I’ve written it often here; I have a love-hate relationship with Gatineau Park. I find this park beautiful, and I love its trails, but I usually avoid it because I find it too busy. I figured it might be quieter in the winter and decided to go snowshoeing on the Brown Lake Trail in the Wakefield area.
I have never really been to Gatineau Park in the winter, except for that one time I went out without microspikes and without my snowshoes on the Luskville Falls Trail. I’m a more seasoned hiker now, and I’ve learned to equip myself well and to avoid hiking on trails that are closed in winter. So equipped with my snowshoes and my trekking poles, I arrived at parking lot P17 in Wakefield.
P17 is the starting point for Trail 72, a trail that can be followed on snowshoes or fatbikes. Officially called Trail 72, the trail is also nicknamed “Brown Lake Trail” as it passes near this lake and leads to the shelter of the same name.
I have hiked several trails in Gatineau Park, but this was the first time I was exploring this area of the park. After crossing an open field, the trail goes into the forest and becomes steeper and rockier, as the trails in Gatineau Park usually are.
With the freezing rain of the past few days, I expected to find the trail in poor condition, but it was a bit snowier than I expected. The weather was a little gloomy, but the forest was quiet and peaceful. I didn’t meet anyone else for the first few kilometres of the trail. Perfection!
After about 2 kilometres, the trail comes to a fork, where a detour leads to the Brown Lake shelter. It was very peaceful when I went by it, and the lovely view it offers of Brown Lake and the Wakefield Hills was arguably my favourite part of this snowshoe hike.
I would have liked to have enjoyed the warmth of the shelter, but I had come to hike Trail 72, so I resumed my hike. I came back to the fork and this time continued on the trail. This section, almost in a straight line, descends gently into the forest, before arriving at what forms the beginning of the loop on the trail.
I decided to follow the loop counterclockwise, because I believed that the first portion that goes along Brown Lake would give me some views of the lake (spoiler alert: there are no viewpoints). But the first few metres under the snow-covered fir trees were still very pretty and made me want to hum some Christmas songs.
Trail 72 has a few climbs and descents along the escarpment, but the most sustained climb was in this section of the trail. This is my first snowshoe outing of the season and this climb put my legs to the test.
There were more climbs and descents, as the trail weaves its way through the forest, causing me to lose my sense of direction. At this point, the trail intersects with Trail 72B a few times, which offers the opportunity to extend the hike up the escarpment, but as I was starting to get a bit exhausted, I decided to stay on Trail 72 and eventually came back. at the start of the loop.
From there, I just had to retrace my steps back to trail P17. I passed a few more hikers on the way back, proof that I was not completely alone in the vast forest of Gatineau Park.
When I got back to the parking lot, I realized I had hiked almost 11 kilometres. I thought I had read that Trail 72 was no more than 7 kilometers, so I was a little surprised. My hike was longer than expected and my legs are suffering a bit today, but it made me realize that Gatineau Park is not to be overlooked in winter!