My love affair with Gatineau Park began in the summer of 1982. I was a student, and had just landed my first real job as a nature interpreter. That means I’ve been exploring the Park and enjoying various recreational activities in every season for 35 years now. With the summer solstice just a few days away, I thought I would give you a brief overview of the main summertime activities awaiting your enjoyment, and let you in on five of my favourite things.
Personally, I still haven’t finished hiking the Park’s trails. With about 170 km to cover, no one could claim to make a quick tour of them! Even popular trails, like Champlain, Pink Lake, King Mountain and Luskville Falls, hold new discoveries around every corner.
Interpretation panels along the way also teach us more about the Park’s historical and natural treasures. The Lauriault Trail takes you through the Mackenzie King Estate, and Trail 36 leads to the Carbide Willson ruins. Both are sites that will immerse you in the history of the region.
After diving into history, why not take a dip in one of the three lakes where swimming is permitted? Meech Lake (two beaches), Philippe Lake (three beaches) and La Pêche Lake (one beach) are some of the best places in the region to swim and have a picnic.
I promised to let you in on some of my all-time favourite things. Here’s the first: rent a boat at La Pêche Lake, and set out with your fishing permit and rod in hand in search of the fabled “monster” bass that have earned this lake its reputation as one of the best in Quebec.
Meech Lake, a keen challenger for the title, has a launch for your canoe or kayak at parking lot P12 (McCloskey Boat Launch). At Philippe Lake, you can rent canoes, kayaks, pedal boats and stand up paddleboards. At La Pêche Lake, canoes, kayaks and rowboats are available for rent.
Interested in spending a night in the great outdoors? Gatineau Park offers camping, canoe-camping or even ready-to-camp accommodation. The Philippe Lake campground offers a family-oriented experience, with nearby beaches and parks.
Looking for a quieter location? Head out to Taylor Lake, my second-favourite spot, and right in the heart of nature.
Looking for adventure? Try canoe-camping at La Pêche Lake, where all sites are accessible by water only.
NOKIA Sunday Bikedays
From May 21 to September 3, 2017
Road biking is very popular in the Park. On Sundays, from 6 am to 11 am, enjoy NOKIA Sunday Bikedays, when the Park’s entire parkway network is closed to motor vehicles. Climb to Champlain Lookout for a healthy challenge and breathtaking views — if you have any breath left, that is!
Third-favourite thing: the lesser known times when sections of the parkways are closed to motor vehicles.
Saturdays and Sundays, 6 am to 1 pm: Gatineau Parkway (between parking lots P8 and P9).
Tuesdays and Thursdays, 6 pm to 8 pm: Gatineau Parkway (between parking lots P8 and P9).
Saturdays, from 6 am to 11 am, Gatineau Parkway (from the Champlain Parkway intersection to parking lot P8).
Are you a mountain biker? The Park has 98 km of mountain biking trails, ranging in difficulty from easy to very difficult. These trails are shared with hikers, so please be considerate of other trail users.
Mackenzie King Estate
With its historical ruins, picturesque gardens and prized tearoom, the Mackenzie King Estate is not to be missed. My fourth-favourite thing: a visit to the old cottages on the shore of Kingsmere Lake, which are now museums.
And don’t miss these events at the Estate this summer:
- Canada Day activities on July 1 and 2
- Theatre in the Bush, July 20 to 22
- The Estate in Bloom, August 5, 6 and 7
- Family Event at the Estate, September 2 to 4.
A Conservation Park
My fifth-favourite thing: the Park’s ecological integrity. To preserve this treasure, it is vital that hikers, cyclists, canoeists and kayakers stick to the official sites and trails. I would like to end this blog with the same quote I used to end my first talks at the Philippe Lake campground a few decades ago: “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children” (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry).
These words were true then — and truer than ever now.
Have a wonderful summer!