We take advantage of a 2-day stay in Gatineau, to discover Gatineau Park. A Canadian federal park that attracts both Quebecers and Ontarians every day. It must be said that its location very close to Ottawa is an advantage. Let’s discover Gatineau Park, the green lung of the Outaouais.
First, a presentation of Gatineau Park
Located 15 km from Gatineau and 20 from Ottawa, Gatineau Park covers more than 361 square kilometers. It is home to a rich and unique biodiversity. The second most visited park in Canada, it is divided into several sectors, including one accessible from downtown Ottawa-Gatineau. A true green lung of the Outaouais, it is home to lakes, beaches, caves as well as peaks with lookouts. A nature and sporting getaway less than 20 minutes drive from Ottawa-Gatineau.
What to do in Gatineau Park?
As in every park in Canada, hiking trails are available in Gatineau Park. 183 kilometers of hiking trails in total. Hikes for all levels with different distances and height differences. For our part, we chose the following hikes: Sentier des Loups (no 62 – Difficult), Sentier du Lac-Pink (intermediate) and Sentier du Mont-King (difficult).
The Wolf Trail is an 8.5 km loop on a steep forest trail leading to the Tawadina, Mahingan and McCaw lookouts. 3 beautiful belvederes with breathtaking views of the Outaouais region. The trail is quite technical with a lot of roots and rocks. The departure is right in front of Blanchet beach. Ideal for cooling off with the hike.
Then, the Sentier du Mont-King is a difficult 1.8 km loop leading to the Eardley escarpment (300 meters above the Ottawa Valley). Many lookouts and interpretation panels on the forest environment are available along the trail.
Due to lack of time, we were unable to visit the Carbide Willson ruins. These ruins are located in the forest on the shores of Meech Lake, and are accessible from a 3.25 kilometer round trip trail.
Admire the lakes
With over 60 lakes inside the park, there is plenty to do. In addition to the Philippe, Meech and La Pêche lakes, which are home to beaches, I advise you not to miss Pink Lake. One of the must-see places in Gatineau Park. Pink Lake has special characteristics, which makes it exceptional. Indeed, it is a meromictic lake. Which means the bottom and top waters never mix. A rare phenomenon caused by its shape (a basin) and by the steep cliffs that protect it from the wind. In addition, its magnificent green color comes from the proliferation of microscopic algae. A phenomenon of great beauty but very harmful. The microscopic algae gradually take over the oxygen and suffocate the lake.
All around the lake (2.3 km), a path has been laid out with several belvederes offering various views of the lake. There are also information boards that allow you to learn more about this lake. In particular, why this name of Pink Lake when it is not pink? Spoil: this is the name of the family that discovered the lake in 1826.
Take in the eyes at the top of the belvederes
In addition to viewpoints accessible by hiking, the park offers 3 viewpoints accessible without any particular effort. These are the Champlain, Étienne-Brûlé and Huron lookouts. All 3 accessible via the Promenade Champlain (accessible in summer by car only on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday afternoon), they overlook the Ottawa River and offer magnificent panoramas. From the Huron lookout, it is even possible to see Ottawa.
Bathe and enjoy the beaches
The park is home to 6 supervised beaches (from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) spread over 3 lakes: Philippe, Meech and La Pêche. Located in the northern sector of the park, Philippe Lake is home to 3 beaches: Breton (long sandy strip), Parent and Smith (small beach reserved for campers). Breton beach is the largest in the park. It notably has a charcoal BBQ. As for Parent beach, it has a children’s playground.
We chose Blanchet Beach at Meech Lake. Small, it is divided into 2 sandy beaches, it still allows you to swim and rest in the grass. Less crowded, it must be said that it is really smaller than the other beach on Meech Lake, namely O’Brien. It faces the small private island called Île Champagne. Two open water swimming areas are accessible at Meech and Leamy lakes. Finally, access to the various beaches in the park is free, but there is a charge for parking: $ 13 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. or half-price after 3 p.m.
