Just a short drive outside Quebec City, visitors to la Belle Province will find Montmorency Falls - one of the province's most impressive natural sites. The breathtaking waterfall located at the mouth of the Montmorency River where it empties into the St. Lawrence River is 83 metres (272 feet) high. That's 30 metres (98 feet) higher than Niagara Falls although considerably narrower. This is the highest waterfall in the province of Québec and the eighth-highest in Canada.
Montmorency Falls, named in 1613 by Samuel de Champlain in honor of his patron the Duke of Montmorency, is now one of the top attractions in the province of Quebec. The Montmorency Falls area has an interesting history as this was also the site of the Battle of Montmorency which took place between the French and the English in 1759. As well, in 1885 the first hydroelectric power plant was established here and Québec City became one of the first municipalities to use hydroelectric power.
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Getting to Montmorency Falls
Parc de la Chute-Montmorency (Montmorency Falls Park) is located about 13 kilometres (8 miles) from downtown Québec City which is approximately a 15 minute drive. It's an easy day trip for visitors staying in the city and a worthwhile stop for those who are road-tripping through the area. The Falls are visible from the highway (AutoRoute 440 East) so even if you weren't planning on stopping, you will be tempted to change your mind once you get a glimpse of the spectacular waterfalls.
Visitors without cars can travel to Montmorency Falls from Québec City via public transit or by bicycle as the Corridor du Littoral cycle path ends at the entrance to Parc de la Chute-Montmorency. There are also tours available from the city that include a stop and free time at Montmorency Falls.
This was the first stop for us on our road trip from Québec City to the Charlevoix Region of the province and we spent about an hour here even though it was a grey and drizzly day. On our return trip we decided to stop again because we had plenty of time to get to the airport for our evening flight home. On both visits we opted just to walk to the base of the waterfalls and back again. Two out of the three of us who were on this trip have a fear of heights (and in my case, vertigo as well) so we decided to stay on the ground. I regret that now and I'm fairly certain that on a return trip that I could summon the courage to take the cable car to the top and maybe even walk across the suspension bridge. The views would be worth it!
Arriving at Montmorency Falls Park
Montmorency Falls Park is open year-round and by all accounts is beautiful no matter the time of year that you visit. Visitors can access the park for free, however, there is a fee for parking which varies by the time of year, type of vehicle and in some cases the number of passengers. There are also additional fees if you plan to ride the cable car (one way or round trip) and for the Via Ferrata and zip lining activities.
It's a good idea to plan what you want to do before arriving at Montmorency Falls Park as there are two separate parking lots (one at the top of the waterfalls near the Montmorency Manor and one at the bottom near the Visitor Centre) and which you choose might depend on what you plan to do during your visit. We were also asked when paying for parking whether we wished to purchase any additional activities although you can also purchase cable car tickets in side the Cable Car Station/Visitor Centre. (Check current pricing on the website for Parc de la Chute-Montmorency)
Viewing Montmorency Falls
There are many ways to view Montmorency Falls regardless of your age or ability. The simplest is the paved walking trail which runs from the Visitor Centre to the viewing platform at the base of the falls. From the viewing platform you will get a good look at the suspension bridge and the more adventurous folk that are zip lining across the falls. Along the way there is a picnic area and playground that is ideal for families with younger children.
If you have parked your car in the lot by the Visitor Centre then there are two ways to get to the top of the waterfalls - via the cable car or by climbing the panoramic stairs (487 steps). The cable car leaves from the Visitor Centre and provides a birds-eye view of the falls during the few minutes that it takes to cross to the Manoir Montmorency (Montmorency Manor). Park staff recommend the Panoramic Circuit - take the cable car to the top, cross the suspension bridge and then climb down the panoramic stairs (which is considerably easier than climbing up). Cable car tickets are available one-way or round trip so visitors can choose to take it in both directions and avoid the stairs altogether.
A country house was first built on the site by Governor Haldimand in 1780 and Queen Victoria's father, the Duke of Kent, was a frequent guest late in the 18th century. The Manor changed hands several times over the years and in 1993 was completely destroyed by fire. The present Manoir Montmorency was reconstructed respecting the architecture of the original building and now houses an interpretation centre where visitors can learn more about the history of the site, a souvenir shop and a restaurant with an outdoor terrace where guests can dine with a breathtaking panoramic view of the falls (reservations are recommended).
Visitors can cross over from one side of the falls to the other using the suspension bridge and feel the water rumbling under their feet while enjoying a spectacular view of the falls from above. There have been other bridges on site over the years, however, construction on this one began in 1993 after development of the Parc de la Chute-Montmorency commenced.
Viewing the Falls - For Thrill Seekers
If it's thrills you're after then Montmorency Falls has just what you're looking for! Adrenaline junkies can try both zip lining and/or one of three available via ferrata rock climbing routes. The via ferrata hikes are accompanied by a professional guide and climbers are connected to a continuous cable so they don't have to handle their carabiner. The easiest course is suitable for ages 8 and up whereas the other two have minimum ages of 12 and 14 respectively.
The zip line is 300 metres long and two people can descend at the same time feeling the drizzle from the falls as they go by. Children must be over the age of 12 to participate in zip lining.
If you are planning to visit Montmorency Falls and participate in either of these activities then it is advisable to check the website ahead of time for schedule and pricing. Both activities can also be booked ahead of time.
In winter, the falls freeze forming a wall of ice called the Sugar Loaf and ice climbing enthusiasts take to the frozen cliff walls. Initiation classes are offered but those who wish to climb free may do so as long as they report their presence at the park before setting out. I would love to return in the winter just to see this and perhaps do some snowshoeing on the hiking trails.
What You Need To Know
- Parc de la Chute-Montmorency is not part of the Parcs Québec network. The Annual Parcs Québec Network card is not valid for admission to this establishment.
- The address for the park is 5300 boulevard Sainte-Anne, Quebec City, Quebec G1C 0M3
- Parc de la Chute Montmorency is open year-round, however, days and hours may be limited so check the website for details ahead of time.
- The site is accessible to people with reduced mobility who use wheelchairs.
- Dogs are allowed in Parc de la Chute-Montmorency, under certain conditions. Guide dogs and service dogs are allowed everywhere.
- Montmorency Falls Park is a station stop for the Train de Charlevoix which takes passengers on a 125 kilometre journey along the St. Lawrence River from Québec City to La Malbaie.
- The Cable Car Station/Visitor Centre has a souvenir shop, snack bar, and toilets. Tickets for the cable car may also be purchased here. Changing tables are available in the toilets.
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