A mountain of fun at Mount Royal

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There is a slew of activities for kids right in the heart of Montreal
Snowshoeing is just one of many activities offered for kids on Mount Royal
When our neighborhoods and city streets get engulfed in snow, many Montrealers head to the Laurentians or the Eastern Townships for outdoor fun. But there’s a much closer winter wonderland in the heart of the city that many people do not take advantage of – Mount Royal.
Maybe it is because they don’t know about the different activities or have just not made that initial first visit to try some of them out. But the mountain offers a slew of activities for kids each season, and especially in the winter. If you haven’t checked it out lately, here’s a rundown of some of what is on offer.
Snowshoe walks:
The guided snowshoe tour is one of the mountain’s most special activities.The walk is quite demanding so it is only for children 12 and over. It begins at 6 p.m. and takes participants from Smith House to the mountain’s summit and back again by about 8:15 p.m. It’s held every Saturday until March 9. The cost is $17, and includes snowshoe rental and hot chocolate. To reserve a spot, call (514) 843- 8240, ext. 0.
You can also explore the mountain by snowshoe without a guide. All you have to do is bring your own or rent snowshoes at the pavilion. Cost is $8.50 for one hour, $14 for three hours.

Hiking in search of animal tracks:
One of the hikes starts indoors with an introduction by an environmental educator, who explains which animals can be seen on Mount Royal in the winter. Once outside, the hikers and guide take to the mountain and the forest in hopes of spotting the tracks of a royal red fox, racoon, red or grey squirrel, or chipmunk.
The guide will also point out different bird species or their traces on the trees they inhabit. Hikers walk to the eight bird feeders located at the summit loop where cardinals, blue jays and chickadees are commonly seen. Sometimes hikers catch a glimpse of a northern hawk owl, a barred owl or a grey owl. Other birds that have been seen on the mountain, but are much less common, include the cedar waxwing, the junco and the bald eagle. The hike is free and will be offered Feb. 9 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Feb. 10 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Inner-tube sliding:
Kids love tubing and they make artificial snow at the mountain so the sliding season is scheduled to end only on March 11. Inner tube rentals are available at Beaver Lake pavilion: $5 a day for children 4 to 11, $9 for ages 12 and up. Trails are open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Skating:
Strapping on skates is always a great way to stay active in the winter. Free for all, the skating rink is located at Beaver Lake. Maintained by the city of Montreal, the rink is open until March 10. Opening hours are Sundays to Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Skate rentals are available and cost from $4 to $8.50, depending on the type of skates and rental period, at the Beaver Lake Pavilion.
The pavilion’s cafeteria, which sells sandwiches and snacks, is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The Bistro, with an a la carte menu, is open for lunch Wednesdays to Sundays from noon to 3 p.m. and for dinner Thursdays to Saturdays, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Cross-country skiing:
With a network of cross-country ski trails that add up to 22 kilometers, this is another fun and effective way for the entire family to get some exercise and spend quality time together outdoors. Skis can be rented at the Beaver Lake pavilion, adult prices are $12 an hour, $17 for three hours, for children 11 and under the cost is $8 per hour, $12 for three hours. The trails are open from Sunday to Thursday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Trail maps are available on the website, www.lemontroyal.qc.ca.

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