Gatineau Park, Que.
Ottawa is known for its many scenic landmarks, but if there’s one thing that merits more attention, it’s the vast Gatineau Park, located less than 20 minutes from downtown Ottawa on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River and easily accessible by car or public transit. This 361-square-kilometre conservation area, which is maintained by the National Capital Commission, extends north and west from the city of Gatineau, offering more than 183 km of scenic trails from beginner routes to more challenging options.
Pink Lake Loop Easy
It’s impossible to talk about Gatineau Park without mentioning Pink Lake. Thanks to the growth of algae, the lake, which is unique to the region, appears turquoise (the name comes from the family that settled the area in the early 19th century) and is said to contain prehistoric fish species. The trail is f lat and short, just barely over 2 km in length, but can easily be combined with other trails. Starting at boulevard du Mont-Bleu next to the Relais Plein Air, for example, can transform the route to over 14 km in length, with an ascent of at least 300 m. (Note: swimming and dogs are not permitted on this trail.)
Wolf (Trail 62) Intermediate
This 8 km loop offers a 220 m climb through a mature forest that will bring you to some of the highest points in the park. Along the way, you’ll cross several streams and encounter some small waterfalls. The trail is dog-friendly, and even provides a picnic area when you reach the Tawadina Lookout. There are many trails nearby to make it a longer outing. The trail’s parking lot is beside Blanchet Beach on Meech Lake – the perfect spot for a refreshing post-run swim.
Lusk Cave Trail Intermediate
A marble cave makes this 10 km loop stand out. The trail is mostly gravel double track mixed with some sand and forest singletrack. Much of the route runs alongside Lac Philippe, and goes up just over 200 m via a few rolling hills. If exploring caves is your jam, then bring a headlamp and a change of shoes, since the cave is often filled with water.
Firetower via Trail 1 Advanced
This out-and-back trail runs 21 km and begins beside Blanchet Beach. The majority of the route is on The Great Trail (Trail 1), an old gravel road that goes through the forest. The climb from Luskville Falls to the fire tower is the most challenging ascent, bringing the total elevation gain to just over 600 m. If you’re looking for a pit stop while exploring, the McKinstry Shelter is almost right in the middle of the trek.
Other notable trails:
King Mountain (easy 2 km), Luskville Falls Trail (moderate 4 km), Grandview Loop (moderate 6 km) or create your own fun loop.