Just across the river from downtown Ottawa, Gatineau Park—a 139-square-mile (361-square-kilometer) swath of lake and wood-dotted parkland—offers nature escapes near the city. With a vast network of hiking, cycling, and cross-country ski trails, as well as lakes, waterfalls, and swimming beaches, it’s a veritable outdoor playground.
Though locals take advantage of Gatineau Park, many visitors to Canada’s national capital are unaware of the natural beauty that lies on its doorstep. Some visitors get to glimpse the park from the Ottawa River during cruise or amphibious vehicle tours of Ottawa, which travel both on water and dry land. Other travelers see the park during guided bike tours.
You can also camp, canoe, and snowshoe in the park, and take part in interpreter-led natural walks, which take place on select dates. Camp Fortune offers downhill skiing and snowboarding runs in winter, and ziplining in summer. The old summer estate of former Canadian prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King also sits within the park, and now serves as a museum and tea room.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Gatineau Park is a must-see for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
- Some parts of the park, including Breton Beach at Philippe Lake, and the Mackenzie King Estate, are accessible to wheelchair users.
- Free Wi-Fi is available at the Gatineau Park Visitor Centre, which is located at the park entrance in Chelsea.
How to Get There
Gatineau Park is located on the north side of the Ottawa River, which serves as the border between the provinces of Quebec and Ontario. The Gatineau Park Visitor Center, on Scott Road in Chelsea, is just a 15-minute drive from Parliament Hill, Ottawa. If you are renting a bike, cross over the Chaudière or Portage bridge before joining up with the Gatineau Parkway.
When to Get There
Gatineau Park is fun to visit any time of the year. Note that certain roads are closed during the winter. In fall, the park hosts the popular Fall Rhapsody festival, and leaf-peepers flock here to admire the autumnal foliage. Go midweek to avoid the crowds.
Gatineau Park’s Pink Lake
Among the park’s most visited and most photogenic spots is the so-called Pink Lake. The waters in this pristine lake are not actually pink—that name is derived from the Pink family who settled here in the early 19th century—but rather a distinctive green, caused by the build-up of microscopic algae. A 1.5-mile (2.5-kilometer) trail curves around the lake, offering scenic views. The trail can usually be walked in around an hour.