Well, we weren't intending to go to the top of the Falls so we walked over to the overlook to get a good shot of the Falls from below which required walking up part of the stairway to get to the top. Then we walked up another section to get to another lookout for a little dryer view and I thought well, "we've already walked up about 1/3 of them and I did just have a big plate of poutine" so we ended up walking the rest of the way up. I counted 478 stairs, the website says 487, either way it's a heck of a lot of stairs!!!! There are lookout platforms at various stages so you can catch your breath or get just one more photo.
Not for the feint of heart, the stairway clings to the side of the cliff. And if you're planning on taking the cable car one way and walking down the other, do I really need to tell you to take the cable car up and the stairway down?
The easiest way to get up to the top of the Falls is via cable car, one way is $6 CAD, $8 round trip. The cable car station at the top is near the Manoir Montmorency, follow a short path and you'll be on the bridge over the Falls.
We drove from Quebec City, I didn't time it but it was a very quick trip as it's only about 12 km east of Quebec City. We took highway 40 east and followed the signs for Parc de la Chute Montmorency, entrance to the parking lot was just off the highway. We parked in the lot because I thought we were taking the cable car up, it was $8.75CAD to park. If you looked around the area, you might be able to find parking for free, perhaps up at the Manoir Montmorency or we saw another lot up near the first foot bridge you cross but if you want access to the cable car and the visitors center, park in the lot.
On the right side of the Falls, a panoramic stairway has been built with observation points every so often. Near the bottom is a concrete viewing platform which was drenched in spray from the falls. The stairway actually has a alternate route near the bottom, allowing you to avoid the closer approach to the falls if you want to avoid getting wet. Who knows what it is like during the spring snow melt!?
This photo shows the stairway down from the top of the falls to its foot from a distant perspective, taken from near the Manoir. As you can see, the stairs snake their way down a very steep slope made up of unstable material - with viewing platforms visible along the route.
We arrived at the Falls at 9:30 AM on a Saturday morning in October, so the crowds had not yet started to build. After viewing the falls from the visitor centre area, we decided to take a cable car ride up to the top of the escarpment. From there you can take the walking trail across the falls and back down to the visitor centre. At a cost of US$4 each for a one-way ticket, we had some great views of both the Falls and the distant skyscrapers of Quebec City. The ride only takes a few minutes and we had the car to ourselves. This photo from our car, on the way up, shows another of the cable cars meeting us on its downward path.
The Falls is spanned by a suspension bridge, built in 1993 to replace one from 1885. The new bridge has retained the original stone pylons at each end of the bridge. From its walkway, there are great views of both the placid upriver holding pond and the rush of water over the edge of the escarpment. Just before the water goes over the edge, it passes over a shallow weir that stretches across from one side to the other.