I received an annual Sépaq card for my birthday last year. This gives me access to all of Quebec’s national parks for a year, so I’m trying to visit as many as possible. After visiting Oka National Park, Mont-Tremblant and Mont-Mégantic last fall, I got to visit Parc National de Plaisance in the Outaouais region.
Parc National de Plaisance is the closest Québec’s national park to my home (as I live in Eastern Ontario, I only have to cross the Ottawa River by taking a ferry to get there) but I had never visited it before. I confess that I thought the park offered few hiking options, but I realized how I was wrong when I finally visited it. There were actually so many hiking options that I couldn’t hike all the trails on this first visit!
Parc National de Plaisance is the only national park in the Outaouais region. Located in the municipality of Plaisance (hence its name) along the magnificent Ottawa River, the park protects many wetlands, where several species of birds, amphibians and turtles abound. It is also an important migratory stopover, in particular for Canada geese.
The park is divided into two sectors: the Thurso sector and the Presqu’île sector. Most of the hiking trails are located in the Presqu’île sector. The park also offers many options for cycling, paddling and camping enthusiasts. But I only focused on hiking its trails.
Here is an overview:
La Zizanie-des-Marais Trail
1-kilometre loop. This is the flagship trail of Parc National de Plaisance. And when you hike it, it’s easy to see why. La Zizanie-des-Marais has a 400-metre floating pathway that winds over the marsh. It allows you to observe the fauna and flora up close. I saw several water lilies, orchids, swallows, beaver dams and even a muskrat there.
Le Marais-aux-Rubaniers Trail
2.5-kilometre round trip. I had heard a lot about the Zizanie-des-Marais trail, but I had never heard of the Marais-aux-Rubaniers trail, and it ended up being my favourite trail of the park!
From La Zizanie-des-Marais, the Marais-aux-Rubaniers trail goes into a lush forest on a boardwalk on stilts (the forest floor is often flooded in spring). Then the path leaves the forest and allows you to discover another marsh in the area, the Marais aux Rubaniers (Rubaniers Marsh). Under the blue sky, this portion was simply magnificent!
La Sarcelle Trail
3.5-kilometre loop. Another trail to explore another marsh in the area, this time the Sarcelle Marsh. I followed this trail after hiking the others. The trail winds under the trees, following the shore of the marsh, and goes to the Petite Nation River. With a canoe or a kayak, you could go from there to the famous Plaisance waterfalls, further north, but for me, that will be a project for another time. Instead, I continued my hike, following a part of La Serpentine bike path to complete the loop.
Note that it is possible to make a large loop of 6 kilometres by linking La Zizanie-des-Marais, Le Marais-aux-Rubaniers and La Sarcelle trails. The national park calls this route “The Migration”.
Les Étangs Trail
8-kilometre round trip. Les Étangs Trail is a bike path, but since I still had some energy left, I decided to add it to my hike for the day. And I’m glad I did. Covered in rock dust, the trail lends itself well to a long, leisurely hike. It goes to the Grande Presqu’île marsh, where there is an observation point, allowing you to observe ducks and other aquatic birds.
I didn’t see any ducks oddly, but there were lots of Bobolinks along the trail (first time I’ve seen them!) and I even spotted the towering silhouette of a bald eagle.
Le Pont-Suspendu Trail
1-kilometre, round trip. I intended to end my visit to the park with this short trail, accessible from the park visitor center. This trail leads, it seems, to a suspension bridge and a viewpoint over the Petite-Nation canal. Unfortunately for me, the severe windstorm that hit the area last week caused extensive damage, and the trail was closed, for safety reasons.
Another reason to come back to Plaisance National Park one day!
For more details on the location of the trails, you can check the national park map online.