It has been a long time since my last hike in Gatineau Park. It must be said that with the reality of the last few months, I have preferred to avoid its very popular trails and focus on places a little less known. But as summer draws to a close, I finally “dare” to go hiking on a popular Gatineau Park trail: the Wolf Trail.
The Wolf Trail, also called Sentier des Loups (in French), Blanchet Trail or Trail 62, is a long loop of over 8 kilometres, rated difficult and offering beautiful views of the Ottawa Valley. I had wanted to hike it for a long time, but knowing the trail is very busy, I made sure to go very early on a weekday morning. I parked at the Blanchet Beach parking lot (P-13) and started my hike.
It didn’t take long for me to realize how much I missed Gatineau Park. Its steep trails, its big boulders to climb, its tall trees, the beautiful Meech Lake… I often forget how lucky we are to have this natural paradise very close to Ottawa.
The Wolf Trail starts climbing from the first few metres, following a small stream. An interpretation sign (the only one on the trail) explains why this portion of the trail is called Blanchet. It was the name of a farmer from Vermont who came to this area at the turn of the century. His house used to be where the parking lot is today, and his farm land spanned the hill. Today, it’s hard to believe that the place has ever been used for agriculture.
After 500 metres, I arrived at the loop. In normal times, it is possible to choose the direction in which you want to hike the trail. But due to Covid-19, Gatineau Park is urging people to walk the trail one-way counterclockwise.
So I followed the directions and turned right onto the trail. The climb to the Eardley Escarpment continued. At one point, I had to jump from stone to stone to cross a stream. Then I had to go around big rocks, avoid big roots, climb on sometimes slippery stones. The trail was muddy at times, sometimes covered with puddles.
The Wolf Trail is definitely a good physical exercise, but it’s exactly the kind of trail I love. It reminded me of the Luskville Falls Trail, another rather steep trail in Gatineau Park.
Then the view between the trees started to clear and I got to the top of the escarpment. From the top of this steep cliff (the Mahingan Lookout), it is possible to see the hills of Gatineau Park and the Ottawa River in the distance. It’s a beautiful spot, that I had all to myself.
The trail continues to follow the escarpment for several metres (there are several places to sit down to take in the view) before starting to slowly descend again. It crosses another trail (Trail 1), skirts a beaver pond and continues its descent towards the forest floor. A short part of the trail was rather steep, but going down was much easier than going up.
The trail then climbs up a bit to reach the second lookout on the route, the Tawadina Lookout. There too, the view is rather impressive. In front of me stretched the Ottawa Valley in the Luskville area. I was also completely alone at this lookout.
The rest of the trail seemed fairly easy to me, but also less scenic. At this point, it is covered with gravel and footbridges span the streams. It would appear that these were measures that were necessary in order to keep the trail in good condition (as it was often flooded there) and to curb erosion in the area.
As I got closer to the parking lot, I ran into more and more hikers. Getting up early will have allowed me to savor some peace and quiet on this beautiful trail before it gets stormed by the crowds.
In all, I covered over 8.7 kilometres (with an elevation gain of 299 metres). The Wolf Trail is not as difficult as I expected, but it is definitely a good exercise and a good hiking challenge!