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Gatineau Park
 
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  Fall Colours Gatineau   The park was created in 1938 and was originally conceived as a National Park but for a variety of political reasons, was never awarded that status. Given its location, on the edge of the City of Ottawa, its not surprising that politics have played a part in much of its history. The park contains the restored summer estate of Mackenzie King one of Canada's foremost Prime Ministers. Just to the north of the estate lies Meech Lake, which lent its name to one of the most controversial and divisive documents this country has ever seen. Fortunately, the park has survived all of this intact and provides the people of the Ottawa-Gatineau regions with a superb venue for outdoor recreation and nature observation. Only a stones throw from downtown Ottawa, you can be dipping your toes in one of its cooling lakes or hiking one of its numerous trails in about twenty minutes time.  
 
 

The park allows for almost every type of outdoor recreation and adventure. Hikers have a myriad of trials to choose from, some of which they share with cyclists and mountain bikers. The more extreme mountain bikers have the option of the trials at the Camp Fortune Ski Hill. Street cyclists and inline skaters share the parks roads on Sunday mornings in the Summer, when the parkways are closed to cars. Front country campers have several areas to chose from and wilderness campers can take advantage of the canoe in sites on La Pêche Lake. Canoeists can also take advantage of some of the other lakes for day paddling.

 
 
  Winter Cabin   Wintertime sees many of the trails taken over by cross country skiers. You'll find a variety of difficulty levels and you can just about choose any length of time for your outing by combining trails appropriately. Snowshoers and winter hikers also have trails set aside for them. If you're looking for an overnight excursion the park has a number of huts which can be booked and for those who have the equipment and stamina you can also do some winter camping.  
 

Camping

Philippe Lake has over 250 campsites available including the group and winter camping areas. Taylor lake has another 33 which include semi-wilderness and front country camping. Firewood is provide and reservations are required. See the canoeing section for information on the 35 paddle-in sites which ring La Pêche Lake. Reservations

The park has yurts and cabins which can be used for overnight stays by skiers or snowshoers in the winter. Contact the park for details.

 

Cabins, Yurts and Lodges

The park has several cabins with shared accommodation for six to seventeen people in the winter. These include the Brown Lake Cabin, Philippe Cabin, the Pines Cabin and the Lusk Lake Cabin. In addition the park has two yurts, one at Richard Lake and one at Taylor Lake. Access is by snowshoe or skies and reservations are a must. Contact the park for details.

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Cycling

The park has 90km of cycling trials which are best suited to a hybrid or mountain bike. The trails are largely mix usage, so you have to give the right of way to hikers. You can also do some downhill mountain biking in the park at Camp Fortune. Follow the link for more information.

The park roads are open to cyclists of course and are the best choice for road bikes if you don't mind sharing the pavement. During the summer months the parks parkway is closed to cars on Sunday mornings to allow cyclists and inline skaters free reign.

 

Hiking

Gatineau has 165km of hiking trails for you to explore. The trail system follows a broad range of terrain allowing you to choose a hike which works with your schedule and physical condition. Some of the park trails are multi-purpose, so watch for cyclists and equestrian traffic. Maps and trail descriptions are available at the visitors centre. The following is a sampling of the trails in the park.

Larriault Trail - 3km, novice, 60m elevation change - The trail starts at Mulvihill Lake parking lot but before you begin you might want to head up the short path to the Larriault Lookout to take in the view of the Ottawa Valley. Back to the parking lot and a short distance along the main trail you'll come to another lookout before you start descending. Shortly you'll come to a stream crossing and the fork, where you turn right to head to the Waterfall Lookout. After taking in this splendid view turn around and head back passed the intersection crossing the Champlain Parkway then turn left to head back to the trail head. On the trail back you'll see another spur coming in from the right side of the trail. If you care to follow this it will take you to Moorside, the Mackenzie King Estate.

King Mountain - Gatineau Park, 2.5km one way, intermediate, 500m elevation gain - The trail is short and steep with several observation points and three main lookouts providing splendid views. The trail has a number of interpretation panels on route. The trailhead is accessible from the King Mountain parking lot in the park. The park also has a brochure which describes a longer route which combines the King Mountain Trail and the #30, #1, and #17 trials into a 11km circuit.

Wolf Trail - 8.3km return, expert, 400m elevation gain - The trail starts at parking lot P13 at Blanchet Beach and continues to a fork where you should keep left. You will shortly pass a beaver pond on your right. Further on the trial intersects with #38 and you should keep right at this point. You'll next encounter the intersection with trail #1, the Fire Tower Road. The trail at this point is no longer numbered but keep going and you'll reach you're objective in no time, the very short spur to the Tawadina Lookout and an excellent overview of the Ottawa Valley. A little further on the trail swings back towards the start passing three more lookouts along the way before the final steep descent to the parking lot. The trail takes about 4 hours to complete.

