When hiking a prominent trail in Gatineau Park, an undeniable highlight of the area, the best thing is to be sick and sneezing constantly, right? Nope, definitely not, but that’s how I did it! My cousin Taylor was in town for the weekend, and I wasn’t about to let a brutally annoying cold stand in the way of our plans.
You’ll find Pink Lake in the midst of Gatineau Park, an area I highly urge you to explore. Gatineau Park has various ecosystems which combined make up a unique location. The park is easily accessible for Ottawa residents as well as Gatineau residents, but you’ll need a car or a bicycle for easy accessibility.
For our outing, I opted for a cheap, one night car rental, and my cousin and I planned accordingly.
We arrived at Gatineau Park, and proceeded to drive the extra 20 or so minutes from the entrance to the Pink Lake trail. One thing of note in the summer – or perhaps we just lucked into accidentally going at the wrong time – is that the road will be full of cyclists, most of whom seemed to have little interest in sharing the road. On such a winding road, it was disconcerting to go around a corner and have a bicycle immediately in your way.
The next thing of note in the summer – the parking lot will be full. We actually lucked out and nabbed a spot someone had recently vacated right near the starting point of the trail, but people were parked all along the lane-way in, and some had to walk several minutes to get from their car to where the trail began. All the cars parked along both side of the road means pedestrians are everywhere and the roadway is narrowed, so I urge you to be extra cautious along this stretch.
We began our 2.5 km journey around Pink Lake by heading left, and I’m glad we did for two reasons. First, you’re treated with a spectacular open view of the lake, which is sadly not pink. Second, this direction proved to be the more challenging side, and I was thrilled to get it out of the way first while I still had energy. There were far more stairs than I imagined there would be, and after the initial wooden set, the remainder were mostly natural roots and stones made slightly more defined.
The area was settled by the Pink family in the mid-1820s, and it is from them that Pink Lake earned its name. The water may not be pink, but it is a startling shade of green.
The shade of green is because Pink Lake is what is known as a meromictic lake. This means the levels of the water never mix, due to the lake’s small surface, bowl shape, and protection from wind by surrounding cliffs. Only one organism can survive in the lower levels, a photosynthetic bacterium which uses Sulphur instead of oxygen.
To help preserve this stunning trail and lake, people are urged to stay on the proper paths and not bring pets.
The view from all around the lake was stunning, and we paused often to take pictures and for me to hyperventilate myself back to proper breathing levels. Just kidding. Even with my cold and inability to breathe normally, the hike was surprisingly manageable. You don’t need to be an athlete or even someone who exercises regularly to be able to walk this trail.
An unexpected sight along the trail was the remnants of an old mine. From 1903 to 1906, this was one of the locations of a mica mine. The success was short lived, and though the entrance is fenced off, you can still see down into it quite well. The pictures don’t really do it justice, and this is the only one I managed to snap that didn’t look like a little hole in the ground.
I snapped the picture above during one of my favorite moments around the trail. You have the option of crossing a narrow concrete path over a shallow part of the water, or taking the extra thirty or so steps to go around via the regular trail. Since she’s as adventurous as I am, Taylor and I both opted for the narrow, bridge-like path.
Most of the trail along the opposite side is flat, with slight hills until you reach the end and climb another set of stairs back up to the original starting point. As I mentioned earlier, this side was much easier, and almost felt like a reward for tackling the more difficult side.
Due to the position of the sun, we also were able to see the green tinge more clearly along this side of the trail.
All in all, regardless of your athleticism, the trail around Pink Lake is a wonderful, beautiful, and fascinating walk, well worth your time and energy. The trail is peaceful, and I hope to soon return to Gatineau Park to check out some of the other trails. Happy trekking!
Have you been to Gatineau Park?