The remains of a paranoid inventor’s hidden workshop lie in beautiful ruins amidst a Canadian park.
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While the Park is incredible during May, you’ll find the forest carpeted with trillium flowers, the hike to the ruins is also a great one for fall.
It’s an easy 3.25 km return hike to the ruins that wrap around a small section of Meech Lake. Passing through hardwood forest, the trail is dog friendly as well – providing they’re on a leash
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Driving deep into the heart of Gatineau Park, you will want to park at P11. Your GPS may want to guide you to the access road just before the parking lot – don’t go there. Also, the sign is labelled as O’Brien beach, for added confusion.
There are two trail options; O’Brien Beach on the left and the hiking trail on the right. You will want to continue on trail #36 until you reach the turnoff to the Thomas Carbide Willson ruins.
The trail is labelled as family-friendly and good for kids. We did see a family with a stroller and another with a hiking carrier. I would strongly encourage you to wear your small child in a carrier, as the trail from the marker to the ruins is not stroller friendly.
As I mentioned, from this parking lot, you will be given the option of heading to the beach on your left or start your hike on the right. There are 2 sets of restrooms, a change room and garbage cans here.
When we visited last, there was also a warning sign mentioning Black Bear sightings. This alone was enough to scare my kids but they are loud enough to scare away any predator so I personally wasn’t worried about it.
The trail begins with an immediate incline. I’m the first to admit I’m not in the best of shape, so I was breathing heavily by the time we reached the top.
We found rock formations that belonged to the Canadian Shield (The Canadian Shield is a broad region of Precambrian rock that encircles Hudson Bay).
There are a fair number of mosquitoes in the Park so it is best to apply a good layer of bug spray, and possibly bring it along for reapplication during the hike.
Bridge Over Meech Lake
Roughly halfway to the marker, you will come across a fairly large bridge. This allows you to cross over Meech Lake and the trail continues into another forested area on the other side of the bridge.
Not far after the lake, we reached the marker and turned right to continue on our way to the Carbide Willson Ruins. There are no bikes allowed on this path, and after walking it I can understand why.
It is much less even and much rockier than the main path. There are a ton of rocks, tree roots and uneven footing.
I realize that the sign said 500m but we were starting to wonder if we would ever find the ruins but we heard the rushing sound of water and knew we were getting close.
Carbide Willson Ruins
At the top of the ruins, the trail starts to get a little steep and rocky. The waterfalls started from here and ran down under the ruins.
While the walking bridge is closed for repairs, there is only one way down to the waterfalls. The path is steep, rocky and slippery. The water in June is fairly cold, and there were a handful of other guests in the water, taking photos on the rocks and further into the water.
After returning to the parking lot from the hike, my wonderful son decided to read one of the signs for the beach. Since my daughter can’t read yet, I was hoping to avoid a secondary adventure all together.
We didn’t bring swimsuits so they swam in their clothes and dried off quickly in the sun, on the walk back to the car. The walk is fairly calm, with only one incline at the trailhead. The trail also runs along the road if you aren’t interested in walking in the woods, but there is no parking closer to the beach than P11 so moving the car won’t help.
At the beach, there is a single picnic table on the sand, and several on the grassy area behind the fence. There is also a set of restrooms in this area.
Please note that it is forbidden to swim at the beaches in Quebec without a life guard on duty. This is a stark difference from Ontario that allows residents to use the beach at their own risk when lifeguards are not on duty.
Gear to bring
- Sun protection
- Bug spray
- Proper Hiking shoes
- Water shoes
- Swimwear and towel