Parc nature les Forestiers-de-Saint-Lazare

I usually like to do things during the week, because weekends anywhere tend to be bananas, but this is one spot you’ll want to visit on a Saturday or Sunday. There’s some really, REALLY cool stuff here, but they’re NOT available for the public during the week (6:45am to 6pm) when the kids’ day camp is on.
“Le site est accessible tous les jours du lever au coucher du soleil, gratuitement, du début avril jusqu’au 23 juin. Du 24 juin au 16 août, les sentiers demeurent accessibles mais les installations sont réservées au camp de jour du lundi au vendredi.”

We came by on a Sunday morning, and had the entire playground, farm animals, and obstacle course to ourselves. Actually, besides a couple of people in the pool, a lifeguard, and a mom and son on the walking trail, we didn’t see anyone! 
And the amazing thing? Except for the pool, it’s all FREE. And if you’re a resident of Saint-Lazare or Les Cèdres the pool is free too!

I wasn’t too sure what to expect when we arrived, as the official website doesn’t have many pictures. So we parked the car in the large sandy lot, read the welcome sign panel (NO dogs or bicycles!), and then just wandered around. There’s a porta potty right at the parking lot, or you can use the reception chalet which is open between 9am-4pm everyday (“ouvert tous les jours de 9 h à 16 h – non accessible du lundi au vendredi entre le 24 juin et le 16 août durant les heures de camp de jour”). There are tons of maps and directional signs all over, so it should be easy enough to find the chalet, the farm, the obstacle course, and the various trail entrances. 

The obstacle course is available for kids to try out, but only under the supervision of an adult. My two LOVED it and both did the whole thing a few times. Some things, like the zip line and huge climbing wall are off limits and locked. Then we ran over to the mini farm and chatted with the pigs, goats, bunnies, llama, and chickens. (psssst, I’ve been told the animals are not always there, so don’t promise them!)
Then it was into the reception chalet to grab a trail map, have a bathroom break and refill our water bottles. 
The map (which you can also find HERE), is great and shows the various trails and their lengths (from 1.1 to 9.1kms) and shows which are easy, which have steep hills, and what areas have no cell phone service. 
We chose to try an easy one (trail 1) and it was beee-yoo-ti-ful. The paths are not so stroller-friendly and have some bumps and hills, so I’d NOT recommend bringing one. Even your SUV-type stroller with giant shocks. 
It was just so pretty. And yes, I said that 52 times. “It’s JUST SO PRETTY!”
The boys trotted along, I ambled behind. We saw SO many itty-bitty frogs, looked at a branch teepee in the woods, DIDN’T touch any of the poison ivy (there’s a lot), and then had a snack at the picnic table at the end of the loop. Heading back to the beginning, we opted to do another trail and took the 1.7km “D” trail. If you really want to do a stroller-friendly trail, you can travel the hard-packed gravel trail of R1. It’s also wheelchair accessible and has lots of benches along the path (you can see a picture of the trail in the photo gallery). You’re also able to reserve an all-terrain Hippocampe chair to use here.

We played in the playground, looked at the day camp’s archery…course? range?, and clamoured around the wooded hide-and-seek playground. 
You could absolutely fill the day here. Obstacle course, pool, hiking, playground, picnic lunch, another swim. And all for free (except for the pool).
So cool. 

Things to note:
-You can download the 2019 TRAIL MAP and info HERE.
-Definitely read the free-swim hours and pool info BEFORE going if you want to swim. 
-Bring bug spray. I wasn’t too bothered but the boys were getting bitten until they finally relented and let me spray them. 
-Bring lots of water and snacks. Obviously. 
-Go on a weekend if you want to use more than just the walking trails.
Don’t bring your dog.
-The trails are shared with horses. As a horse owner myself, I just have to say: Be respectful and don’t throw sticks or yell or run at horses (yes, I’ve seen ALL of those happen, as well as kids shooting bb guns to scare them. Sigh.)
-Horse patrols ride the trails to ensure no one violates the rules of the parks. They are authorized to issue fines on the town’s behalf. So, follow the rules!
-There are winter activities here including sledding and cross-country skiing. You can follow the park’s FB page to stay up-to-date.

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