A Day in the Gats

A Day in the Gats is meant to be a slightly less challenging route through the Gatineau Park. It follows some of the route of the Canadian Shield 400 but sticks to the easier path when possible. It’s also a much shorter route, making it achievable in a day for most riders with a good endurance base. While the beginning includes a large amount of climbing and more technical terrain, the trail gets smoother and easier going once you clear Meech Lake and trail 36.This route provides a good mix of single-track, double-track, rail trail, gravel road, climbs, descents, and everything in between. This route can be ridden in one day or done over two days with some camping along the way.

  • Gatineau Park: Riding through Gatineau Park is always a please. Being in a provincial park so close to the nation’s capital is a fun way to spend a couple days.
  • Single-track: Getting off the bigger trails and onto some of the single-track will challenge every mountain biker out there.
  • Double-track: Steep climbs and flowing descents take the rider on some of the best trails in the park.
  • Hike-a-bike: Hitting the trails near the fire-tower, will take you on some challenging hiking trails. At km 70 you will hit a massive hike-a-bike as you get up the escarpment.
  • Viewpoints: Check out the Champlain and Huron Lookouts for some fantastic views of the mighty Ottawa River and all the farmland that grows along it’s banks.
  • Swim: Lots of great swimming spots for a chance to cool down. Lac Meech, Lac Phillippe, Lac Taylor and more
  • Photos: Don’t miss the photo opportunities at Étienne-Brûlé Lookout, Champlain Lookout and any of the locations throughout the park with a bench.
  • Warning: The Gatineau Park can be very busy in the summer, particularly the area south of Lac Meech. Be mindful for other cyclists.

For this route you need a minimum of a gravel or cyclocross bike with 38c tires. It’ll be a tough day without having some suspension and will challenge you physically. Using a hardtail MTB would provide some relief to your upper body and allow you to hit the single-track a little harder. A full-suspension MTB would be overkill on this route.

  • Starting in Old Chelsea, this ride begins by taking you up trail 1 onto the ridge as you make your way towards Champlain Lookout.
  • Heading down to Lac Meech you will have an epic descent. Be mindful of your speed as you could easily get out of control. There are also lots of hikers that may be coming up the hill.’
  • Making your way on the rough trail 36 to the fast-flowing TCT gets you to Lac Phillippe, where you continue west on trail 56 until reaching Chemin Eardley-Masham when you will leave the park and jump onto some gravel roads as you make your way to some gravel roads. There will be an epic descent as you get off the escarpment.
  • Now you are on gravel roads heading west and north up to Lac des Loups.
  • Leaving Lac des Loups you will head south back into the Gatineau Park. Be aware there is a bridge out and you will have to fjord the creek by foot.
  • After leaving the Gatineau Park you reach Masham and then get back into the park and follow the TCT until just before you reach Wakefield when you will turn south and follow some double track until you exit the park and take the Chelsea Community Trail, a gravel-dusted rail trail, all the way back to Old Chelsea.

This route is mostly in the Gatineau Park but does pass by a few small towns along the way where accommodation is available. Otherwise, you will need to make do with camping if planning the trip as an overnight adventure. There are also shelters and yurts that can be rented for a more comfortable experience.

  • Hotels: Chelsea, Wakefield, Masham, Lac des Loups
  • Campgrounds: Lac Phillippe, Lac Taylor
  • Wild camping: The Gatineau Park is a large park in the national capital region with plenty of options for wild camping for the night. Please follow “leave no trace” practices and be aware that wild camping is at your own risk.
  • Fresh water everywhere: Lots of lakes and creeks to fill up your water bottles. There are also water taps near the areas with camping where you can fill up.
  • Restaurants/Cafes/Bars: Throughout the ride there are not tons of food places other than Chelsea, Wakefield, and Masham. Make sure to carry lots of snacks and food as this riding is tough and you are bound to eat more.

Average Physical Difficulty – 5

From the get-go this route gives you exactly the amount of physical challenge one could hope for in a 142km route. With an abundance of climbing right from the start, some of the hills will require a bit of hike-a-bike on your part to get to the highest point of the route. These difficulty level 7-8 climbs will be sure to challenge you. After that initial challenge, things get a little bit easier going as you ride single and doubletrack that can be unrelenting at times, but always fun. From the level 5 trails, things soften up some more with country roads and rail trail.

Average Technical Difficulty – 4

The majority of the technical riding occurs early into this ride. Once that is done it mostly becomes mostly roads and trails that are a 3-4 on the difficulty scale.

This route was created by:

Chris Panasky, host of the Bikepack Adventures Podcast.

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