Many people of Ottawa/Gatineau know Mont Cascades, as a nice, family friendly ski mountain. With trails on three distinct sectors, the mountain offers skiers and snowboarders a little bit of everything.
What very few people know is that Mont Cascades also features some of the most fun, the best views, and most challenging snowshoeing trails in the region, and that's exactly what Ana and I went today to experience ourselves. If you have snowshoes already, then you are all set to start, but the mountain also rents them for a reasonable cost if you don't.
When you arrive at Mont Cascades, park at the far end of the parking where the lot goes in towards the right side of the magic carpet beginner slope. Go to the end, and the snowshoe trail entrance is to the right.
The trails are well planned out, and well indicated, with small maps posted at key locations and junctions, to help you get your bearings and position. There is a total of 6 trails, ranging from easy to intermediate, to difficult, and to expert.
Trails 1-3 are easy trails, staying mainly around the base of the mountain, with not much vertical to ascend or descend. Perfect for your first time out or just a relaxing exercise. Trail 4 is an intermediate trail, and no doubt offers the best views on the second half of it's length, showcasing the Gatineau river, and the surrounding region. Trail 5 is just a steep wall to the top, which is to be expected as it is the most direct of the trails to the summit and the shortest. Trail 6 is the longest trail as well as among the steepest, following the contours of the mountain, and having lots of steeps to ascend, then descend, then ascend again before reaching the summit.
Either way you choose, you are in for a great experience. And the views at the lookout points at the summit, or near the top of Trail 4 are worth the time and effort.
Our recommendation would be to have some good snowshoes and accompany that with poles, to help you be more stable and solid with your footing, if you plan on tackling Trails 5 and 6. We were going to attempt Trail 5 to go back down the mountain, but it was above our skill level to descend, so make sure you only try it if you are an expert snowshoer.
At a reasonable pace, plan for about an hour and a half per direction, allowing for time to rest and enjoy the magnificent views of the mountain and region. Don't forget to bring a camera as the views at and near the summit are worthy of a souvenir picture. On our visit, we started with the Trail 3, up till Trail 6. Trail 6 proved to be a challenge due to the many steep sections. Once at the summit, we decided on taking Trail 4 (and discovered its great views and vistas, that were absent from Trail 6) to return to the base.
We highly recommend you give Mont Cascades a try on your next snowshoeing adventure.
This visit was to Lac La Peche, known as the largest lake in all of Gatineau Park. If you find Lac Philippe or Meech large, this lake is almost double the size. Upon arriving, the sandy beech is expansive and stretches across a large portion of the water.
There is a fee that must be paid along the access road, however at this time of the year, and due to the beach being officially closed, access is free. For those arriving without their own kayak or canoe, rentals are available, in the same way as they are at Lac Philippe.
The late summer's sun creates a vast landscape, just waiting to be discovered and enjoyed.
The entry point into the water is located approximately in the middle of the lake, so you are perfectly positioned to start exploring in either direction. I am not sure why but the sand along on the beach was brighter and softer than most of the other beaches in the region we have visited. Perhaps it is due to the slightly more remote location that it has remained relatively untouched compared to the other closer beaches. So if you like going to places where the sand shines, this may be your place!
The water is calm and quiet. The beach season is officially over yet that doesn't stop people from coming out to enjoy the lake and nature.
Heading off in the direction of the opposite shore line.
You couldn't ask for better weather and a more perfect location to kayak.
A beautiful day out in the water, with warmer than seasonal weather at this time of year. We may find ourselves kayaking into end of October without issue at this rate. However, the end is coming and so it is important to enjoy every opportunity from this point onward.
For those first timers coming up to the lake, the last 15 minutes of the drive is on a gravel road, so a kind suggestion of covering your kayak's cockpit is recommended to avoid dust from entering.
A beautiful clear Saturday afternoon called for a visit to Gatineau Park to do some hiking. The park is famous for its endless trails and the multitude of choices of where to go and how to get there. This trip was to visit the Carbide Willson Ruins. Located to the North of Meech lake, the ruins can be found after the 3km hike. The trail is not very challenging to get to the ruins, however, there is a long hill halfway there.
Surprisingly, the trail is quite popular and well traveled. Definitely, one of the more popular locations to visit.
Starting from the P11 parking lot by Meech lake, the trail heads up the hill to the North. The forest canopy providing plenty of cover and shade as you make the trip.
Eventually, you reach a long downhill section, which culminates with a bridge over the lake. Looking South from here you can see Meech lake and the cottages that flank the shoreline.
Continuing along the path, you will eventually reach a directional sign post. Oddly enough, to get to the Ruins, you need to head in the Un-Marked direction (in other words, to the Right).
Very shortly after, you will arrive at the Ruins. With waterfalls and cascading streams, the building is something out of a movie. Tall and imposing over its domain, it is slowly being taken back by nature. Trees, vines and leaves shoot up from the inside of the building, which no longer has any windows, doors, floors or roof.
The site is spectacular. A small bridge crosses over the water to the other side.
A curious round building.
The Carbine Willson Ruins were originally constructed as a factory to produce Calcium Carbide fertilizer. The structures took approximately 1000 bags of cement and were built in the early 1910s.
No matter how you look at it, the site is immensely impressive.
Beyond the ruins, the trail continues North and eventually hits more junctions, heading off in all directions of Gatineau Park.
Definitely something unique and different to experience, the Carbide Willson Ruins are another treasure of Gatineau Park, waiting for you to discover. No doubt, the Ruins will be even more spectacular when surrounded by the coming fall colours.
Another beautiful day that warranted some kayaking. This time, the destination was Meech Lake in Gatineau Park.
Camp Fortune was along the route leading to the lake, making me reflect on this summer and start looking forward to the winter coming up in a few months time.
Located about 5 minutes drive past Camp Fortune's Skyline sector, Meech Lake offers a quiet beach setting, as well as several hiking pathways to enjoy and discover, including the Carbide Willson Ruins (perhaps next weekend's hiking adventure...)
The beach is accessible from the paid parking lot ($11) by a short gravel path. This lake does not offer any rentals so you need to bring your own when visiting. The path to access the water is made up of a few small hills but is easily traversed if you have a set of wheels to roll your kayak.
Once you reach the water, you are treated to one of the most picturesque settings of the region. Flanked all along one side of the lake are houses and cottages bordering the water. Despite this, the water is not crowded and there are fewer people kayaking than there is typically found at Lac Philippe.
To cross from the starting point to the opposite end of the lake is roughly 7km distance each way. Opting for a shorter trip in the water, Ana and I decided to just head out to the half way point instead.
Dreaming of skiing, or losing oneself to nature...
A seemingly popular spot for teenagers to sit and enjoy nature.
The ripples and reflections on the water surface.
A private dock.
Ana enjoying the endless landscapes and seemingly endless waters.
Overall, a beautiful day and another great kayaking adventure. If you have your own kayaks, you definitely owe it to yourself to check out this amazing lake.