As the largest green space in the region, Gatineau Park is a vast and scenic space with plenty of activities to offer its visitors. As we’ll see in this Beginner’s Guide, you can visit heritage sites, enjoy hikes, explore caves, and take in nature around the idyllic lakes.
Located to the northwest of Gatineau, visitors can take either a 20-minute drive or a 50-minute cycle on the Trans Canada Highway to reach the federal park. It is a wonderful destination year-round for nature lovers, with several summer and winter activities depending on the season you visit.
At Locations Escape, we love sharing the best of our hometown with visitors whether you’re paddling or peddling! Our passion is exploring the wonder of the outdoors and Gatineau Park is no exception. That’s why we’ve been renting bikes and running tours in Ottawa for more than eight years.
If you’re looking for an unusual way to zip around Gatineau, get in touch! Our local team are happy to show you the historic sites and share our favourite natural areas by bike, kayak, and paddleboard. However, you’d like to experience the city, we can customize your trip together for an unforgettable experience.
So, let’s take a look at the wonders of Gatineau Park in our Beginner’s Guide to show you where to begin your adventure.
Gatineau Park has a rich history and has been inhabited for thousands of years. Evidence of the first known pre-contact Indigenous populations dates back approximately 9,000 years. The park’s resources and proximity to Ottawa drew settlers and early industrialists to the area in the 19th century.
Among the park’s historical sites, visitors can explore the Mackenzie King Estate in the Chelsea sector. This one-time residence of former prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King is open to visitors year-round.
Mackenzie King began by building a small cottage. Over his decades of visiting his modest summer home, he developed the property into the country estate that is now open to the public.
Enter the restored cottages and take in the artefacts, as well as the property’s pristine English and French gardens and historic ruins.
The next spot on our Beginner’s Guide to Gatineau Park is the idyllic valley of Meech Creek. One of the quieter spots in the park, Meech Creek is located in the northeast between the Chelsea and Wakefield villages. The red-covered bridge and farmhouse are picturesque spots amongst the rolling hills. Don’t forget your camera!
Trail 50 is open all year-round to access this beautiful point in the park. The rustic farm and its surrounding fields are still used to produce hay. The iconic bridge was constructed in 1932 and is a great marker to aim for on your hike or bike ride in this part of Gatineau.
Philippe Lake is a wonderful spot in Gatineau Park to enjoy the great outdoors. Take a dip in this freshwater lake located on the north side of the park. Or, if you’re visiting later in the year, enjoy the changing leaves with a cup of coffee.
If you’d like to hike to Philippe Lake, there are several trails to consider. Each varies in length and intensity and your dogs can join you from April to November! The park’s official website details trails to Philippe Lake, including Trail 51, Trail 55, and Trail 50 and their starting points.
If you’d like to stay overnight in the park, there is a large campsite and several accommodation options between summer and winter. Wake up with a lake view and spend the day exploring the three sandy beaches or begin a hike after a comfortable night’s sleep.
Nearby Philippe Lake, Gatineau Park visitors can explore the entrancing Lusk Cave. This cave was formed around the same time as the lake, roughly 11,000 years ago. It is an active cave and opens from spring until fall when the water levels are safe to enjoy.
To hike to Lusk Cave, start at Parent Beach, which is five km away. The full hike is 10 km and takes four hours in total — depending on how long you spend splashing in the cave! Bring a bathing suit or a wetsuit and swim between the cave’s soluble marble walls in the meter-high water.
You’ll definitely get wet when visiting Lusk Cave, so bring some dry clothes and a towel for wrapping up in after. The cave isn’t accessible for visitors with reduced mobility or pushchairs, but you can still go to the entrance of the cave and experience its calming atmosphere.
The last stop on our Beginner’s Guide to Gatineau Park is King Mountain. Hike this gentle giant for amazing views via Trail 30 and Trail 8. Generally considered an easy route, this 5.5-km loop trail near Chelsea takes just over 90 minutes to complete.
King Mountain is at an elevation of 344 metres and is open year-round. On your hike up, you’ll encounter different forest types. From the rich evergreens to the windswept plain, this landscape has adapted to the weather conditions over time. When you reach the summit, you’ll be able to take in all of the varied wilderness from Canada’s first geodetic station (built for land surveys).
We hope you’ve enjoyed this virtual journey to Gatineau Park! While our Beginner’s Guide can only give you a taste of some of the things you’ll experience, we hope you’re feeling inspired and ready to take a day trip to this sprawling green space.
If you’re looking for bike rentals in Gatineau to visit the park or want to fancy a paddleboard lesson on the Ottawa River, Locations Escape has got you covered. We enjoy the natural beauty and historic sites of Gatineau by actively exploring the city. If that sounds like something you would enjoy, get in touch! Our local team is here to share our knowledge and offer you a great day trip.