Estimated time to read: 5 minutes
With Gatineau Park’s more than 250 kilometres of trails to explore in any season, the days may go by, but no two days are alike. With cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking and snow biking, there’s something for everyone!

You don’t need to know the Park like the back of your hand to plan an outing. Just follow these easy steps for a safe and enjoyable experience in Gatineau Park.

Step 1: Choose the right trail

With so many trails to choose from, a person could easily get lost — both literally and figuratively.

Different trails for different activities

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

Some trails are for only one type of activity, and others are shared.

Choose an activity, and limit your search to the trails designed for that activity. That way, you’ll avoid disappointment by being ready to set out, with your snowshoes on, at a starting point for cross-country skiing only.

Walking on the snowshoe trails is permitted (provided you have a pass), but only when the trail surface is very hard. In soft snow, boots make holes that damage the trail, spoiling the experience and making the trail unsafe for other users when the snow hardens. Walking on or to the side of ski trails is not permitted. 

Friendly advice

  • If you don’t have a car, there are several starting points that are accessible by public transit. Even though your options may be more limited, they will still be just as interesting!
  • Choose trails that are appropriate for your level of ability. For example, cross-country ski trails vary in level of difficulty from easy to very difficult — and back-country trails are not groomed.
  • Remember that the sun sets early in the winter, so choose a route you can do in the amount of time that you have.
  • During your outing, take a break at one of the Park’s shelters or an outdoor rest area. You can warm up and have a snack (bring your own lunch). And it will help you be fresh and ready for the last leg of your outing.

At all times, the team at the Gatineau Park Visitor Centre is there to help you plan your outing. Our helpful information officers can recommend a route that will suit your needs. Drop in and see us, or give us a call!

Step 2: Gather the essentials

Basic equipment: skis, snowshoes or fat bike

No equipment? No problem!

Snowshoes, cross-country skis and fat bikes are available for rent at the Relais plein air and other local shops. Renting is an excellent way to check out a new sport before investing in your own equipment.

Buy a pass

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

There is a fee to access to the ski, snowshoe and snow bike trails. Make things easier by buying your daily pass in advance online. Or you can buy a daily pass at the trailhead parking lots (exact cash only). Make sure you wear your pass in plain view.

Friendly advice: Buy a season pass if you think you might get out skiing at least 10 times, or snowshoeing or snow biking at least six times. You’ll save time and money!

Checklist: What you’ll need

A user holding a trail map
Make sure you have a paper copy of the trail map.
  • The right equipment
  • Weather-appropriate clothing
  • Daily or season pass
  • Trail map: Cellphone signal reception varies throughout Gatineau Park, so make sure you have a trail map (available at the Gatineau Park Visitor Centre [$] or download it online as a PDF for free).
  • Enough water: There are no drinking water stations on the trails.
  • Snacks: This will help you keep up your energy during your outing.
  • Sun protection: Sunscreen, lip balm with SPF and sunglasses are essential on a sunny day
  • Whistle
  • Headlamp: The unexpected can happen quickly. If you’re still out and the sun is setting, you’ll be glad that you’re prepared.

Step 3: Check the conditions before leaving

The weather

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

Friendly advice: Because the weather at higher altitudes, in the forest and in places further north is not the same as it is in town, avoid being too warm or too cold by wearing layers of clothing to be able to adapt to the weather during your outing.

During nice winter days, the parking lots fill up quickly: always have a Plan B!

Trail conditions

Just before leaving, check the conditions of the trails you plan to take. With the help of our maintenance and patrol teams, we are able to provide regular updates to the trail condition information on our website. The team also recommends the right ski wax to use for the trail conditions.

Friendly advice: For your own safety, let someone know what route you plan to take, and avoid setting out alone.

Step 4: Enjoy the trails, while also respecting the Park and its wildlife, as well as other users

Gatineau Park follows Leave No Trace Canada’s principles of outdoor ethics, which aim to minimize human impact on nature. Here are some things to keep in mind during your visit.

A deer in Gatineau Park by an equipment rack.
The Park is home to the white-tailed deer.
  • Dispose of waste properly. Pack out what you packed in — that includes banana peels, apple cores and tissues! Waste pollutes the Park’s natural environment, and could be accidentally ingested by wildlife.
  • Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach wild animals. In winter, animals need all their energy to survive. If an animal has to flee from you, you force it to uselessly deplete its energy reserves.
  • Stay on the official trails. Unofficial trails fragment the habitats in which they are created. Read more about them and our Responsible Trail Management project.
  • Respect other users. Please be considerate of other users, and use only the trails designed for your activity.

We hope that these tips will help you make the most of your visit, and have a safe and enjoyable outing in Gatineau Park!