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A sunny late summer Saturday always signals the perfect time to go exploring and hiking. Having been interested for some time to see what all the fuss over the Lusk Caves was about, Ana and I ventured out to the Philippe Lake area to hike the trail and check out this unique attraction in Gatineau Park.
The Lusk Caves were created some 12,500 years ago from melting glacial waters. This melting water was forced into cracks of the Marble rock, eroding them more quickly than the other type of rock present, which led to the creation of the unique tunnels that are explorable today. To this day, water continues to stream through the cave, continuing this erosion and gradually shaping the cave. Exploring the cave is an experience all on its own, clearly a fact recognized by the amount of people visiting.
The Lusk Stream flows through the cave and as a result, exploration consists of passages of water, some dry and shallow, others with water levels as high as a metre or more. There are brief sections that are visible from above, along the Lusk Cave trail, but the majority is in the dark, so flashlights are a must.
Starting from the Parent Beach area, we chose the Trail 50, which passes along the beaches and shores of the Philippe Lake area. You can experience various micro climates, some areas cool and refreshing, while others hot and humid. This trail is relatively easy to cross, as it is mostly flat with some slight hills and rolls. For the final third of the trail to the cave, the terrain becomes more hilly but still easy to navigate.
A famous deer from Disney's Bambi movie made a brief appearance along the trail.
After walking for about an hour, over a distance of approximately 4km, you arrive at the exit of the Lusk Cave. The exit is notable as it is almost entirely submerged under water. People exiting have just enough room to pass with their heads out of the water.
Continuing past this point, and ascending the stairs, we head towards the main entrance to the cave, located 150 metres away and higher up in the mountain. The trail now takes us past several points where the rock opens up, allowing a view from above into the cave and those passing through it.
With the sound of running water becoming ever louder, we finally arrive at the entrance to the Lusk Cave. Here, plenty of people have set up camp and are preparing to venture through.
Here is a map, prepared by the NCC, showing the layout of the Lusk Cave, and illustrating the water levels found within.
Whether the goal is to explore the Lusk Cave, or to simply enjoy the hike along the trail, this area is definitely worth a visit. The hike from the Parent Beach parking to the cave and back is 8.6km and takes about 3 hours to complete. From beautiful scenery, to amazing geological features, you will return home relaxed by nature, and exercised by adventure.
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.
The King Mountain trail, located on the Eardley Escarpment of the Canadian Shield offers a hike unlike any other. With incredible views and interpretive panels that explain the unique ecosystem and historical sites along the trail, it definitely ranks as something you need to experience yourself. It is located near the intersection of the Gatineau and Champlain parkways.
The trail is approximately 2km long, in the form of a loop, with a vertical of about 70 metres. The trail contains several areas of rocky formations to traverse, but nothing is overly challenging, and takes an hour or so to complete.
Along the way you will discover a unique microclimate on the mountain, passing from a relatively dry area to one that is noticably more humid. Passing serveral different types of forests, as well as many types of trees, the interpretive panels allow you to learn about the natural wonder and treasure that is Gatineau Park.
You will also visit the a National Historic Site, when you come across the First Geodetic Survey Station National Historic Site. Found at an elevation of 344 metres, it was the first triangulation point, established in Canada for land surveys.
The King Mountain trail is an adventure you need to experience. From amazing vistas and views, to the unique path through the mountain it takes, it certainly leaves you wanting to come back to experience more!
The Waterfall trail is located along the Gatineau Parkway. While not the longest hike in Gatineau Park, it certainly has its own charm. Featuring the Bridal Veil falls (named by former Prime Minister Mackenzie King) which culminate this experience, it is another must see destination in Gatineau Park.
The trail is about 1.5km in length (to the falls and returning), mainly flat, with only the approach and descent to the falls offering any additional challenge. The trail leaves the parking and passes under the Gatineau Parkway through a tunnel. From there, you pass through some wetlands and over a few wood bridges.
I recommend you visit the falls either in the spring, as the snow is melting or after a heavy rainfall, as the waterflow will be much higher.
Once you have visited the falls, the nearby Lauriault trail offers a longer trip back to the parking, and adds another 2.5km to your hike. This trail is in the form of a loop, taking you past the Mulvihill lake, the perfect place for a picnic lunch close to the water.
Learn more about the Waterfall and Lauriault trails here.
Another day in Gatineau Park, another trail to discover. Today it was time to venture down the Lauriault Trail. This trail is accessed off of the Waterfall Trail, previously visited last week.
The Lauriault Trail is about 3.5km in length, over relatively intermediate terrain. Nothing overly steep, or challenging. Weaving through the trees, while crossing several water streams, the halfway point of the trail arrives at a lookout point, giving a grand view of the surrounding region from above.
Continuing on the trail, you come across the Mulvihill Lake, the perfect place for a picnic lunch or gazing into the water. This area is calm and peaceful, with a platform extending out over the water.
The return trip on the opposite side of the loop is just as eventful, with more sloping terrain and passages to cross. You also see the stream that feeds the waterfall, which surely must rage during the springtime with all the melting snow.
The entire adventure took about 1.5 hours to complete, and definitely furthers one's appreciation of Gatineau Park, and how fortunate we are to have such a national treasure closeby.
The Waterfall being part of the circuit, should also be visited when you get to that section. Don't forget to pack a lunch for when you stop by Mulvihill lake!