Chute Montmorency (or Montmorency Falls) was one of those waterfalls where we had to take the good with the bad to truly appreciate it. It had to have been one of the more memorable waterfalls we’ve seen in Quebec with its very pleasing size at a reported 84m tall and 46m wide, but it also felt like an urban waterfall given its close proximity to Quebec City in its suburbian outskirts near the bridge to the L’Ile d’Orleans. Its dimensions resulting in its thick, tapered, block type appearance reminded us of other large waterfalls of similar appearance around the world. Specifically, we thought of Montmorency Falls as a more developed and smaller version of Kaieteur Falls in Guyana (said to be 226m tall and 100m wide), a more tapered version of Skogafoss in Iceland (said to be 60m tall and 26m wide), or even a narrower version of the Huangguoshu Waterfall in China (said to be 78m tall and 101m wide). In fact, I believe it might be the largest urban waterfall we’ve come across besides Niagara Falls!
We say Chute Montmorency felt urban because there was a dam just upstream from its top that made it seem like the Montmorency River flowed over a man-made wall before making its huge plunge down the nearly vertical rock face. There was also a busy highway a little further downstream of the falls, making it very easy to rubberneck while driving that highway (not recommended by the way given how fast you go there). Plus, there was also a bare cliff flanked to east side of the river downstream of the falls, where we weren’t sure if that cliff became that way due to some man-made factor (e.g. quarrying, or pollution in the mist killing off vegetation that was once there, etc.) that we didn’t know about. We thought this waterfall had all the potential to score even higher to a 4.5 or maybe even a 5, if not for the interference by man and less-than-naturesque surroundings.
Even though Julie and I prefer waterfalls in their natural state, we did see some benefits to all this development. For starters, we were able to appreciate this waterfall from a variety of viewing angles as we were able to hike in a large backwards “C” going over, around, and below the waterfall, before completing the loop by going up a cable car. There were also some secondary waterfalls called the Bridal Veil Falls (Le Voile de la Mariee) that I was also able to visit along with the the impressive Chute Montmorency. Then, the wide and developed walkways as well as some picnic areas and a playground really made it easy for our daughter to enjoy so it was very family friendly as far as we were concerned.
Our visit began from Manoir Montmorency (see directions below), where there was a pretty modest and historical mansion fronted by a fountain situated next to a car park. There was some kind of function (possibly a wedding) during our visit on a gorgeous day. Anyhow, there was a well-established overlook between the manor and the upper terminal of the cable car affording us our first partial views of Chute Montmorency. We were also able to look further downstream in the direction of L’Ile d’Orleans.
Next, we walked along a well-established boardwalk going around the manor providing more views from the top of the cliff upon which the boardwalk and vistas were perched. The walkway ultimately went to a sheltered overlook near the top of Chute Montmorency called the Baronness Lookout (see the red structure on the topleft of the falls in the photo at the top of this page). From this vantage point with the mid-afternoon sun, we were able to see rainbows in the mist of the falls as well as to better appreciate the Panoramic Stairs across the river and even parts of the suspension bridge above us.
Next, we walked across the wide suspension bridge where we could see the man-modified tier upstream from the falls as well as to look downstream over the brink of Chute Montmorency as the Montmorency River would disappear over the precipice. The fences on the sides of this bridge were tall and protective enough to be reasonably family friendly for toddlers. The bridge was sturdy enough to not be bouncing, especially given the amount of simultaneous foot traffic on it.
On the other side of the bridge, we continued on the walkway, which was now more of a wide gravel path before giving way to a combination of grass and dirt. As we rounded a corner where the trail curved downstream, I noticed there was a closed off spur trail (which I believe was called Via Ferrata) that I’d imagine would lead very close to the brink of Chute Montmorency opposite the Baronness Lookout. We didn’t bother hopping the fence here so we can’t say more about what it would’ve been like down there.
After crossing over the fault bridge, the main path then opened up into a wide and rolling grassy hill area that seemed ideal for a picnic. There were also some partial views of Chute Montmorency from a more frontal angle. Further in the distance from this large lawn area, we saw structures that appeared to belong to the L’ile d’Orleans.
At the end of this flat open grassy stretch, we were then at the top of the Panoramic Stairs. From the very top of the stairs to the bottom, there were overlooks along the way, which allowed us to get some of the more pleasing frontal views of the falls. We chose to do this trail in a clockwise manner because we preferred going down all these steps instead of coming back up in the relentless sun.
Once we made it to the bottom, there was a concrete viewing area. Even though the falls was technically in lower flow during early October, it was still pretty misty at the base thereby rendering long exposure photos down there ineffective. The concrete lookout platforms here seemed to be partitioned by low concrete walls, and we weren’t sure why they built it this way. But in any case, the platform seemed to be disproportionately large compared to the other overlooks in the Parc de la Chute Montmorency.
Next, we walked downstream along the Montmorency River. When the trail turned to the right once again, Julie and Tahia noticed a playground that was situated in the corner here so they spent some time here before continuing on. Meanwhile, I continued onto a bridge paralleling the noisy highway a little further downstream. All across this walkway, we got more frontal (though distant) views of Chute Montmorency in full context. And as we eventually made it to the end of this bridge, we then had a choice of walking straight to the Lower Terminal, which had a snack bar, a souvenir shop, and a booth to buy tickets to ride the cable car back up to Manoir Montmorency, or we could’ve also walked along the railroad tracks to a rail stop.
Beyond the rail stop, I was able to briefly follow the railroad tracks before the trail cut across back towards the road connecting the car park for the Lower Terminal to the entrance station. I walked along this road for a few minutes towards the entrance station until I finally saw a blue sign saying “LE VOILE DE LA MARIEE” (i.e. The Bridal Veil). That was when I saw the falls fronted by some power lines. I followed a trail of use towards the railroad, then I crossed it to get right up to the base of the Bridal Veil Falls.
When I was done with Bridal Veil Falls, I then walked back to the Lower Terminal (noticing a smaller and more hidden waterfall en route) to finally ride the cable car back up to the Manoir Montmorency to complete the loop. The cost of our cable car ride was $20 CAD. Overall, this visit took us a very leisurely 3 hours (especially since I spent a good deal of time carrying our daughter in the carrier). I kept the difficulty at 2 since you don’t necessarily have to do the whole loop to see the falls. However, I figured that if you don’t do the whole loop while taking your time, the experience here would not be as enjoyable.
From Quebec City, take the Autoroute 440 east towards the Autoroute 40. Then while on the AUT-40, take the next exit at Boul des Chutes and follow this road east (left) for about a mile (1.6km) towards the car park for Manoir Montmorency and the Upper Terminal on the right. Without traffic (and without getting lost) this was probably about a 15-minute drive from Old Quebec. We paid an $11 CAD vehicle fee to park.
Coming from the east (heading west), we were supposed to exit the ramp near the front of the falls near the Pont de L’ile d’Orleans (Bridge of the Isle of Orleans). However, there was road construction that closed off that ramp (which would’ve taken us right to the car park at the Lower Terminal) so we had to keep going on the freeway towards Highway 40. Once on Hwy 40, we then took the next exit at Boul des Chutes and followed this road (as given above) to the car park for Manoir Montmorency and the Upper Terminal on our right.
There were more car parks (e.g. the one by the Boischatel Entrance), but we didn’t do the other ways so we can’t say more about them.
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