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Want to know the secret to a successful family outing in Gatineau Park? All you need are some new suggestions for outings to try, the desire to explore the Park in a new way—and a touch of planning!

Keep reading for some new ideas about activities you can enjoy this summer in Gatineau Park.

Rainy day + Visitor Centre = A winning combination

Sometimes, it can be hard to get ourselves out of the house on a dreary day. But rainy day hikes in the forest definitely have a special something: the hush of the forest, the smell of wet foliage and damp earth, and vibrant shades of green.

We suggest a stroll on the Sugarbush Trail, followed by a stop at the Visitor Centre. The Sugarbush Trail is not too long, and its forest canopy offers at least some protection from the weather. After enjoying some time outdoors, come see the wildlife exhibition at the Visitor Centre. Little ones love the wildlife displays and activity booklets.

Pull on your boots and a raincoat—adventure awaits!

  • Starting point: Gatineau Park Visitor Centre
  • Distance from downtown Ottawa: 15.9 km. You can reach the Visitor Centre by public transit (weekend shuttle and Transcollines on weekdays).
  • Bonus: The Visitor Centre is located in the heart of the picturesque village of Old Chelsea. Stop by for a bite at one of the many local cafés and restaurants.

Safe cycling

The hilly terrain of the Gatineau Park parkways presents a good challenge for athletic types. But the Park also has other interesting cycling options to discover—including some for beginner cyclists.

For families, the 3.5-km segment (7 km round trip) of the Gatineau Parkway between parking lots P8 and P9 is a good choice. Popularly known as the North Loop, this section of the parkway network is fairly flat and open at all times for active use only. This means that you can enjoy a ride without having to even think about cars on the road. The wide paved road is surrounded by forests and dotted with scenic views for you to discover at your own pace.

  • Starting point: Parking lot P8 or P9
  • Distance from downtown Ottawa: 16.6 km
  • Bonus: The Dunlop Picnic Area is just across from parking lot P9 on the other side of Chemin du Lac-Meech. Stop there for lunch, or to stretch your legs on the short trail that leads to a waterfall. To connect with the trail at the midpoint, park at P8. To visit the start or end of the trail, park at P9.
Pinguin picnic area

Outdoor adventure, picnics and ball games

Planning a family outing means finding the right balance to suit all tastes. The Penguin Picnic Area offers something for everyone.

Its wide grassy area is just the thing for ball games, and the picnic tables and barbecues are ideal for a picnic out in nature. When the parkways are open for active transportation only, park at parking lot P5, and make your way along the Gatineau Parkway for 500 metres.

  • Starting point: Parking lot P5
  • Distance from downtown Ottawa: 18.1 km
  • Bonus: The Penguin Picnic Area is 1 km (2 km round trip) from a stunning view overlooking the forest and the downtown Capital. Follow Trail 1 to the Wattsford Lookout.

Parent Beach at Philippe Lake

The Philippe Lake area has so much to offer! It’s a prime destination for spending a day outdoors and discovering the natural beauty of Gatineau Park’s northern sector.

For young families, we recommend Parent Beach. It has a playground, picnic tables, change rooms with washrooms and a boat rental service. 

  • Starting point: Parent Beach parking lot
  • Distance from downtown Ottawa: 43.4 km
  • Bonus: Adults and older children who are hiking enthusiasts may want to explore the trail network in the Philippe Lake area. Many attractions are worth discovering on these lesser-known trails, including Lusk Lake, the Lusk Lake Shelter and the Lusk Cave. (Yes, there is a definite theme here!)

Magnificent Meech Creek Valley

Meech Creek Valley is a lesser-travelled area with a distinctive agricultural landscape. A short hike along Cross Loop Road passes several points of interest: a historic covered bridge, a unique family cemetery dating back to the 1860s, and views of locations where farms, a schoolhouse and various other buildings once stood.

Parking lot P16 takes you to Trail 50, a shared mountain biking and hiking trail. The relatively flat, stone dust trail is ideal for beginner mountain bikers.

    • Starting point: Parking lot P16
    • Distance from downtown Ottawa: 26.5 km
    • Bonus: For a longer adventure, head out to the Healey and Herridge day shelters, located about 4 km from parking lot P16 (8 km round trip). On your hike, take a well-deserved break at the shelters.

    Mackenzie King Estate

    Mackenzie King Estate is a fantastic family-friendly destination with plenty to see and do. You can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, picnicking and exploring the estate's picturesque gardens, ruins and grounds.

    Kids will love the interactive exhibits and old artifacts (think typewriter or old radio) inside the cottages and around the property. They can also pick up an activity booklet or print it at home to enhance their visit. 

      • Starting point: Parking lot P6
      • Distance from downtown Ottawa: 20 km
      • Bonus: Take part in a free guided tour of the property for a chance to learn about the life and legacy of the former Canadian Prime Minister. Schedule and directions to Mackenzie King Estate.
      Gatineau Park shuttle seen from the Etienne Brule lookout.

      A new way to visit popular destinations!

      Did you know that the NCC is offering a new, free shuttle service, on Saturdays and Sundays this summer? It’s a fun and environmentally friendly way for families to get to popular destinations in the parkway sector. Stops include the Pink Lake Lookout, Mackenzie King Estate, King Mountain, Champlain Lookout and the Visitor Centre.

      If you plan to visit the parkway area on a weekend, we strongly recommend that you take the shuttle bus. It is probably the only way, other than via active transportation, that you can be sure to get to popular destinations in the parkway sector.

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