After a long, dark winter, summer in Québec City is a glorious time to be outside. Set along the banks of the beautiful St Lawrence River and bordered by forested hills, the city and its surrounds are perfectly located for a number of warm weather activities -- from running to biking to boating – nearly all of which can be enjoyed without even leaving town.

Get your heart pumping
Québec City is split between the Upper Town, perched high on Cap Diamant, and the Lower Town, sprawled along the riverfront. There are 29 staircases connecting these two parts of town and Quebecers like to walk or run them as an aerobic challenge in their daily workout. The views – over the historic Lower Town and the wide St Lawrence River – are pretty good too.

Walk or run
Québec is a brilliantly walkable city, and has miles of good tracks for runners too. Head to the Plains of Abraham, an expanse that overlooks the St Lawrence River, for your outdoor lesson in Canadian history. In 1753, this is where British forces defeated French troops in the most decisive battle in Québec’s history, solidifying the province’s status as part of a British colony. The plains are just part of Battlefields Park’s 108 hectares of rolling green. Quebecers stroll, run, rollerblade and bike its tracks in summer, and there are cross-country ski trails for winter.

Hop on your bike
Québec City has several bike rental outlets and even guided bike tours (far from the staircases, of course). To unite your exercise with historical immersion, wind your way slowly along the narrow streets of the city’s Old Town or Latin Quarter, full of the evocative and largely unchanged architecture of Nouvelle France. There are also bike paths on both sides of the St Lawrence river, and on sunny weekends you will see hordes of recreational cyclists heading upriver on the Promenade Samuel de Champlain, a path on the north side of the river that opened in 2008 and was architecturally designed with contemporary sculptures and fountains alongside. Or, you can head east towards the 83m-tall  Montmorency Falls, take the cross-river ferry to the town of Levis and make it a circuit ride. Great views are guaranteed. Mountain bikers and downhillers also swoon over the miles of summer trails at the ski-resort Mont Sainte Anne, less than an hour’s drive downriver, east of the city.

Onto the river
The St Lawrence in summer is another Québec City playground. The water may still be chilly, but if you are confident in a sea kayak, seeing the skyline from this great waterway gives a decidedly breathtaking perspective on the city. Just upriver of the city centre is the more protected Anse du Cap Rouge, a bay on the St Lawrence River. Here, at the Parc Nautique de Cap-Rouge you can hire kayaks and take lessons. On the St Charles River, which empties into the St Lawrence just north of the Old Town, traditional Canadian canoes are ideal for paddling along the river’s calmer stretches and there are even some white-water rapids for kayak enthusiasts.

Rock climbing
Just east of the city centre, close to the Pierre-Laporte and Pont de Québec bridges, are the Le Pylône and Le Champlain crags, where you do not have to be an expert climber to participate. At  the 13m-tall Le Pylône, you can climb from fixed anchors located at the top of the crag, making it a perfect spot for a climbing debut. The 10m-tall Le Champlain offers some of the best urban climbing anywhere in Canada, with a challenging overhang in addition to classic routes. Just north of the city are climbs in the gorgeous Mount Wright Forest Park, home to one of the last privately owned old-growth forests in eastern Québec.

Thirty minutes’ drive north of Québec City, is Parc National de la Jacques-Cartier, cut through by a spectacularly precipitous glacial valley. There are more than 100km of hiking trails here, and along the way you may see moose, bears, otters and even wolves. Refreshing dips in the Jacques Cartier River are obligatory in summer. This is the closest wilderness to town and is easily accessible for a day trip.

When it snows
All good things come to an end – and though summer is a time to revel in the outdoors, outdoorsy Québecers are unperturbed by the onset of winter. When the snow arrives, walking tracks in the city’s parks become cross country ski trails, an outdoor ice skating rink appears at Place d’Youville, a square in the heart of the city, and the gut-clenching Québec City ice toboggan run draws large crowds from December to March. Ice climbers scale the now frozen cascades at Montmorency Falls, downhill skiers swarm to Mont Sainte Anne, many of the hiking trails at the Jacques-Cartier park become great territory for snow shoe hiking –- and with typically Québecoise exuberance, the outdoor fun continues.