Discover Gatineau Park by bike
With its many bike and mountain bike trails, Gatineau Park is a cyclists’ paradise. Routes, called trails and walks, allow you to see some of the most beautiful landscapes of the park by bike. This year, the park decided to go even further by closing motorized vehicle access to several popular park walks. This makes access to Lac Pink, Mont King, Belvédère Etienne-Brûlée and Belvédère Champlain much more complicated for motorists. But allowing cyclists to ride freely in this part of the park. The walks are accessible to motorists only on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday from 1 p.m. until 30 minutes after sunset.
Canoe and kayak
Want to canoe on a lake in the middle of nature in the middle of Gatineau Park? Direction Meech, Philippe and La Pêche lakes. These 3 lakes have landing stages. If you do not have your own equipment, a rental service is offered at Philippe Lake (canoes, single kayaks and paddle boards) and at La Pêche Lake (canoes, single kayaks and rowboats). Rental of 1.5 hours ($ 23.25) per day ($ 53).
In Gatineau Park, it is also possible to go hikingescalation, of the Peach, of the monorail sledging and in winter from cross-country skiing, of winter bike of racket or downhill skiing at Camp Fortune. What to benefit greatly!
Where to sleep to fully enjoy Gatineau Park?
To take full advantage of the park, know that it is home to campsites that offer both landscaped pitches near services and beaches, as well as rustic pitches by a lake. 260 traditional camping sites (tents and trailers: $ 36) and 12 ready-to-camp units (from $ 90 / night) are available in the Lac Philippe, Lac Renaud and Lac Taylor sectors. It is also possible to canoe-camping in the Lac la Pêche sector. About 30 canoe-camping sites are spread over 12 locations around Lac la Pêche. $ 36 / night, firewood included. More information on camping in Gatineau Park: here.
Gatineau, the charm of a small town
For our part, we chose to stay in the city of Gatineau (20 minutes by road) because we had planned to stay only one day in the park.
- Motel Adam : a small, unpretentious motel that offers comfortable rooms, some with a kitchen and a small swimming pool to cool off after a great day of sightseeing. Queen room from $ 132 per night with breakfast.
- Les Suites Victoria, Ascend Hotel Collection : a modern, elegant and comfortable hotel in the heart of Gatineau’s Hull district. We fell in love with the large double suites. Starting at $ 195 with free cancellation.
- Hilton Lac-Leamy : people come here for its breathtaking view of Lake Leamy and the surrounding area. A standard Hilton that doesn’t often disappoint and great lake view rooms starting at $ 320 a night with free cancellation.
Ottawa, the vitality of the capital
Finally, it is quite possible to stay in Ottawa (30 minutes drive).
- Swiss Hotel : chic and elegant accommodation in the heart of the Byward Market district of Ottawa. We appreciate the neat decoration of the double rooms starting at $ 197 per night with free cancellation.
- Andaz Ottawa Byward Market : a modern and elegant hotel with an incredible view of the Parliament and the whole city. We enjoy it day and night. Comfortable room with Queen bed starting at $ 258 per night with free cancellation.
- The Metcalfe Hotel : in a chic and sober decoration, we fall completely for the style of this modern hotel and in particular for its impressive and intimate lobby. Ideally located in the heart of Ottawa, its Queen bed rooms starting at $ 295 per night with free cancellation will delight all travelers
- Le Germain Hotel Ottawa : the hosts of the Germain group are a reference in Canada. Modern and stylish boutique decor, a location in the heart of the city’s best neighborhood, and king-size rooms starting at $ 316 per night with free cancellation. Assured crush !
In conclusion, my opinion on our day in Gatineau Park
What I like about this park is that there are both beaches, lakes, hiking trails, bike paths and lookouts. There is something for every taste. Pink Lake is truly beautiful and one of a kind. I just wish there were longer hikes. However, its proximity to Gatineau and Ottawa is a real plus. No need to drive for hours to find yourself in the middle of nature.
And you, what did you think of Gatineau Park?