Snowshoeing season is coming to an end soon, and before all the snow disappears, I decided to go enjoy the winter trails of Gatineau Park for one last time this season. I opted to follow Trail 73, a long trail that goes around Philippe Lake, in the northern sector of the park.
Gatineau Park has over 50 lakes and Philippe Lake is one of its largest. Its waters flow into Harrington Lake, which in turn flows into Meech Lake. This chain of three lakes is home to an important ecosystem for several species of fish and waterfowl. It is also home to a species of snail found nowhere else in Canada: the Gatineau tadpole snail.
It’s still a little too cold to start looking for snails, but Philippe Lake also offers some trail options for winter sports enthusiasts. Trail 73 is a long snowshoe trail that loops around the lake for nearly 11 kilometres. As I really enjoyed my snowshoe hike on Trail 72 a few weeks ago, I was rather looking forward to discovering another trail in another sector of the park.
The hike on the Philippe Lake loop begins at parking lot P20, near Breton Beach. The beach is, of course, closed for the season, but it allows you to appreciate the majestic beauty of Philippe Lake and the hills that surround it.
I decided to follow the trail clockwise, so heading towards its northern end first. The hike didn’t feel too strenuous to me for the first kilometre, and it had some nice views of the snow-covered lake.
It was after the two-kilometre mark, on the eastern shore of the lake, that the hike got a bit more difficult. The trail heads away from the lake and winds around the hills that surround it. Some climbs are sustained, and I had to stop a few times to catch my breath.
Near the 4.5-kilometre mark, the trail comes to a first outdoor rest area, a place where you can sit and build a campfire while you take a break. There were also the ruins of an old homestead near the area, proof that Gatineau Park also has a lot of history.
After several climbs and descents, the trail eventually brought me back close to the shore of the lake as I approached its southern end. Here, the lake is narrower, and I could see and hear the cross-country skiers on the opposite side of the lake very well.
The snowshoe trail intersects with the cross-country ski trail at the south end of the lake, and this was where I encountered other people on the trail for the first time (and almost the only time) of my hike. I usually find the trails in Gatineau Park a little too busy for my liking, but that was definitely not the case with Trail 73.
After taking a moment to admire the magnificent view at the south end of the lake (and taking stock of the distance I had snowshoed so far), I continued on my way. The trail once again moves away from the lake to go deeper into the forest. It passes near the entrance to Lusk Cave (a trail I want to explore this summer!) and continues to wind between the hills of the park. The climbs and descents were a little less steep than on the eastern shore of the lake, but I was starting to get tired legs at this point so each climb was becoming more and more difficult.
Luckily the trail eventually brought me back close to the shore of the lake and I felt I was getting closer to the end of the loop. I imagine that this section, which passes very close to the lake, must be beautiful in the summer. Under the snow, the lake definitely seemed very quiet, but the landscape was still majestic.
The trail crosses a beach and another outdoor rest area, before passing through the Philippe Lake campgrounds. I started meeting a few more hikers there. But who cares if the path was suddenly less quiet, I only had a few hundred metres left before reaching the end of the loop.
I arrived at my car with sore legs and feet (I’m not used to doing such long snowshoe hikes), but very satisfied to have been able to discover another magnificent sector of Gatineau Park. I’m starting to look forward to spring, and the reopening of summer trails!