5 Hikes in Gatineau Park
By Hannah Sourisseau
Whether you’re visiting Ottawa for the weekend, or are a long-time resident of the city, the following are some of our top picks for summer hiking in Gatineau Park. Pack your day bag, grab your shoes, and enjoy some of the scenic lookouts, cascading waterfalls, and forest trails that these exceptional hikes have to offer.
1. KING MOUNTAIN TRAIL: Best spot to catch the sunrise
- 1.9km loop (1hr)
- 97m elevation gain
- Difficulty: easy to moderate
- No dogs allowed
- Washrooms available in the parking lot
- Where to park: King Mountain Parking Lot (Sentier du Mont-King), located off the Champlain Parkway in Gatineau Park. Coordinates: 45.492337, -75.861947. Parking is free.
Located about 45 minutes by car from downtown Ottawa, and perched on the southern tip of the Canadian Shield, King Mountain Trail boasts numerous panoramic views of the Ottawa Valley, and is one of the more popular hikes in Gatineau Park. From the King Mountain Parking Lot, this 1.9km loop ascends some rocky terrain and built-in stairs before continuing along the Eardley Escarpment and eventually descending (via more stairs) back to the parking lot. As the highest point in Gatineau Park, this trail not only has breath-taking views, but also historical significance, as it features Canada’s first geodetic survey station. Marked by a monument and plaque, this National Historic Site of Canada is right along the trail, and was used to collect surveying data on Canada’s topography.
Pro tip: Because of its short length and sweeping views, this is our top recommendation for a sunrise hike. Pack some snacks and some coffee, and enjoy the view from the top! Or, if evenings are more your style – this hike features some great sunset vistas as well.
For more information, visit the NCC’s guide here: https://ncc-ccn.gc.ca/places/king-mountain
2. THE LAURIALT TRAIL: Best hot-day hike
- 4.3km out-and-back (1.5hrs)
- 163m elevation gain
- Difficulty: easy
- Dogs allowed (on leash)
- Washrooms (and changing room) available in the parking lot
- Where to park: P11 (O’Brien Beach Parking Lot). Coordinates: 45.526513, -75.863445. In the summer, payment required to park.
Calling all lovers of stone ruins, shady walks, and waterfalls! From Parking Lot 11 in Gatineau Park, this trail (marked as trail 36), crosses over Meech Lake and then follows its shoreline for a short time before continuing through the forest to the Carbide-Willson ruins and the stunning Meech Lake Falls that run right beside them. Originally a fertilizer plant built in the early 1900s by Canadian inventor Thomas Leopold Willson, only the dam and plant’s foundation remain today; this spot is a popular location for photographers, and a look into Canada’s scientific-industrial history.
Pro tip: Because the majority of this trail travels through the forest, this is our top recommendation for a hike on a really hot day! Additionally, pack your swimsuit and cool off with a dip at O’Brien Beach, as this trail shares its parking lot.
For more information, visit the NCC’s guide here: https://ncc-ccn.gc.ca/places/carbide-willson-ruins
3. PINK LAKE: Best hike for birding and biology
- 2.3km loop (1hr)
- 64m elevation gain
- Difficulty: easy to moderate
- No dogs allowed
- Washrooms available in the Pink Lake Trail parking lot
- Where to park: Pink Lake Parking Lot (Coordinates: 45.468643, -75.812193), Pink Lake Lookout Parking Lot (Coordinates: 45.466874, -75.807763). On weekends, parking tends to be busy!
This family-friendly hike is one of Gatineau Park’s classics, and a great spot for anyone interested in the region’s biology and geology! Be advised that dogs are not allowed on the trail because of the delicate ecosystem, so please leave your furry family members at home. Named for the Pink family in 1826, Pink Lake is a meromictic lake, meaning that its upper and lower layers of water do not mix. This is because it has a small surface that is protected from the wind by the surrounding cliffs. Because the layers of the lake remain separated, oxygen and nutrients are not evenly distributed. This lack of mixing is responsible for some of the lake’s unique features, such as the existence of a prehistoric anaerobic organism in the bottom seven meters of the lake, and the proliferation of a microscopic algae in the top layers. Although part of the natural but harmful process of eutrophication (the increase of specific nutrients in bodies of water), the growth of algae in Pink Lake is what gives the lake its stunning turquoise-green colour. The hike around the lake features exceptional views of the lake, and is relatively easy, though involves several sets of stairs.
Pro tip: Bring your binoculars! Pink Lake Trail is a popular spot in the area for birding!
For more information, visit the NCC’s guide here: https://ncc-ccn.gc.ca/places/pink-lake
4. LUSK CAVE TRAIL: Best hike for the adventurous spirit
- 10km (2.5-3hrs)
- 212m elevation gain
- Difficulty: moderate
- Dogs are allowed on the trail, but not in the caves
- Washrooms (and changerooms) available in the parking lot
- Where to park: Parent Beach Parking Lot. Coordinates: 45.605304, -76.010275. In the summer, payment is required to park.
Perhaps one of the most unique hikes in the area, the Lusk Cave Trail features a cave system that hikers are able to explore. However, bring a swimsuit or a change of clothes, as exploring the 100m cave system requires wading or swimming through the creek that flows through it. From the trailhead at Parent Beach, hikers can take the flatter Phillipe Lake Parkway (Trail 50) to Smith Beach, or opt for the steeper trail that follows the shoreline of Phillipe Lake to Smith Beach. From Smith Beach, take trail 50 until an intersection with Trail 54, which will lead you to the caves.
Pro tip: For the most successful cave-outing, bring a headlamp, a swimsuit, water shoes, a helmet (if possible), and a towel to dry off afterwards! If you want to make a day of it, pack a picnic to enjoy at Parent Beach on Lake Phillipe!
For more information, visit the NCC’s guide here: https://ncc-ccn.gc.ca/places/lusk-cave
5. LUSKVILLE FALLS TRAIL: Best waterfalls and star-gazing
- 4.0km loop (1.5-2.5hrs)
- 303m elevation gain
- Difficulty: moderate to challenging
- Dogs are not allowed
- Washrooms are available in the parking lot
- Where to park: Luskville Falls Trail Parking Lot. Coordinates: 45.532755, -75.993848.
If you’re looking for a more challenging hike with exceptional views throughout, this is the hike for you! As a 4km loop, this hike features 303m of elevation; when completed counter-clockwise, the hike features some of its most gorgeous views on the descent. As the name suggests, the trail passes several waterfalls, though in the drier months, their flow can be fairly low. The top of the hike is marked by a fire tower that was built in 1940; though closed to the public, it’s still a neat spot to take photos. Perhaps more striking, however, is Pontiac Lookout, which features a panoramic view of the Ottawa Valley.
Pro tip: On a clear summer evening, hike the first 500m of the trail to the lookout to catch the sunset, or pack a headlamp, some layers, and a blanket to watch the stars come out; this spot is a great place for some star-gazing!
For more information, visit the NCC’s guide here: https://ncc-ccn.gc.ca/places/luskville-falls