Last November, I went hiking for the first time in the Calabogie area, west of Ottawa. I hiked that time to the very popular Eagle’s Nest lookout and promised myself that I would come back in the spring, this time to get to the top of Manitou Mountain.
So what could be better than taking advantage of the first official day of spring to go back to Calabogie to do some hiking! Well, there is still snow on the ground and winter may not be quite done yet, but the weather definitely had a little something springy about it!
The Manitou Mountain Trail is one of many trails managed by Calabogie Peaks Resort, a ski resort located in the Ottawa Valley, about an hour from Ottawa. Manitou Mountain is not the highest mountain of the resort (the honor goes rather to Dickson Mountain, on whose sides you can find the ski slopes), but the Manitou Mountain Trail offers some beautiful vistas of the Madawaska region and is a good physical challenge, without being too complicated.
I started my hike at the parking lot on Barrett Chute Road. The trail started to gain elevation from the first few metres, but the climb was still a gentle one. In fact, it would have been a pretty enjoyable hike, if the trail hadn’t been completely covered in ice. Let’s just say I was happy to have my microspikes and my hiking poles!
The trail winds gently on the sides of the small mountain. The climb is gradual and easy, and in places even gives the impression of a quiet path in the forest. The trail crosses a small stream a few times, with water swollen by melting snow. A clear sign that winter is drawing to a close!
After more than 3 kilometres, the Manitou Mountain Trail comes to a fork. At this point, it is possible to take a detour called the “Long Way”, marked with red markers (which is what I did). The detour follows the crest of the Red Arrow Rock promontory and leads to a lookout offering a first beautiful view of the Madawaska region.
After the lookout, the “Long Way” trail descends rather steeply from the promontory, before ascending again rather steeply towards the small mountain. In fact, this was probably the part of the trail that I found the most physically challenging. Fortunately, snow and ice were rarer there (probably because it is the most sun-exposed side of the mountain) and I ended up enjoying this good climb.
The detour eventually brought me back to the main trail and it didn’t take me long to reach the Manitou Mountain lookout afterwards. The path follows the cliff for a few metres, also offering beautiful views of the region. It might not be as picturesque as the view from Eagle’s Nest, but it was still the perfect place to take a break!
After the lookout, the Manitou Mountain Trail descends back towards the forest and eventually joins the forest path that leads to the famous Eagle’s Nest and the parking lot on Calabogie Road. But since I hiked to Eagle’s Nest not that long ago, I decided to retrace my steps rather than continue on the trail. Anyway, I had achieved my goal for the day, that of getting to the top of Manitou Mountain!
The descent was not easy due to the ice. And as the temperature had warmed up in the meantime, the mud mixed with the snow in some places, making the trail even more slippery. But nothing to diminish my enthusiasm. This was my first real hike with a bit of elevation this year and after not being able to get out much this winter, I was really happy to be able to get back to hiking on this first beautiful spring day!
The round trip from the parking lot to the Manitou Mountain Lookout totaled 9 kilometres. The trail is well marked (you have to follow the blue marks on the trees), and it is possible to pair it with other trails in the area for longer hikes. Access is free, but the place is quite popular so consider having an alternate plan if the parking lot is full!
Elevation gain: 313m
Trail (return) : 9km
Access : Parking on Barrett Chute Road