Cassandra Demers

Content Strategist

In winter, Gatineau Park becomes a wonderland for winter sports enthusiasts. Not only does the park boast one of the largest and best maintained networks of cross-country ski trails in North America, but it is also an increasingly popular destination for snowshoeing and snow biking.

When it comes to winter in Gatineau Park, a bit of planning goes a long way to making your outing safe and fun. Not sure where to start? Just follow these five easy steps.

  1. Choose an activity
  2. Create your itinerary
  3. Learn the trail rules
  4. Gear up for success
  5. Check the latest updates before you go

Step 1: Choose an activity

A skier on a trail by a frozen lake.
Cross-country skiing in the Philippe Lake area.

In winter, each trail in Gatineau Park is reserved for a specific activity – some trails are for just one type of activity, while others are shared. Permitted activities are clearly marked at the trailhead and in some places, staff are on hand to answer questions or guide you to the right trail for your activity. There are:

New to winter sports? No need to feel intimidated! There are trails for all skill levels in Gatineau Park. And if you follow our preparation tips, you might just find a new winter passion.

If you’re looking for more hiking trails, the NCC and its partners offer other trails across the Ottawa-Gatineau region.

Step 2: Create your itinerary

Once you’ve chosen your winter activity, here are some things to consider:

  • Trail difficulty vs. skill level: Choose a trail with a difficulty rating that matches your skill level. If you’re unsure, start with easier, shorter trails.
  • Distance vs. time available: The sun sets early in the winter, so choose a route you can do in the amount of time that you have (and don’t forget to leave a bit of a buffer to stop for water, a snack and photos).
  • Day pass required: Some activities, like skiing, snowshoeing or snow biking, require a day pass or seasonal pass. Purchase your pass online or directly at the trailhead.
  • Starting point: If you don’t have a car, there are several starting points accessible by public transit. During nice winter days or on weekends, parking lots in popular areas tend to fill up quickly, which brings us to a final consideration: always have a...
  • Plan B: Gatineau Park is a very popular destination, and with rapidly changing trail and weather conditions, flexibility is your best ally for a stress-free adventure. Plan for a few options if your initial destination doesn’t work out, so that you have alternatives and don’t miss out on any winter fun!

With our interactive maps, creating your perfect itinerary is just a few clicks away. The maps provide an overview of all the trails available for your activity, with details about trail length and difficulty. They also feature key points of interest, parking lots and nearby bus stops (zoom in to see details).

If you need more help, the information officers at the Gatineau Park Visitor Centre and Relais plein air are always happy to recommend a route that fits your needs and skill level. Just drop in and see us, or give us a call at 819-827-2020 or 1-866-456-3016 (toll-free).

Step 3: Learn the trail rules

Now that your winter plans are set, let’s talk trail rules. These rules are meant to keep everyone safe, to protect nature and to make sure everyone can enjoy their time in Gatineau Park.

Winter Trail Etiquette in Gatineau Park

Gatineau Park is a conservation area that is home to many plant and animal species at risk. Your actions affect them! Please stay on the official, marked trails dedicated to your activity.

Step 4: Gear up for success

A user showing their daily pass
Make sure you wear your pass in plain view.

Time to bring your planning out of the digital world. There are things you’ll need for a fun and safe winter outing. Make a list and gear up for success. If you don’t have your own gear, no worries! You can rent equipment near Gatineau Park.

Here are the other essentials you’ll need.

  1. Day or season pass: There is a fee to access Gatineau Park’s cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and winter biking trails. Buy your pass online, at the Visitor Centre or Relais Plein Air, or at the trailhead (exact cash only). Wear it proudly!
  2. Winter trail map: Cellphone coverage in Gatineau Park can be spotty. Carry a paper map of the trails or use our Avenza Map on your phone to find your route, even when there’s no cellphone signal reception.
  3. Weather-appropriate clothing and sun protection: Wear layers and pack extra clothing. Sunscreen, lip balm with SPF and sunglasses are recommended on a sunny day, even in winter.
  4. Water and food: There are no drinking water stations on the trails, and snacks will keep your energy up during your outing (and maybe your motivation, too!).
  5. Headlamp, whistle and an emergency thermal blanket: Winter sports come with risks and the unexpected can happen quickly. In vast areas like Gatineau Park, help might take time to get to your location. Always carry safety essentials with you, just in case.

Step 5: Check the latest updates before you go

As you get ready for your winter adventure in Gatineau Park, don’t forget the final step: checking the weather and trail conditions on the day of your outing.

Trail conditions

Just before leaving, go back to the interactive trail map of your activity and check trail conditions for the trails you plan on using. If the trails are in rough shape or closed, you’ll be happy you had a plan B.

Check the weather

Weather is an important factor in any winter sport. Check the weather forecast before leaving and choose the right clothing to wear.

Stay connected

If you aren’t doing so already, follow us on social media and sign up for our newsletter.

Stay connected: be among the first to know about our seasonal activities and get tips on how to make the most out of your visit, year-round. You’ll also learn about the unique nature of Gatineau Park and our efforts to protect it.

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So, there you have it – you’re ready for a fun and safe winter outing in Gatineau Park. Now, go out there and make the most of it!

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