It had been a few months since I had visited Gatineau Park in the Outaouais (my last visit was when I snowshoed around Lac Philippe last March) and I wanted to go back before winter returned. I decided to head to parking lot P16 to explore Meech Creek Valley for the first time.
I like to think that I know Gatineau Park well since I visited it a few times, but I have to admit that I knew very little about Meech Creek Valley. I had seen cute photos of its covered bridge on Instagram, but I had no idea it was a place with so much history. Nor that this walk would be so pleasant and photogenic!
The hike mostly takes place along Cross Loop Road. From the first metres from the parking lot, the path offers pretty views of the farmlands of Meech Creek Valley.
Meech Creek flows north from Meech Lake to the Gatineau River. It passes through a pretty and fertile valley, where there are lands that have been used for agriculture since the beginning of the 19th century. These lands are now part of Gatineau Park.
Interpretive signs along Cross Loop Road give more details about the history of the valley. I learned more about the old farms that were there and the people who lived there. Much of the land in the Meech Creek Valley was expropriated in the 1970s to make way for a zoo project. The zoo ultimately never saw the light of day, and the lands were turned over to the National Capital Commission to be included in Gatineau Park.
I was fascinated to learn more about the history of this pretty valley. It is possible to see the foundations of some of these former residences. At one point, a secondary trail leads to a small family cemetery dating from the 1860s, lost in the middle of the fields.
The highlight of the trail is undoubtedly its famous covered bridge. Built in 1932 in just two weeks, the bridge served as a public works project to create jobs during the Great Depression. It is today the emblem of the municipality of Chelsea.
The Cross Loop Road route is approximately 2.8 kilometres. It leads to parking lot P15 (open only in winter). In winter, it is possible to extend your hike by doing a long loop, on snowshoes or fat bike, via trails 70 and 71, and then returning to parking lot P16 via Trail 50.
This loop passes by the Healey Shelter, an old farmhouse built in the 1860s and in which three generations of the Healey family have lived. The Gatineau Park forest has slowly taken over the former agricultural lands of the farm, but the house still exists and today welcomes hikers who want to take a break.
In summer, trails 70 and 71 are not maintained, so it is better to take Trail 50 if you wish to continue your hike into Gatineau Park. There were oddly a bit more hikers under the tree canopy of Trail 50 than on the quiet Cross Loop Road. But hard for me to complain – I had the chance to do another beautiful hike in Gatineau Park, while learning more about the history of this sector.