Here’s the scoop on a lesser-known but equally stunning Canadian waterfall.
Measuring in at 272 feet, nearly 100 feet higher than Niagara Falls, Montmorency Falls is a lovely sight, and one of Quebec City’s most popular. Don’t take our word for it—as famed writer and naturalist Henry David Thoreau put it, “It is a splendid introduction to the scenery of Quebec.” Though the falls was well-known to the indigenous people who lived there, Samuel de Champlain, a French colonist and the founder of Quebec City, formally named them after the Duke of Montmorency, his patron. Located in the Parc de la Chute-Montmorency, the falls feed into the St. Lawrence River, where you’ll get a fantastic view of the island of Île d'Orléans.
Montmorency Falls has a little something for everyone—walking tours, thrill-seeking activities, cable cars, and a healthy dose of local history. When you arrive, it’s best to start at the bottom and work your way up. At the top of the falls, a suspension bridge lets you feel the powerful chute whooshing under your feet. And don’t be afraid to visit in the chilly months, when the park undergoes a magical winter transformation.
Parc de la Chute-Montmorency is located about 8 miles (13 kilometers) from Quebec City. An Uber will cost you around $15, or you can call a taxi (418-525-5191). For public transportation, head to the Via Rail train station in downtown Quebec City at 450 Rue de la Gare du Palais and buy a round-trip ticket for the No. 800 bus to Beauport (you can also catch the bus in front of the Hotel Palace Royal). It’s about a 45 minute ride, and Montmorency is the last stop. If you’re itching for more action, head to Cyclo Services in the Vieux-Port of Quebec City, where you can either rent bikes on your own or join their guided bike tour to Montmorency Falls. The pace and elevation is great for novice and experienced riders.
You’ve got two options to get to the top of the falls: cable cars, a popular option, or the staircase. (You can also drive straight to the top of the falls, if you’re crunched for time.) The latter, featuring 487 steps, is tough, and should only be attempted if you’re in reasonably good shape. But you’ll feel like a champ afterwards, we promise. Unlike the cable cars, the stairs are free, and offer viewing platforms along the way for a more leisurely pace. Or you can take the cable cars up and—if you’re not too freaked out by heights—take the stairs back down. Photo ops galore!
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For the full Montmorency experience, you’ll want to stop by the Manoir Montmorency. Built in 1781 by Frederick Haldimand, governor general in chief of Canada, the elegant country home once housed the Duke of Kent, the father of Queen Victoria. It was also the setting for a scandalous 27-year affair between the Duke and Thérèse-Bernardine Montgenet, a married woman. The building, a replica of the original that burned down in 1993, features a permanent exhibition that illustrates the history of the area. It also houses a restaurant, where you can enjoy a traditional Canadian menu and a beautiful terrace view of the falls. Check before you go, since hours vary seasonally; reservations are suggested.
For an adrenaline rush, look no further than the Montmorency Falls zipline, or “tyrolienne,” which allows visitors to fly across the cove of the falls. The zipline costs around $20USD for adults, and you can book tickets in advance. You should budget around 30 minutes for the activity (the actual ziplining part takes about 30 seconds). The line stretches 300 meters, or nearly a thousand feet, and you can tackle it solo or in a pair. If you’re okay with heights, this one’s a no-brainer.
Parc de la Chute-Montmorency is accessible year-round, but who wants to see a waterfall in the winter? In this case, pretty much everyone, because in frigid temperatures the Montmorency Falls freeze at the bottom into a fantastical ice sculpture. Depending on the conditions, the park’s cable cars—a $12 round trip for adults in the winter months—will take you on a stunning ride up to the top of the falls, where (again, depending on weather conditions), you can access trails for walking or snowshoeing; snowshoes can be rented cheaply in the park. Oh, and you can climb the frozen waterfall—though watching other people climb it may prove equally thrilling.
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