Length: 3 km (round trip)
Time: 120 minutes
Gatineau Park is located in the Gatineau, Quebec just north of the Nation's Capital. For both locals and tourists this is a vey busy spot. In the winter it is full of cross country skiers and snowshoers. In the summer it is loaded with mountain bikers and of course hikers. With over 160 kilometers of trails you'll never run out of something to do. My first trail review of the park will be a short hike to the Wilson "Carbide" Mill. The trail starts at the O'Brien parking lot located off Meech Lake Road. In the off season it is typically free to park but on a nice summer day expect to pay. Before taking off make sure you take advantage of the washrooms as this is it until you make it to your destination and back. The trail is actually part of the Trans-Canada Trail system which will eventually reach from coast-to-coast-to-coast. It is a well maintained trail with only a few moderate hills to slow you down. In total, give yourself about 2.5 hours to complete this 3km round trip hike, this includes the time you'll spend taking pictures at your destination.
As you leave the parking lot you'll be treated to your first hill, it is short but a little steep so take your time and enjoy a breather at the first information panel located about 100 metres past the top. Once you continue down the trail you'll see a sign for a steep hill, don't worry this one goes down... But don't forget, you'll eventually have to come back At the bottom of this hill you'll cross a bridge where you'll be treated to a nice view across Meech Lake. Make sure you read the panels as they are full of info about the regions interesting past. Once you are done, continue down the trail.
After a few minutes of walking a short uphill you'll come to an unmarked trail on your right which leads to the Wilson "Carbide" Mill. You'll know you're at the correct spot when see a signpost at the fork telling you that you're 1km from the parking lot. Turn right and continue down the path. This trail is quite flat but a little more rugged the the main trail. After a good rainfall or in the spring it can get quite muddy. After five minutes of hiking you'll spot the old ruins on you're left, the trail will take you right to them. Now that you've made it take lots of time to enjoy the area. There is a beautiful waterfall, an old dam and the shell of what used to be a carbide mill.
The mill was built by Canadian inventor Thomas Wilson in 1911. Originally from Princeton, Ontario, Wilson discovered a process for creating calcium carbide, which is used in the production of acetylene gas.
The only downside of the area is that it is known spot for nude swimmers. If you have small children make sure you always keep an eye on what's around them. The park management is well aware of the problem and have regular patrols to the area as well as signs to discourage those looking to take a dip. After you're done it's time to turn around and head back down the trail towards the parking lot. Don't forget, the big hill you came down is now a big hill you have to climb up. I like to stop at the bridge and take a drink of water before making the trek up. Once at the top the parking lot is only a few minutes away. I hope you enjoy taking this hike as much as I do and remember to pack the correct gear and have a good time.