Fitness & Health

An Alberta girl experiences the great outdoors in Quebec

Photo by Brett Hodnett

Already, it’s been four years since I moved to Ottawa from Edmonton. I grew up with mountains and national parks around me, constantly biking and camping in Jasper or Waterton during the summers. The national parks that Canada has to offer are absolutely breathtaking.

So why did it take me so long to explore Gatineau Park?

With OC Transpo and my bicycle as my only means of transportation, I always thought Gatineau Park was way too far. I was also certain nothing could live up to my expectations of the beautiful mountains of Alberta. But this spring, I decided I had to make the trip out to Gatineau Park and cross it off the bucket list.

Google Maps estimated three and a half hours each way by bike to a good swimming spot. I didn’t have enough time to go for an overnight stay, so biking wasn’t the best option. Instead, I decided to make a bargain with a friend so she’d let me use her car, so it only took 25 minutes to get there.

Gatineau Park is the little sister of Alberta’s Wateron Lakes National Park, without the mountains. It has similar beautiful views and peaks, clean spring water to swim in, and not an ounce of tourist chaos.

It was the perfect day for outdoor activities. I started off with a 45-minute hike up King Mountain Trail, a good hike for beginners but with all the end benefits of a longer one. I would suggest this hike to anyone who goes there just for the day, or who’s not the biggest fan of hikes in general. It included a wide-open view of the entire park with a glance at the Ottawa skyline.

Right after, I cooled down with a dip at O’Brien Beach on Meech Lake. I was shocked by how warm it was during the springtime. The beach is small but charming; with its surrounding trees and wildlife, the view reminded me of Maligne Lake in Jasper. I am still taken aback by how close this tranquil national park is to downtown Ottawa.

For anyone who loves a good hike or swim in the great outdoors, don’t wait four years to go out to Gatineau Park. Look up a spot to canoe, hike, or swim and enjoy what’s just across the border