A sugar shack (in French, cabane a sucre) is a small cabin or group of cabins where sap is collected from sugar maple trees. This sap is then boiled to create the maple syrup that we put on pancakes, in coffee, and anything else to make life a little sweeter. Sucrerie de la Montagne is a sugar shack, or maple syrup farm, tucked away atop Mont Rigaud, 45 minutes outside of Montreal. What sets this sugarhouse apart from the many others in Canada and New England is that it is open year-round. Generally, sugar shacks are open only when the sap is harvested, which is in the dead of winter. Here, you can visit this family-owned Quebec Heritage Site whenever you’d like!
Though you can pop by at any time, there are two times that I would suggest. If you would like to get the full sugaring-off experience, visit in the winter, specifically February through April. A horse-drawn wagon greets you as you park your car. You are brought to the main cabin, where old family photos hang on the wall, a pile of logs feed the fire in the corner, and long wooden tables with lanterns stretch over the cabin rooms.
In the winter, live music fills these rooms as hundreds of people pour in each day. Visitors feast on pea soup, freshly baked bread made in house, smoked ham, baked beans, egg soufflé, sausages, meatball stew, pork, bacon, mashed potatoes, and meat pie. Pace yourself, as dessert brings sugar pie (my favorite), pancakes with of course maple syrup, tea, and coffee. All of this incredibly reasonably priced food can be eaten during their lunch or dinner, upon reservation. After lunch, there is a maple-taffy-on-snow tasting outside the wood-fired evaporator where the maple syrup is made. If your sweet tooth is not satisfied, pop by their general store to bring home some of that maple sugar pie, perhaps some maple coated almonds (big endorsement from me), or a maple syrup scented candle!
If you are not one for large crowds and the lively energy that the sugaring-off season brings, my second and favorite suggestion would be to visit in the fall. While no maple syrup is being made in autumn, it is extremely beautiful and peaceful! One time I was there in November, and I was able to sit by the fire in one of the cabin’s rooms and no other person entered the shack.
Not only do you have the opportunity to indulge in a meal, but you can choose to stay at one of the small cabins as well! The cabins are private and they are different sizes, so you can determine which one is best for you depending how many people you are travelling with. Sitting on a wooden bench in front of my cabin watching the sun peak through the skinny sugar maple trees in utter silence was breathtaking. While check out of the cabin is at 10am, be sure to get back to the main cabin for breakfast at 9am. An endless supply of pancakes, French toast, and bacon await you. By 9:45am in winter, people already begin to pile in and the line goes out the door as they check in for their food reservation. In the fall, you will again have more of a quiet time; it all depends on the type of atmosphere you are seeking.
A meal alone is roughly $29-40 CAD per person, depending on the season and whether you are arriving for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. There is separate pricing for children. Make sure to make a reservation!
An overnight stay is $85 CAD per person, $55 CAD per child between the ages of six and 12, and free for children five and under.
An evening meal and an overnight stay is $110 CAD per person, $65 CAD per child between the ages of six and 12, and free for children five and under.
An evening meal, overnight stay, and breakfast (my suggestion!) is $135 CAD per person, $75 per child between the ages of six and 12, and free for children five and under.
How to get there:
From Montreal, you can rent a car and it will be a 45-minute drive until you reach your destination.
You can also take a 30-minute taxi ride from the Trudeau International Airport.