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Many people of Ottawa/Gatineau know Mont Cascades, as a nice, family friendly ski mountain. With trails on three distinct sectors, the mountain offers skiers and snowboarders a little bit of everything.
What very few people know is that Mont Cascades also features some of the most fun, the best views, and most challenging snowshoeing trails in the region, and that's exactly what Ana and I went today to experience ourselves. If you have snowshoes already, then you are all set to start, but the mountain also rents them for a reasonable cost if you don't.
When you arrive at Mont Cascades, park at the far end of the parking where the lot goes in towards the right side of the magic carpet beginner slope. Go to the end, and the snowshoe trail entrance is to the right.
The trails are well planned out, and well indicated, with small maps posted at key locations and junctions, to help you get your bearings and position. There is a total of 6 trails, ranging from easy to intermediate, to difficult, and to expert.
Trails 1-3 are easy trails, staying mainly around the base of the mountain, with not much vertical to ascend or descend. Perfect for your first time out or just a relaxing exercise. Trail 4 is an intermediate trail, and no doubt offers the best views on the second half of it's length, showcasing the Gatineau river, and the surrounding region. Trail 5 is just a steep wall to the top, which is to be expected as it is the most direct of the trails to the summit and the shortest. Trail 6 is the longest trail as well as among the steepest, following the contours of the mountain, and having lots of steeps to ascend, then descend, then ascend again before reaching the summit.
Either way you choose, you are in for a great experience. And the views at the lookout points at the summit, or near the top of Trail 4 are worth the time and effort.
Our recommendation would be to have some good snowshoes and accompany that with poles, to help you be more stable and solid with your footing, if you plan on tackling Trails 5 and 6. We were going to attempt Trail 5 to go back down the mountain, but it was above our skill level to descend, so make sure you only try it if you are an expert snowshoer.
At a reasonable pace, plan for about an hour and a half per direction, allowing for time to rest and enjoy the magnificent views of the mountain and region. Don't forget to bring a camera as the views at and near the summit are worthy of a souvenir picture. On our visit, we started with the Trail 3, up till Trail 6. Trail 6 proved to be a challenge due to the many steep sections. Once at the summit, we decided on taking Trail 4 (and discovered its great views and vistas, that were absent from Trail 6) to return to the base.
We highly recommend you give Mont Cascades a try on your next snowshoeing adventure.