For the first time this season, I was able to put on my snowshoes to go enjoy the snow! I headed for Bowman in the Outaouais to explore a trail that is often described as one of the most beautiful trails for snowshoeing in the region: the trail at Parc Régional de la Forêt Bowman.
The Bowman Forest Regional Park is located about 60 kilometres north of Gatineau, in the MRC of Papineau. This regional park is quite new and is still being developed. Eventually, the MRC hopes to add several kilometres of hiking trails, rock climbing walls, mountain bike trails, a pavilion and access to its lakes.
But in the meantime, you can find there a trail of just under 5 kilometres and a small parking lot, which I drove to. It is located at the very end of a gravel road, near Lac du Brochet, one of the six lakes in the park. What a pleasure it was to be able to enjoy, for the first time this year, the majesty and tranquility of winter landscapes!
The Bowman Forest Regional Park covers an area of approximately 700 hectares and aims to showcase the old growth Laurentian forest, the lakes and the small mountains found there. For now, the only trail that exists is a loop that goes to the top of one of these mountains.
It took me a little while to find where to access the trail (I had to walk back and forth on the road from the parking lot before I noticed the arrows indicating the direction towards the trail head). But once I finally found the trail head, I was able to put on my snowshoes and take my first steps into Bowman Forest.
The trail head may have been a little tricky to find, but after a few metres in the forest I realized that luckily the trail looked well marked and shouldn’t be too hard to follow. Fresh snow seemed to cover the trail in places, but it was still fairly visible.
I knew the snowshoe trail led to a few lookout points, so I wasn’t surprised that it gained a bit of elevation at first, but nothing too challenging. The trail followed rocky cliffs in a few places, in which it was possible to see small caves (perhaps that’s why the mountain I was heading towards is called “Montagne de la Grotte”).
The trail took me near the Petit Lac à la Truite (which I could see between the trees) and then continued to progress through the pretty mixed forest. The fresh snow on the tall fir trees made the landscape along the trail look like it was out of a fairy tale.
After passing a pond, the trail rejoined what seemed to be a snowmobile trail, and I walked along it for a few metres. It is from that point that the climb started to be a little more sustained. It wasn’t too difficult when I was walking along the large and groomed snowmobile trail, but when the hiking trail went back into the forest and became a single track again, the climb started to be a little steeper.
At this section, there were even ropes tied between the trees to help with the climb. I think these ropes are probably helpful when this section is icy or slippery, but with the thick snow cover, my snowshoes and my hiking poles, I had no trouble continuing on my way up.
And once I got to the top of Montagne de la Grotte, the trees thinned out and I could see the beautiful landscape of Bowman Forest stretching out before me.
There are a few lookouts at the top of the small mountain (which has an elevation of 350 meters) and I quickly understood why this snowshoe trail is considered one of the most beautiful in the region! The winter scenery was really impressive.
It’s after that point that the hike got a little more challenging. There was a lot of snow at the top of the mountain, and it completely covered the track of the trail. I was obviously the first person to hike there since the last snowfall, and if the trail had not been so well marked, I would have lost my way in the forest.
Luckily for me, the yellow markers were clearly visible, and consistent, on the trees, and thanks to them, I was able to slowly make my way through the deep snow and I started coming down from the mountain.
The descent was a little more difficult than the ascent because the trail was not groomed and my snowshoes were sinking deep into the snow, slowing my pace a lot. But little by little I came down from the mountain. I eventually reached a logging road, and following it took me back to the parking lot, my starting point.
I only hiked 4.3 kilometres in total, with an elevation gain of 186 metres, but with all the snow it ended up being a more challenging exercise than I expected. But I am still completely delighted from this first snowshoe outing of the year, and from this first visit to Bowman Forest. I look forward to seeing the regional park develop over the next few years!
And if you drive by this area of the Outaouais, the beautiful Parc des Chutes de Denholm, located a few kilometres southwest of the regional park, also offers plenty of interesting hiking trails!