Saint-Jérôme is a city of 60,000 people nestled in Quebec’s beautiful Laurentian region, 63 kilometres northwest of Montreal. Majestic mountains, dense forests and charming, historic villages characterise the Laurentians, Quebec’s largest tourist draw.
Founded in 1830, Saint-Jérôme was the area’s first major settlement. Its initial residents were of Irish, Scottish and French descent—bound together by their Catholic faith. In 1868 a visitor named Curé Antoine Labelle arrived in the parish with a plan to develop the Laurentians as a tourist destination by extending the railroad from Montreal to Saint-Jérôme. His plan was largely successful, and the railroads played a significant role in the city’s development. Parc Labelle, in the heart of downtown Saint-Jérôme, contains a bronze monument honoring the regional visionary.
A walking tour of downtown takes Saint-Jérôme visitors past a number of preserved historic buildings, including Saint-Jérôme Cathedral, a church built in 1897 in the Roman-Byzantine style to resemble a castle. Inside are magnificent stained glass windows. Elegant 19th-century Victorian homes surround Parc Labelle. North of the park is the city’s former courthouse and prison, built in 1924. The Beaux Arts-style building, Maison de la culture du Vieux-Palais, is now a cultural center and library. While walking along the Rivière du Nord between Rue De Martigny and Rue Saint-Joseph bridges, tourists can read from a series of descriptive panels that recount the city’s history.
Year-round activities in Saint-Jérôme start at “P’Tit Train du Nord,” a 230-kilometre tourist and recreational corridor that follows the former line of the Canadian-Pacific railway. Saint-Jérôme lies at the head of the trail, which crisscrosses the Laurentian region. Old railway stations along the trail are now used as warming stations, equipment rental outlets or cafés. Hikers and cyclists, as well as snowmobilers, snowshoers and cross-country skiers, frequent the trail.
Summer vacationers visit Saint-Jérôme, “the capital of the Laurentians,” for biking, hiking and boating. And for six weeks in summertime, the city lights up with Les Estivales Canadian Tire de Saint-Jerome, a series of cultural and community events, including outdoor performances, family theme days, concerts, exhibitions and tours.
Winter tourists come to Saint-Jérôme to ski and toboggan down gently sloped mountains or cross-country ski and snowshoe along wooded paths. Parc régional de la Rivière-du-Nord in Saint-Jérôme boasts 28 kilometres of trails along the Rivière du Nord. You can go tobogganing in the city at Côte Parent and Parc des Hauteurs. Downhill skiers can hit the slopes at Centre de ski de fond Gai-Luron or Ski de fond Bellefeuille.
Autumn offers a vast landscape of beautiful colors as thousands of maple trees boast scarlet leaves. This is also harvest season, when roadside markets and the fruits of the region tantalise taste buds. An excursion along Autoroute 15, the “Farmlands Route,” is a great activity for Saint-Jérôme agro-tourists.
In early spring, maple forests drip with sticky sap, known to the natives as "sweet water." A trip to the sugar bush promises maple snow cones and pancakes drenched in warm, golden syrup.