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About Gault Nature Reserve

McGill University’s Gault Nature Reserve is a private reserve that protects nearly 1000 hectares of natural environment. Situated at Mont Saint-Hilaire, approximately 40 km from Montreal, this panoramic natural landscape is ideal for viewing the last great vestiges of old-growth forests in the St. Lawrence Valley. With its 25 km of trail network, it is open 365 days a year for the enjoyment of visitors.

Our mission

Affiliated with the Faculty of Science at McGill University, the Gault Nature Reserve team offers support for natural science research and teaching while providing a wide range of services to the university community and the general public.

Mission of the University

The mission of McGill University is the advancement of learning and the creation and dissemination of knowledge, by offering the best possible education, by carrying out research and scholarly activities judged to be excellent by the highest international standards, and by providing service to society.

Mission of the Reserve

  • To preserve the ecosystem of the entire mountain as nearly as possible in its natural state and to work with local communities to minimize any adverse impacts on the mountain ecosystem that would be associated with activities or developments at the perimeters of the Reserve;
  • Within the reasonable constraints of preservation, to encourage the use of the mountain for the widest possible range of University research and teaching programs;
  • Within the reasonable constraints of preservation, to emphasize the special character of the mountain and to foster public enjoyment of its amenities;
  • Within the reasonable constraints of preservation and with cognizance of budgetary constraints in the University, to allow use of the Reserve by carefully selected enterprises that are in keeping with the tranquility and conservation status of the mountain.
A biology professor teaches his undergraduate students about a plant he is pointing

Our history

The human history of Mont St. Hilaire is fascinating. The fate of the mountain has been closely connected to the lives of the men and women who have shaped this land. Notably that of Brigadier Andrew Hamilton Gault, who bequeathed his property on Mont Saint-Hilaire to McGill University in 1958 so:

"...that its beauties and amenities may be preserved for all time to come, not only to the immediate interests of the university itself, but through its corridors of learning, as a great heritage for the benefit and enjoyment of the youth of Canada."

Mont Saint-Hilaire

Of all the Monteregian Hills that rise so majestically from the floor of the St. Lawrence Valley, Mont Saint-Hilaire (414 m) is by far the least disturbed by human activity and the richest in terms of natural beauty and cultural interest.

Lac Hertel (32 ha), surrounded by the only remaining old-growth forest in the region, forms the heart of the mountain.

600 species of higher plants have been identified on Mont Saint-Hilaire, including many species designated as threatened or vulnerable in Quebec and Canada. Some of the trees in the forest are over 400 years of age. There are over 800 known species of butterflies on the Reserve and its surroundings.

The unusual geology of the mountain adds to its scientific interest. Mont Saint-Hilaire is considered one of the top mineralogical sites in the world. There are 353 known types of minerals, 50 of which are new to science. Several others have been collected but have yet to be described.

Learn more about the natural history of Mont Saint-Hilaire

View from the summit in black and white

Mont Saint-Hilaire also occupies a special place in the cultural history of Quebec and Canada through its influence on the work of Ozias Leduc, an artist who lived and worked at the foot of the mountain. Paul Émile Borduas, a student of Leduc, also lived in the region for many years.

For more information, visit the Musée d'art de Mont-Saint-Hilaire.

En savoir plus

Our history

The human history of Mont St. Hilaire is fascinating. The fate of the mountain has been closely connected to the lives of the men and women who have shaped this land.

Natural History

The Gault Nature Reserve is recognized as a nature reserve, in accordance with the provisions of the Natural Heritage Conservation Act.


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