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Gatineau Park bikepacking

Family outing: a first cycling adventure

Photos and Text by Loïc Olivier 

I'm a big fan of S24Os (sub-24-hour overnighters). They're simple to plan and orchestrate. It's a way to reset. You gather some food, something to drink, a tent or a hammock, a sleeping bag, a few bike tools, and you're all set.

Gatineau Park is a 360km² conservation park located right in the heart of the city. In the federal national capital region, the park is THE preferred playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Since the park is located just a kilometer away from my home, it's the ideal spot for an S24O. With my camping spot reserved and my gear loaded, I mount the Chic-Chocs and head out.

Five minutes later, I'm in the park.


Gatineau Park has it all: great hills to climb up and coast down. There are calm trails and others that are more technical. The landscapes are breathtaking, especially from atop the Eardley Escarpment. There are also historical remnants, like the ruins of the Carbide Wilson factory by Meech Creek, and those that Prime Minister Mackenzie King imported from Europe to recreate, on his Kingsmere property, an imaginary world... There's also the famous Meech Lake, well known to history and politics buffs. Not to forget Mousseau/Harrington Lake, the lake with two names where the Prime Minister's summer residence is located. Without an invitation, access is impossible. Moreover, the place is so well guarded, the RCMP will be pleased to remind you to keep your distance if you try to get too close!

You can't just sleep anywhere in the park. For summer bikepacking, you head to either Philippe Lake or Taylor Lake, both situated between the municipalities of Chelsea and Wakefield. Personally, I have a soft spot for Taylor Lake. The site is less developed, prettier. Quieter. At night, you're lulled to sleep by the call of loons and the croaking of frogs.

There are numerous ways to get to Taylor Lake. From my house, riding on trails from parking lot P3, I'm there in 4 hours. From Chelsea, starting at the visitor center, it's less than 2 hours. From Wakefield (starting at P17), you get there in an hour.

This time, I invite B, my 7-year-old daughter, to come with me. As it's her first experience with bikepacking and her first time biking on a trail, we decide to take the shortest route. By parking the car at P19, the parking lot closest to Taylor Lake, we arrive at our destination an hour or two later.

Unfortunately, the weather has other plans. Upon arriving in the park, the sky is heavy, dark gray... A few moments later, the sky falls on us.

There's no way I'm forcing B. to ride in such conditions. I resign myself to the fact that our first bikepacking outing is... washed out. We strip the bikes and pack everything back in the car. We drive to the site without saying a word...

After setting up the tent, putting up the tarps, and eating marshmallows, B. asks if we can go biking the next morning. It seems like an excellent idea to me.

The next day, after loading the luggage in the car, I ask B. to show me what she wants to do. A lap around the lake? No. It's to the trails she wants to go.

No problem, B.. Let's go!

So there's B., on the trails for the first time. The first climbs are tough. The first descents scare her. With a bit of patience and some encouragement, B. gains confidence. She pedals and descends in the attack position, feet parallel, firmly anchored on the pedals, heels down, arms bent. She looks straight ahead. She's determined. When she puts her foot down, I go back to her, dismount, and walk by her side.

No pressure, no stress.

When something bothers her, we stop pedaling, gently push our bikes, and chat.

We complete the entire loop like this. 9 kilometers in 2 hours. Halfway through, as she's being devoured by deer flies, I promise her that upon arrival, she can choose any ice cream cone she wants at the Lac Philippe convenience store.

Ice cream always works with B.

Hull to Lac Taylor Chelsea to Lac Taylor Wakefield to Lac Taylor P19 to Lac Taylor


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