Family Travel: Camping in Gatineau Park

KITC would like to welcome back guest blogger, Stephen Johnson. Stephen Johnson is an Ottawa writer who loves to write about family travel.  During the summer, you will most likely find him and his family at a local fair or festival. During the winter, a beach in Mexico is a likely bet.  


Monday may now be my favorite day of the week to go camping. We normally visit Gatineau Park - Lac Philippe on weekends. At times, it can feel like half of Ottawa-Gatineau is in the park escaping the summer heat. This year, we decided to visit on a Monday and it felt like we had the park to ourselves.

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We arrived at the Lac Philippe entrance mid-afternoon and received the keys to our yurt - Wanakiwin. Yurting is the perfect option for our family. We are not hard-core campers but love to get out in mother nature. Wanakiwin has a gas barbecue, fire pit, wood stove and bunk style beds providing a comfortable experience in the outdoors. Wanakiwin also means peaceful place in Ojibway which perfectly described the site.

After settling in to the yurt, the first order of business was to prepare some supper. Of course, with the gas barbecue at our disposal, hamburgers were on tap. We also roasted up some corn and red peppers. Nothing screams summer more than eating barbecue food outside.

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Once done our supper, it was still hot so we wanted to take a dip in Lac Philippe. Breton beach is my favorite beach at Lac Philippe and the greater Ottawa-Gatineau area. The beach and lake are classic Canadiana with clean water, beautiful woodlands as scenery and loons providing the backing soundtrack.

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When we arrived at the beach there were only five or six families still enjoying the water. This was due to our early evening arrival and the day of the week. We loved the serenity. The lake was a perfect temperature having been warmed by the hot summer sun. My son, David, wife, Sandy and I spent the better part of two hours just wading in the lukewarm water. David enjoyed looking at snail shells. I normally have to work Monday nights and thought I could easily get used to this go to the beach lifestyle.

We saw a beautiful sunset at Breton beach and also took this as our cue that we should head back to our yurt. One of the must-dos while camping is to have a campfire. Preceding our trip to Lac Philippe, I mixed up my words and asked David if he was looking forward to having a forest fire. Luckily, Gatineau Park is still intact and we had a wonderful campfire. The best part was burning marshmallows and eating s’mores. We also had an unexpected visit from a raccoon who just casually ambled near our campfire. He did not seem particularly impressed when we tried to scare it off. After a few minutes, he just went away on his own accord.

The next morning we had a delicious breakfast of eggs and beans with coffee. It was time to leave our campsite but David wanted to extend our time in Gatineau Park. Several years ago, we found a lake in Gatineau Park that was teeming with frogs. David loves to observe wildlife and true to form, the small lake was chock a block full of little Kermits. (David will not disclose the site, similar to how people who fish do not give away their favorite fishing hole!)

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Having enjoyed our early week nature excursion, we arrived back in Ottawa recharged ready to face city life again.

If you go - Lac Philippe is located inside the boundaries of Gatineau Park and is about a 35 minute drive from Ottawa depending on traffic.

It is well-advised to book campsites, yurts, etc. well ahead of time as spots can fill up quickly, particularly on weekends. https://reservations.ncc-ccn.gc.ca/

Lac Philippe also has some outstanding hiking trails with the Lusk Cave trail being the most well-known. We have never made it all the way to the cave but friends have mentioned you would want to bring extra water shoes and a change of clothes as it is wet inside the cave.