Gatineau Park – Exploring the Skyline Trail

Hiking on Wolf Trail last week made me realize how much I missed Gatineau Park. As there are kilometres of trails there, I decided to go back this week to explore another trail I had heard about: the Skyline Trail.

I think the Gatineau Park Skyline Trail is a little less well known than the Wolf Trail, although like the latter, it offers a certain physical challenge as well as some great vantage points. The Skyline Trail has long been a part of the history of Gatineau Park. It was built shortly after the park’s inauguration in 1938, a project then aimed at creating jobs after the Great Depression.

Skyline Trail in Gatineau Park
Exploring Skyline Trail for the first time

To access the Skyline Trail, you must park at parking lot P7 in Gatineau Park, then take Trail 30. The latter is a multi-use trail that is also part of the Trans-Canada Trail as well as Québec’s Sentier National. Trail 30 climbs a bit from the first few metres, but it is wide and covered with gravel and is therefore fairly easy to hike.

Trail 30 crosses other trails and at one point turns steeply to the right. I admit I was a little confused about which direction to take at a few times (the direction to the Skyline Trail is not really clear and nowhere indicated – it’s better to look at a map before getting there), but I followed my intuition and continued to follow Trail 30, until I arrived at the first lookout.

Wattsford Lookout
This view… simply stunning!

Wattsford Lookout is named after Captain Gerald Wattsford, a Boer War veteran who owned a farm right under the lookout. His house, which became the property of the National Capital Commission in 1948, no longer exists today.

The view from the lookout was beautiful (I could see the Ottawa buildings in the distant fog), but I had technically not yet officially started my hike on the Skyline Trail. In fact, behind me was the first (and only) sign indicating the direction to the Skyline Trail, which I was able to reach easily shortly afterwards.

Signs in Gatineau Park
On the right way to the Skyline Trail

The Skyline Trail forms a loop and, as was the case with the Wolf Trail, Gatineau Park invites hikers to follow it one-way to maintain physical distancing.

So I started on the trail, hiking it in a counterclockwise direction. I got to Gatineau Park pretty early on a weekday morning, so I was completely alone on the trail (which is pretty rare for Gatineau Park). At one place there was a bit of fog on the escarpment, which made the forest look a bit spooky and mysterious …

Fog on the Skyline Trail
Beautiful and eerie at the same time

The Skyline Trail is rated difficult, but compared to the Wolf Trail, I thought the elevation gain was rather limited and I did not find the exercise very physically difficult. Rather, the difficulty of the trail lies in the fact that it has several spots covered with water and mud, in addition to many slippery rocks and roots. So you have to constantly watch your steps (and be equipped with good hiking boots!).

On the Skyline Trail
Rocky Trail – classic Gatineau Park

The loop passes through another lookout (which doesn’t seem to have an official name), this time looking east. Apparently, it’s one of the best places in Gatineau Park to watch the sunrise. I’m not sure I would have the courage to face all the puddles on the trail in the dark, so instead I just took in the scenery in the low morning sun.

Gatineau Park lookout
Looking at the beautiful Outaouais region in the morning sun

The Skyline Trail eventually brought me back to Trail 30, which I took back in the opposite direction to get back to the parking lot. My hike totaled 5.7 kilometres and lasted less than two hours. And I don’t know if you’re like me, but every time I visit Gatineau Park it just makes me want to come back again and again!

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