are some beautiful spots to reach, particularly when there are observation decks poking out over the surface of the Saint-Lawrence, as you can watch the ships on their way to the Old Port to dock and unload. Just note that this park's location in Mercier isn't the easiest for all Montrealers to reach—pack some snacks and a thermos of something warm for the trip.

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Up on the Dieppe Summit, Mont-Saint-Hilaire is one of the closer and most beautiful places to take in the full scope of the fall colours near the city, from long stretches of forestry to the farmlands in the distance. The summit's probably the best place to do it, but don't take it from us; take it from the tons of people who head there for selfies and wistful pics of them thinking as they look out over the edge, looking, er, edgy.

While you can hike through the area's Parc d’environnement naturel de Sutton until the end of November, the best places to take in the colours of the season are from following the trail map to the highest points in the area. THAT's where the best shots are taken, from the small plateaus on the mountainsides. If hiking isn't your thing, check to see if the ski hill is operating its chairlifts for quick and scenic trips up and down.

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Created in 1994, this park has quickly become a destination for taking in tons of oclourful scenery during the summer and fall. Climb Mont Saint-Joseph or Mont Mégantic to get the best views—there are 20km of hiking trails that can guide you up to the top of either—and if the season is right, see if the nearby astronomy observatories are doing events that allow people to check out the heavens above later at night. It is, after all, the province's first Dark Sky Reserve.

 

If you want to take a drive and get off-island for a day in nature, this nature park offers a lot of beautiful spots to check out, the most scenic of which is the footbridge that crosses the area's huge marshland; that where the colour really pops at this time of year. Be sure to climb up to the Lake of Two Mountains lookout to see the greenery of the cedars contrast with the reds, oranges and yellows of the maples growing everywhere.

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Way up on the northern end of the island, there's an old windmill that sits along the shore that dates back to 1720. Montreal may not have need for any lighthouses in this day and age, but the lonely structure gives a similar impression, and makes for a good place to take in the colours of forests growing along the shore of the Saint-Lawerence and take some photos to show your friends your urban exploration achievement. 

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