Spring has finally sprung in the Ottawa Region and with the new season comes the opening of parks everywhere! In the past years I have become an avid hiker and have visited quite a bit of the Ottawa region. It’s always exciting to discover new trails and go on new adventures or even revisit a beloved trail and make new memories.
On April 12th, 2014 I revisited one of my favourite trails; Luskville Falls in Gatineau Park. The trail has free parking as well as enough space on the side of the road to park a long line
of cars comfortably if the parking area is full or closed. The journey starts at the Luskville Falls picnic area where you will find an information board, garbage cans, picnic tables, (very clean) outhouses and even charcoal BBQs! The trail is very steep and will be very slippery in wet conditions. I highly recommend comfortable, durable and waterproof or resistant footwear. Do not wear sandals or similar footwear! There are a lot of sharp rocks and depending on the time of year, the wet conditions will make the trail very muddy, therefore slippery.
Distance and Time:
The trail to the fire tower and back is a 4.5 km loop. (There is more beyond the Fire Tower, but that is for another post!) This trail is 2.5 hours or more like 5 hours if you stop every second to take pictures.
Level of difficulty:
It says Very Challenging on the Gatineau Park website and as an avid hiker, I agree and I do not recommend this trail if you are not in some kind of physical shape. It is physically and mentally demanding but the reward you get when you reach the top is fantastic! You could definitely hike all the way up if you are out of shape (I’ve done it many time in the past) but you may not enjoy your surroundings as much as trying not to die. I do daily yoga to help with such hikes.
According to the Gatineau Park information, its summit is part of an ancient mountain range composed of Precambrian rock. About 10,000 years ago, the Champlain Sea was at the foot of the Escarpment. The water, wind and glaciers eroded the rock over. The trail climbs up the Eardley Escarpment for close to 300 m. The elevation gain is 290 m. The escarpment was created when the rock caved in along a fault line forming the plains you will see when you will reach the Lusk Lookout. There are white arrows painted on the rocks guiding you through the Luskville Falls Trail. There are also 3 Lookouts to stop at on the way to the Fire Tower; Luskville Falls, Lusk and Pontiac.
This is your first stop. The falls flow over the Eardley Escarpment. The lower part of the falls is almost vertical and during Spring,
the falls become a rushing torrent of water from the melting snow. Spring is the best time to visit if you want to see the falls
otherwise it will be dry. Although there is sign warning you not to go off path, if you are a little adventurer like myself and some kind of climber of things, you will probably enjoy trying to climb the vertical wall of rock.
Once you reach the second stop which is also the first lookout, you can admire the clay-rich plains in all its glory. Geologists estimate the Precambrian rock you’ll be standing on to be over a billion years old, which is pretty crazy. The lookout was named after an Irish pioneer who came to Canada in 1820 and became a successful farmer. His name was Joseph Lusk and a lake, cave and a cabin in Gatineau Park also bear his name. His descendants also founded the Luskville area in the Pontiac municipality.
Pontiac is the third stop and the second lookout. You will have a great panoramic view of the Ottawa Valley. You will also see the Pontiac Region. The rocks at this lookout are perfectly positioned for tripods as they are flat and go up in a big spaced staircase. It’s also great to sit down and have a snack and/or refreshments once you arrive at this lookout if you plan on going further.
The Fire Tower is the fourth stop and for most, the last before hiking back down the escarpment. It’s located at the northern end of the trail and was used by rangers in the past to monitor for forest fires.
In terms of gear to hike up this mountain, I always wear my water-resistant hiking boots. They’re durable, comfortable and have a great grip on the rocks. I also wear a comfortable pair of Smartwool socks (cotton is the devil) to keep my toes dry because as much as shoes advertise waterproof or resistant, your own moisture can cause a problem. And you do
not want blisters during this hike! I always wear a pair of comfortable pants I can move freely in. As for the top, I always wear my Thermal shirt underneath a sweater. Thermal clothing retains body heat in cold temperatures. Since it was supposed to be raining on this past Sunday, I also opted for my rain pants and rain coat which was a great decision because the muddy conditions were pretty high.
To transport your food and other gear, I recommend a hiking backpack. You will want the backpack to be secured to your back and not flopping around. You also want to pack like a minimalist as the climb up can get intense. In your pack, always have a first aid kit, you can procure yourself one anywhere in retail stores and they come in different sizes. A Swiss Army knife and cordage also comes in handy.
To help you through the challenging terrain, get some trekking poles. It will help you keep your balance as well as test what’s in front of you before you put your foot there.
A hat on a sunny day is also recommended or a Shemagh/Keffiyeh scarf will do great as well.
Food and Beverage:
For on the go foods I always recommend to make your own. I try to eat less salt, preservatives, sugars, etc, not because it’s a fad but because my stomach (and overall body) requires it to function properly and I listen to its needs. I always bring a trail mix which I made myself by buying individual ingredients in bulk and mixing them together. I get a huge bag of all kinds of yummy things like raisins, dried cranberries, yogurt covered pretzels and many types of nuts! Mix and match, try different combinations and see what works for you.
Something else I like to always carry with me during a hike is protein bars. I buy the Promax bars because they are simply amazing in taste, texture and ingredients. Fruits and vegetables are also great things to bring.
As for beverages, I always recommend water and only water. I do not believe in sports drinks, you do not actually sweat that much sugars out in such a short amount of time that your body would require such liquid. Water has always been the best liquid to consume. Make sure you bring enough and you drink often because this hike will definitely give you a workout!
As I mentioned above, this trail is one of my favourite, especially in the Spring when the water is flowing but also because it’s a great workout, has great lookouts and it’s perfect for pictures. In the Summer, although the water is not there, the animals and insects are in great numbers which is amazing for photography. Just make sure you bring a lot of bugs spray because the mosquitoes are vicious in those woods! Now that you are prepared for what’s ahead of you, gather your things and get ready for an adventure!