Autumn Vibes: Hiking in Gatineau Park

For those who don’t know, I packed up my life at the end of August and moved from the beautiful East Coast of Canada to the lovely city of Ottawa, Ontario. I’m here to get my Masters degree (a blog post about which will hopefully be coming by Christmas), and since I moved I’ve been slowly exploring my new city. Ottawa is known for beautiful fall colours, and there’s no better place to see those colours than in Gatineau Park, just across the river in the Québec city of the same name. Normally the trails are not accessible by public transport, but as part of an event called Fall Rhapsody, the National Capital Commission (NCC) offered free bus shuttles from downtown Ottawa to popular lookouts and trails in the park from the end of September to the end of October. The shuttle system was pretty straightforward. The busses ran every fifteen to twenty minutes or so, so it was perfectly possible to visit quite a few stops in one day.

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This is a map of the stops available on the NCC Fall Rhapsody shuttle. From what I understand, the stops are about the same every year.

Before hopping on the bus, we decided that our first stop would be Pink Lake. My friend had hiked it before, and remembered it as being both beautiful and one of the most popular trails in the park. It’s relatively short – there’s a 0.5 kilometre loop and a 2 kilometre loop – and if you don’t feel like hiking, there’s a really nice lookout point just off of the parking lot. The main loop goes all the way around the lake, and I would call this an easy trail that is moderate in places due to steps and hilly inclines. The main loop traces the edge of the lake, and from above, the water is a beautiful green-blue colour that occurs naturally due to sedimentary erosion. The staff who were on hand as part of Fall Rhapsody were super helpful and eager to provide us with fun facts. Most of the trees in this section of the park were a beautiful golden yellow colour that I could not get enough of. It reminded me of sunsets and comfy sweaters and happiness.

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After doing the Pink Lake trail, my friend wasn’t feeling well so she had a friend come and pick her up and I continued on solo. Someone I had talked to earlier in the day had mentioned ruins at Mackenzie King, so I headed there next.

The Mackenzie King Estate, which lies at the heart of Gatineau Park, belonged to Canada’s tenth and longest serving prime minister. It is a beautiful place to go for a picnic with the family, to visit the museum on site or to explore some beautiful grounds. Many of the trees on the grounds are decades old, and show off beautiful colours in the fall. I was stunned by the orange-coloured tree pictured below, and relaxed under its branches for a few minutes, listening to an audiobook.

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Not only is this estate a beautiful place to enjoy a picnic or have a spot of tea (there is a traditional Victorian tea room on site), but there are some beautiful ruins to enjoy as well. These were especially beautiful with the golden glow of the leaves. I accidentally timed my visit perfectly, because the sun was streaming through the leaves at the ideal angle for beautiful picture. At that moment, the forest seemed like the place of fairies.

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It should be noted that both of these ruins – those pictured above are from an old estate building and those below are from an old abbey in Québec – seem to be traps for people trying to take Instagram-worthy pictures. If you wait for just the right moment, though, the crowd might clear away and it is possible to feel as though you have stepped back in time.

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I decided to go to King Mountain next, which is a moderate-difficulty trail of 4 kilometres that offers a great workout combined with a stunning view. At the summit, the view from the right side showcases field after field of beautiful farmland and pastoral scenery.

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The left-hand view is even more beautiful, in my opinion. There is a huge hill covered, when I went in October, with orange and yellow trees. At the top of the hill, the Ottawa skyline is visible on a clear day. It really puts into perspective the idea that you can travel not far outside of a city and find the most beautiful places.

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While King Mountain offered a beautiful view, I was even more stunned by my final stop of the day, which was the Champlain lookout. Similarly to King Mountain, there were farms and beautiful rolling hills. There was something about the richness of colour in the trees that made the Champlain lookout my favourite stop of the day.

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So, although the peak season for beautiful autumnal leaves has passed, I still highly recommend paying a visit to Gatineau Park if you find yourself in the Ottawa area. It is an absolutely beautiful public park, it’s free (!!!), and it’s a great pastoral break from a city that can seem quite noisy at times to a small-town girl like me.

Until next time!

Love always,

Kaitlyn

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