The National Capital Region is also known as the Ottawa-Gatineau Metropolitan Area. Gatineau Park in Quebec, Canada is a wonderful day trip from Ottawa, across the provincial border. Just across the Ottawa River in the Outaouais region, and about a 15 minute drive from the Byward Market to the Gatineau Park Visitor Centre, Gatineau Park is a fantastic year-round outdoor recreational destination. You’ll find a variety of trails, from easy walks to difficult hikes with beautiful lookouts and great picnic areas. The trails are free to visit in the summer, or for a daily/season price in the winter (to pay for maintenance of the trails).
How to Find Trails in Gatineau Park: If it’s your first time, I recommend heading to the visitor centre at 33 Scott Road, Chelsea, QC (open daily). The staff are highly knowledgeable and can provide information on parking, trail lengths and directions. You can also rent snowshoes and cross-country skis here in the winter. You can also look at the Gatineau Park Trail Map here on the National Capital Commission website and make sure to check the parkway schedule for where you can drive. Another fantastic resource is the Girl Gone Good Hiking Guide and trail reports, find her website here for trails in Gatineau Park and beyond.
How to get to Gatineau Park: You will need a car to drive to Gatineau Park, a bike to cycle through the park or take the free Fall Rhapsody Shuttle from Downtown during the fall. Some parking lots are free and some (the most popular destinations) you’ll need to pay for.
There are a whole list of activities (you can check the website) such as hiking, kayaking ($), canoeing ($), horseback riding ($), cycling, mountain biking and swimming. You can also go camping ($) and geocaching and see wonderful lookouts.
There’s another list of activities such as hiking, snowshoeing ($), cross-country skiing ($), snow biking ($) and skating to do during the winter. You can rent snowshoes and cross country skis at the Visitor Centre; however, you can purchase a pair of snowshoes for about $100-$150, which is the equivalent of renting a pair of snowshoes for the day 5 times ever. I’ve owned my snowshoes for a few years now so it’s a worthy investment if you plan to go a few times! Cross country skis are a bit more of an investment so I do recommend testing out whether you like cross country skiing by renting the equipment first.
Carbide Willson Ruins Hike: A short in-out 3 km hike from Meech Lake to impressive ruins of an industrial plant. The parking lot is a paid lot and it’s one of the busiest trails in Gatineau Park. This would be an easy to intermediate hike, with a large hill at the very beginning. It is open year round, but only available to cross country skiers in the winter.
Lac Philippe Trail 74: From P19, follow the trail from #73 and 74 for either hiking in the spring/summer/fall or snowshoeing during the winter (day passes available at the trail head). This is an intermediate hike, with a number of hills and approximately 8 km total. It’s about a 45 minute drive from Ottawa so it’s typically a less busy trail than those closer to the city. It is a year round trail.
Lusk Cave Trail: Starting at the Lac Phillipe trail, a total 10 km hike takes you to the Lusk Caves. Bring an extra pair of shoes and a headlight to go through the caves!
Lauriault Waterfall Trail (and Mackenzie King Estate): A beginner hike through forest, a lookout to the Lauriault Falls, a picnic area and a short detour will take you to the Mackenzie King Estate and Ruins (William Lyon Mackenzie King was Canada’s 10th Prime Minister). It is an easy hike but about 4.5 km total in length. Mackenzie King Estate has a tea room and museum that is definitely worth the stop. It is a year round trail.
Luskville Falls Trail: Not to be mistaken with the Luskville Caves trail, this is a 4.5 km difficult hike and picnic area. A 290-metre climb up the Eardley Escarpment with a stunning view of the Ottawa Valley. Along the trail learn about plants and trees on the Escarpment. Open in the spring/summer/fall.
Wolf Trail: my favourite trail in Gatineau Park is the Wolf Trail. It’s a difficult hike with a rewarding scenic view of the Gatineau and beyond. Open year round with free (but limited) parking. It is just past Meech Lake, which is a fantastic place to watch sunrise.
King Mountain: A hilly difficult hike, King Mountain has a wonderful lookout. Dogs are not permitted. It is open in the spring/summer fall but the parkway is closed to vehicles in the winter when it becomes a cross country ski trail.
Wakefield Trail: There are a few loops you can do. I snowshoed trail 70 and 71 for 12.5 km.A long, difficult hike though forest with lots of steep hills. If you’re looking for a workout, this trail is great!
Pink Lake: One of the most popular trails in Gatineau Park is Pink Lake. An intermediate 2.3 km loop (1 hour hike) with a few lookouts, it’s one of the most impressive hikes to visit during the fall!
BONUS: Stop in Chelsea and visit Pub Chelsea for the best pub food, Biscotti for the most aesthetic cafe and loft, la Cigale for ice cream, L’Oree du Bois for authentic French cuisine and le Nordik for a day spa.