Gatineau Park is the National Capital Playground in Quebec
No matter the season, there is always something to do in Gatineau Park. The park, near Ottawa in Quebec, is the playground of the National Capital Region. Skiing, hiking and cycling are big.
While Ottawa is quite flat, which makes cycling very easy, just across the river in Gatineau you can find much hillier Gatineau Park. The park, measuring 361 km2 (90,000 acres), lies in the province of Quebec and is run by the National Capital Commission, a federal arm tasked with running the capital region’s land and real estate properties. The park was formed after Prime Minister MacKenzie King donated his cottage and the surrounding land to all Canadians.
The area was already settled by pre-contact indigenous people though. The location is geographically quite special as the Canadian shield meets the St. Lawrence Lowlands. Hike the Lauriault trail or the Wolfe trail (#62) to enjoy views from atop the Escarpment over the lowlands. In spring, around Mother’s Day, you will see the Trilliums in bloom. In winter the park offers some of the best cross country skiing in the world, with 200 km/125 miles of groomed trails as well as an increasing number of snowshoe trails. As interest in cycling is growing rapidly, you can now also see winter cycling in the park.
The park has many unpaved trails, but also several paved roads, which are closed in winter. There are a few paved multi-use pathways meandering through the park too. A special touch to the park are a number of cabins. Several are newly built, others are decades old and add a wonderful traditional touch to the park. There are no amenities, other than outdoor toilets. Locals go to the huts in the evening (summer and winter) bringing dinner such as cheese fondue and wine.
Between the end of May and early September, the park closes the roads for cars on Sunday mornings and many locals will take their bikes to cycle up to the Champlain Lookout. The lookout allows for views of the Ottawa River Valley. If you are lucky you will see a deer or a moose. Some people reported a bear sighting, but that is very rare.
In the fall, the park shows a spectacular array of colours. Originally known as ‘Indian Summer’, it is now better known as “Fall Colours’ or even branded as “Fall Rhapsody”. The hues of reds, yellows, greens and browns allow for fantastic photos; the MacKenzie King Estate is a great destination to check out the fall colours. Do check out the faux ruins MacKenzie King assembled from several stately buildings that were dismantled in Ottawa. The Estate also has a lunchroom offering high tea and is fully licensed, but do check out opening times of T & Co in advance.
No matter what season you visit the Park, there is always something to do. Be aware that the winters can be really cold, but dressed properly, you will really enjoy snowshoeing. In the spring, the bugs will be out, but comes summer, cycling is fantastic either on a road bike, a tour bike, an e-bike or a mountain bike.
Escape Bicycle Tours and Rentals runs a special request Gatineau Park tour for groups. We’ll cycle towards the MacKenzie King Estate, from downtown Ottawa mostly an uphill exercise, passing Pink Lake along the way. On the way back we drop by at a coffee shop in Old Chelsea, before we bike back over multi-use pathways to Ottawa. If that sounds like a lot of hard work to you, we have Gazelle e-bikes in our collection too.