A Family Trip in Quebec

Editor's Note: At one week-plus, this trip is longer than our typical bike overnight. But its leisurely pace and family orientation make it an irresistible fit.

I felt proud to let my nine-year-old daughter Jessica bike ahead of us as she pedaled onto Rue McGill towards the Westin Hotel in downtown Montreal. My pride is also a complement to the City of Montreal, which was a great bicycle destination for our family vacation.

Sandi planned our family trip to Quebec. It had to be suitable for Jessica to bike and for Kate, who is seven, to ride on a trailer bike. For five days we were in Montreal; after that, we biked along Le Petit Trail du Nord rail trail in the Laurentian Mountains.

Our family bike vacations have generally been based out of a hotel or a cabin in places that give us access to rail trails. For example, we stayed at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, a couple of years ago and biked to Mount Vernon and the District of Columbia. Our trip to Quebec this past summer was different because we not only based our rides out of a hotel, but we also bicycled on a rail trail for four days.

Five Days in Montreal

The Westin Hotel is centrally located to the International Jazz Festival, Old Quebec destinations, Canada Day celebrations, the Notre Dame Cathedral light show, the metro, and some impressive indoor shopping malls and pedestrian-only streets. When we weren’t traveling about, we’d swim in the hotel’s glass bottom swimming pool, read, and play computer games in our room. Everyone needed time to relax.

We also took three bike rides from our hotel. First, we biked along the Lachine Canal. The girls liked watching boats go up and down in the locks, and the visitor center had maps and other information. The Marché Atwater (Atwater Market) was so good and convenient that we stopped there three times. The produce-and-food market was our source for pastries and fruit on our bike ride to the Lachine Rapids on the River du Nord.

From the Old Port, you can see the Buckminster Fuller geodesic dome in Parc Jean-Drapeau. We biked there and watch a swim meet for a bit. From the pool we walked to the Environmental Museum in the Biosphere and learned about scientific tests that use bugs to determine a stream’s water quality.

Montreal trails are central to many activities, including chess matches, volleyball games, boat rentals, food trucks, and bike repair. I recommend getting out on the trails early in the day to avoid peak use times, as the trails can get a bit crowded.

One afternoon we we relaxed in Parc du Mont-Royal on the bluff overlooking the lake and then hiked around this park designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. It too is popular.

Heading North to Route Verte 2

Saint-Jerome is mile 0 of Le Petit Train du Nord. We arrived there the day before our 7:15 a.m. departure on a shuttle bus that would drop us off at l’Annonciation, about 90 minutes north. The bus takes bicyclists to any town along the trail and drops their suitcases at a predetermined destination each day so that you don’t have to bike with luggage.

Our plan for the trail was to bike about 15 to 38 miles a day. I didn’t hear any complaints about bicycling. Sandi listened to Jessica talk about her upcoming birthday party. Kate took several photos to make a photo book.

We arrived at Labelle Train Station, our first destination, around lunchtime. This enabled us to spend the afternoon kayaking on the river. Jessica and Kate were thrilled to have separate beds in their own room. The rooms were really well decorated and prepared. The bathrooms were shared, but we would stay here again. It was very comfortable.

Sandi and Jessica began the 10+ mile climb while Kate and I finished getting ready. Kate’s passion was to see how fast we could go, and when I didn’t pedal hard enough I felt a strong push from the trailer bike. Kate definitely contributed to our speed as we pedaled about 39 km/hr. We’d catch Jessica, and then she’d buzz by, “Passez à gauche!”

The third night, we stayed at a fancy B&B called Au Clos Rolland, which occupies a structure built by a lumber mill owner around 1903. We ate two more four-course meals.

Our plan for the final day was to bike the remaining 17 miles, get in the car, and drive home to Pennsylvania. We arrived at Mile 0 at 10:30 am, just as a music festival was being set up. A few minutes later, our suitcases arrived.

We were home by 9:30 that night despite a long, hot border crossing. 

Here is the wikimapping project of our trip. I added several photos to the project. If you go to Photos: Photo Stream, you can view the photos and zoom to the location on the map.

Get more information about bike overnights.Tips for this Adventure: Our multi-day linear bike vacation was great, and we would do it again. We went first-class for a bit more than $100 per person per day, with fancy meals and comfortable lodgings. Along the trail in the Laurentians north of Montreal, we used baggage services and biked 15-38 miles from Inn to Inn. On shorter days we enjoyed other activities, like kayaking, listening to music, and visiting sites. We were glad not to have to bring camping gear, sleeping bags, etc. I look forward to more family trips on Route Verte (and on US Bicycle Routes, like the East Coast Greenway). Next time, we’d like another family to join us.


5 responses so far ↓

Eric - Feb 3, 2014 at 3:01 PM

How did you get back to your car? Did you go out and back or take the bus back?

Steve - Feb 3, 2014 at 9:37 PM

In St. Jerome, there is a huge parking lot where you can leave your car for a few days. A small bus pulls a trailer to any point north along the trail and drops you off. Then you can bike back to your car.

Marc André - Feb 19, 2014 at 3:34 PM

It is actually called Le P'tit train du Nord, Little Train of the North, the train that the Curé Labelle created to colonize the Laurentians after the great depression. It was later used for leasure to get to the ski slopes from Montreal by train (you can see pictures from that era at the Windsor train station). It was made obsolete by highway 15, also called the Larentian Autoroute, and converted in a 200 km bike path. Today, you can get there by train de banlieue from downtown Montréal on weekdays and from Laval on weekends for just a few dollars.

Thanks for visiting!

deb - Aug 30, 2015 at 7:39 PM

My husband and I are considering a bike trip along the P'tit train du Nord. Did you have any difficulty communicating? Would you be able to make the trip if you did not speak French?

Steve - Aug 30, 2015 at 7:45 PM

Language should not be a problem. We don't speak French. Language never came up as a barrier.

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