If you live in Ottawa, there’s a good chance you’ve been to Mont Cascades before. This small mountain located about 20 minutes from downtown Ottawa welcomes downhill skiing enthusiasts in winter, and in summer it turns into a water park. But did you know that it is also possible to hike there?
I went to Mont Cascades a few times when I was a kid to enjoy the water park, but only recently learned that there are a few trails there for hiking as well. As the fall colours are starting to peak, I thought that maybe this was the perfect time to go explore a new mountain!
Since the water park season is over and the downhill skiing season hasn’t started yet, the parking lot was completely empty when I got there. The waterslides seemed very quiet under the gloomy September weather.
The entrance to the trails is located at the far end of the parking lot. Mont Cascades has 8 trails, varying in length and difficulty. I knew I absolutely wanted to get to the two lookouts on the mountain, so I decided to start my hike by following Trail 4 which seemed to lead to theses lookouts.
The trails are well marked and well maintained, although at times I was a little confused as to which direction to go. Several trails take the same route, so you have to refer to the map often to make sure you are going in the right direction (trail maps are posted at each intersection, which helps a lot!).
On Trail 4, the climb to the top is gradual and winding. Under the dark sky, the forest looked a bit gloomy. Especially with the carpet of dead leaves that begins to cover the ground. Fall is truly here.
After a little less than two kilometres, I arrived at the first lookout. And what a view! At the foot of the mountain lies the magnificent Gatineau River. On the other side, the hills of Gatineau Park, adorned with their fall colours. It is even possible to see the buildings of the city of Ottawa in the distance.
Afterwards, the trail climbs a bit more before reaching an intersection (this is where Trails 4, 5, 6 and 8 meet). I was a little confused as to which way to go, then after looking at the map I decided to take the first trail to my right and after a few metres I finally got to the second lookout. The view was just as beautiful but in addition there are benches where you can sit. The perfect place to take a break!
To come back down, I decided to follow Trail 5. This one is rated “very difficult” and is one kilometre long. Trail 5 grazes the highest point of the mountain (290 metres above sea level), before descending rather steeply towards the water park. I didn’t find it particularly difficult, but I imagine the ascent must be a bit tougher than the descent.
I finally returned to the parking lot after doing a short 3.5 kilometre hike. It would have been possible for me to combine more trails to lengthen my hike, but I had done what I came to do: reach the two lookouts and enjoy the first fall colours.
As the trails are open year round (they are even accessible in winter on snowshoes) and are free, I have the feeling that this will not be my last visit to Mont Cascades!