Hiking Quebec: The Wolf Trail in Gatineau Park

On a (relatively) recent trip through Ontario, I couldn't get enough of Gatineau Park in nearby Quebec. We have an incredible outdoor resource in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia where I live, but the fact that people living in Canada's capital city can access kilometer after kilometer of groomed cross country ski trails, snowshoe trails, and stunning wild scenery in 20-30 minutes blew my mind.

The view from Mahingan lookout over Gatinau Park and the Ottawa Valley. Can you see why this trail is popular?

Instead of driving an hour and a half from Philadelphia to access longer trails in the Pocono Mountains, my husband and I left our downtown Ottawa AirBnb with a friend one morning and found ourselves parked to hike one of Gatineau Park's best known gems - the Wolf Trail - in 35 minutes. Based on what we'd seen on our snowshoe to Lac Philippe in a different part of Gatineau Park earlier that week, I couldn't wait to explore more.

Getting to the Wolf Trail and Blanchet Beach

The National Capital Commission has super easy to use interactive map of Gatineau Park that we used to plan our Lac Philippe snowshoe, and it's a great resource for Wolf Trail (#62) planning as well. 

We drove with a friend and long time Ottawa resident from downtown straight to the parking lot at Blanchet Beach and the start of the trail. Our relatively late arrival time (11:30am) meant we found ourselves in an almost full parking lot, getting lucky that our friend's Subaru Impreza could fit in a tiny spot. The 50 parking spaces fill up incredibly quickly, especially on nice days; arrive earlier than we did if you plan to do the Wolf Trail.

Hiking the Wolf Trail (5.2 Miles, 800' Elevation Gain)

Relatively warm (20ºF) weather the past week meant the snow on the well-traveled trail was packed down, so we left snowshoes in the car. As we started hiking, I saw the clear, obvious trail signage we'd gotten used to at Lac Philippe - rectangular blue and white signs with a snowshoer and the trail number on them. We wouldn't really need them along this hike; the popular trail is easy to keep track of.

Taken midway through our hike. The signage in Gatineau Park makes getting lost nearly impossible!

The Wolf Trail is a large lollipop loop, beginning with a short, easy stretch to a junction allowing hikers to choose to hike clockwise or counterclockwise. Our friend recommended we do it counterclockwise, and about 500m (0.3mi) into the hike, we turned right at a sign indicating we had 2km (1.25mi) to go to the Mahingan lookout.

The 2km to the Mahingan lookout took us gradually uphill, covering approximately 185m (600') elevation gain. It was a beautiful day to be out; the sun came and went periodically, it was warm enough that my husband ended up taking off his insulating layers, and new snow from the day before sparkled as we walked through the woods. 

Approaching the Mahingan lookout through beautiful snowy woods.

The Mahingan lookout itself is a beautiful spot, an incredible reward for minimal effort. The lookout gives hikers a view of Gatineau Park and the Ottawa Valley along with portions of the ridge leading to the next landmark.

After a quick snack and photo break, we continued on along trail #62, crossing trail #1, descending briefly, and then climbing back up right before a small side trail took us up to the Tawadina lookout in another 2km (1.3mi) or so. The view from the Tawadina lookout was quite different from the Mahingain lookout - less woods, more farms and private land - but still beautiful in the snow. 

The view from the Tawadina lookout during our snack break.
At that point, we were just over halfway along the hike, and enjoyed the route back along new, but also beautiful, terrain. We crossed trail #1 again, crossed a small bridge between two ponds, and shortly after, found ourselves at the end of the loop and back on the small section of trail #62 we'd started on. It was a short 500m trek back to the car. Take a look at our route here.

And of course, one of the best parts about hiking is post-hike food! Our friend took us into the Old Chelsea area along the southeastern part of Gatineau Park, and we stuffed ourselves at Chelsea Pub before heading back to Ottawa. 

Overall, I'm so glad we got the chance to go out in Gatineau Park twice while we were staying in Ottawa, it's a pretty special place? Have you been? Have you done this hike? If you have, what season did you do it in? Would love to hear from you in the comments!

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