Lusk Cave - 10km return, novice/intermediate, 300m elevation gain - Bring along a spelunking helmet, a good light and you can explore the Lusk cave. The trial is accessed from the Parent Beach parking lot. Follow the sign into the forest, passing Little Renaud Lake, then head southeast passed the trail to the shelter and along side Lusk Lake. At the the intersection of the Cave Trail take the east fork which will take you to the cave. On you're return take the Cave Trail down to Smith Beach and follow the shoreline of Philippe Lake back to Parent Beach. The full loop takes about 4-5hrs to complete. Interpretation panels are to be found along the route.

Old Chelsea to Champlain Lookout - 9km one way, intermediate, 350m elevation gain. A shuttle will allow you to leave a car in the parking lot at the base of the Champlain Lookout trail thus avoiding the need to retrace your steps. The trailhead is located opposite to the Old Chelsea Picnic Ground. After you reach the Penguin Picnic ground the trail climbs to the Wattsfor's Lookout where you'll get a good view overlooking the cities of Ottawa and Gatineau (formerly Hull). You'll see several spurs along the trail from here to Keogan shelter. Along the next section you'll pass the Shilly Shally shelter and the Huron shelter before reaching the parking lot and the final short hike up to the Champlain Lookout where the view will justify you're long walk.

In the winter there are 10km of trails designated for hiking and compacted to make you're walking easier. Contact the park about conditions.

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Snowshoeing

The park has over 25km of trials for snowshoeing. You'll find trails at Philippe Lake, Meech Lake and in the Wakefield area. There are also a couple of easy trails at the visitors centre. The visitors centre has rentals. Contact the park about conditions and costs.

The park has yurts and cabins which can be used for overnight stays by skiers or snowshoers in the winter. Contact the park for details.

 

Climbing

The park has climbing areas along the Eardley Escarpment for details on routes have a look at the Alpine Club of Ottawa's website. The park has set up new rules regarding climbing which must be respected if the areas are to remain open. Contact the park for more information.

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Cross Country Skiing

Gatineau park has over 200 kilometres of trails with varying levels of difficulty. The trails are extremely well maintained and work their way through a wide variety of terrain. While families will find trails that are perfect to learn on, professional athletes will also find circuits to challenge their skills. Contact the park about conditions.

The park has yurts and cabins which can be used for overnight stays by skiers or snowshoers in the winter. Contact the park for details.

 

Backpacking

The park doesn't have any official backpacking trails but the National Trail runs through it using existing trails to interconnect a 55km section. The trail includes over 700 more kilometres in Quebec (but not all of it is sequential). On the other side of the Ottawa River you'll find the Rideau Trail which makes its way to Kingston. While not officially a backpacking trail, since it has no designated campsites, B&Bs as well as Rideau Canal campsites can be used for overnight stays along the route.

 

Canoeing

The park has canoe camping on La Pêche Lake which serves as a good introduction to this wonderful activity. There are twelve different camping areas along the lake's edge with a total of 35 sites, which are all within a 1.5 to 2hr paddle of the launch. Given the parks proximity to the city it provides a great opportunity for an easy weekend out in nature. You can also paddle Meech and Philippe Lake. The latter has rentals available if you don't have your own equipment. Reservations

 

Nature

The park is made up of hardwood and mixed forests with bogs, fields, swamps and lakes interspersed amongst the mountains. If you're looking for interesting and unusual plants hike in to the Eardley Escarpment. Over 200 species of birds have been recorded in the park along with over 50 species of mammals. Gatineau park is a wonderful destination for viewing the Autumn colours. The hiking trails will take you to many spectacular viewing locations (consult with the park for more information).

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Resources

  Mackenzie King Estate  

Getting There

The park is located just west of Ottawa across the river in the Gatineau Hills of Quebec. From Ottawa take the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge and Highway 5 to the Old Chelsea exit (12) then take a left on Old Chelsea Road, then right on Scott Road. Coming from the Quebec side pick up the 105 then take Scott Road to the south. While Gatineau is located in Quebec it is top of mind with outdoor enthusiasts in the Ottawa area. In addition to the activities listed the park also has popular beaches, which are open during the high season in summer.

 
 

Ottawa & Eastern Ontario

 

Local Guides

Cheap Eats Ottawa
Ottawa Kiosk

Ottawa Start

 

Related Links

 

Links of Interest

Canadian Geographic
Conde Nast Traveler

Islands Magazine
National Geographic
National Geographic Adventure
National Geographic Traveler
Outside Magazine
Sunset Magazine
Travel and Leisure Magazine
Wavelength Magazine

 

Surrounding Regions

Out-There's Ottawa
Out-There's Eastern Ontario
Out-There's Laurentians
Out-There's Ontario
Out-There's Quebec

 

Out-There's Destinations

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Gatineau Park

33 Scott Road
Chelsea, Quebec J9B 1R5


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