a peek inside the fishbowl

26 Aug, 2011

An uphill battle, waged and won

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Easy ways to make kids happy|Ottawa|travel talk

Mark knows me well. For my 39th birthday he suggested we bring the family on The Hardest Hike Ever. Although that’s not how he presented it. He introduced the idea in a much gentler fashion: “Do you remember the hike we went on in the Gatineaus, the one with the waterfall?”


We hadn’t been dating very long. Mark suggested we go on this great hike that he knew of, and so we set out for Lusk Falls Trail in Gatineau (not to be confused with the trail to Lusk Caves). We didn’t bring any food or water with us and I had no idea what lay ahead. It was – without a doubt – one of the hardest trails I’ve ever encountered. Mark and I went partway up, and then, defeated, went back down.

Also worth noting, I was so hot and thirsty that I was beginning to think that a weeklong bout of the runs was a fair trade for a deep drink from the waterfall.

This was not good date material.

But, of course, I didn’t fall on my belly with my face in the water like a dying horse. That would have been uncool. We ventured back down the hill and eventually re-hydrated our weary bodies. Amazingly, our relationship survived!


It was time to revisit that blasted hill, but with kids in tow. As a birthday present! (Ha ha!)

Our first stop was the Art-is-in bakery at the City Centre for picnic food. I can’t begin to tell you how many treats there are to be found here. It was very difficult to exercise restraint. We bought flaky croissants, chocolatines and a cinnamon twist to eat in the car, as well as four sandwiches (made on their famous bread) to be eaten later. I chose a tandoori chicken sandwich. It was, how shall I say, perfecto:

Tandoori Chicken Sandwich from Art-is-in

Mark had some kind of steak sandwich (which he proclaimed to be excellent) and the girls had ham and cheese (which was a bit too saucy for their liking but was ok).

This part of the Gatineau Hills (it’s actually the Eardly Escarpment) is one of the most beautiful places in the Valley. Honesttogod. It is one of the region’s most fragile and interesting ecosystems.

This is what it looked like as we approached the trail by car:

fields of green


There’s a lovely picnic area at the base of the trail. (Note the use of the word BASE here. In case you missed it, you should interpret this to mean that there’s a bit of a climb ahead of you.)

It’s so restful here. Doesn’t it make your eyeballs breathe a sigh of relief? Say it with me now, AHHHHH.

picnic area

Heed take my advice and don’t unpack your picnic yet. Save it for the first stop. The way up is not for sissies, but trust me, you will get there soon enough.

The trail



(Confession: those two previous photos were staged. Ha.)

Before you know it, you get to the first notable point along the trail. The waterfall. I should note that I’m using the term “waterfall” rather loosely here. This time of year it’s really just a dried out trickle; a humble tear.

Lusk Falls trail Gatineau

This is where we ate our fabulous lunch. After that we had a decision to make. Should we go back to the car, or keep going up towards the lookout and then, possibly, the fire tower? Distance-wise the hike isn’t that long. It’s only about 2.8k, which is a cinch. What isn’t a cinch is the, ahem, uphill side of things, along a trail that looks a lot like this.

Here’s a tip, bring twice as much water as you think you’ll need, because you will need it. (I think 2L per person should do the trick. More if you’re staying longer.)

The secret is to take lots of breaks along the way:

Little hiker

We got to talking to a fellow on the way up the Lusk Trail. He was hiking alone. We exchanged pleasantries, and he told us that he’d tried to hike up to the tower ten times and but had never made it. He was determined to do it today, come hell or high water. It was admirable, but I have to confess that I looked for him along the way. I was a little worried. The trail is very well marked, but still.

We made it to the Pontiac lookout. It’s true what they say, that you enjoy a good view much more when you feel like you’ve earned it:


In my books, good hikes come with a payoff. And the view of the valley below was one of them:


Here’s another view.

Eventually the trail made its way back to the falls, but this time there were larger pools of water to explore so we hung around for awhile:



We could have stayed there for hours. The water was full of frogs (which only adds to the enjoyment factor for two young girls and their critter-loving father). Thank goodness for small mercies:

A frog in hand is worth two... ?

Frog catchin' girl

Camo frog

Me: I was content to stay behind the camera. :)


The biggest frog we saw (we call him Mister)

We met up with our lone hiker as we approached the fire tower. We asked him if he made it, and he told us he had, and that he took a rock from the top as a memento. He attributed his success to a 40lb weight loss.  We congratulated him on his accomplishment and pushed on.

Finally – after much sweating and some grumbling and some “I don’t think I can make it” – we made it to the end. The old fire tower! We were disappointed to learn that you can’t climb it anymore.

The Fire tower

I didn’t think we’d make it, but we did. Victory was ours! Now all we had to go was go back down. Did I mention that this trail has an elevation of about 900 ft?

Happily, it was a lot faster doing down. It was nice to have gravity working with us instead of against us for a change. The trail loops a little and ends up back in Frogville, which we were happy about.

When we reached the parking lot we compared sore spots and congratulated ourselves on a job well done. It was a great birthday gift indeed.

Interested in visiting? It could be your Greatest Summer Challenge! More info and directions can be found here.

7 Responses to "An uphill battle, waged and won"

1 | @amwaters

August 26th, 2011 at 3:47 pm


We did this hike Thanksgiving 2007 when we had a German student staying with and wanted to show off our beautiful Canadian geography and autumn foliage. I feel like our montage of photos is almost identical except exchange shots with two young girls for two teenage boys. No frog though. (I also have that classic shot of the red barn!) Thanks for bringing back some great memories. I love, love Luskville Falls and that whole area.

2 | Marianne

August 26th, 2011 at 3:56 pm


This was a favourite of my family starting when my sister and I were about the age of your girls. I think we only went all the way to the top once, but several times we took along some containers to pick wild blueberries in some of the meadow areas along the way. I don’t recall how far we had to go past the waterfall to reach them. I look forward to taking my own daughters when they’re a little older.

3 | Laura Daub

August 26th, 2011 at 3:56 pm


We’ve been there twice… The first time I went with a friend who did not tell me how much work it is and how scared I would be with my 3 yr-old!!! I think my arm lengthened an inch that day holding on to him! Of course he wasn’t scared! It is beautiful and worth the trip though and I love the waterfall in the spring.

4 | Shannon B

August 28th, 2011 at 10:52 am


This is one of my fave places in the world. The view from the lookouts are amazing. I love going in the fall and seeing all the leaves, gorgeous!

Here’s a photo similar to your daughter cliimbing! Not sure it will work, it’s linked from FB.

6 | Someone got a hair cut >> a peek inside the fishbowl

July 20th, 2014 at 7:47 am


[…] some reason, lots of folks seem to be reading this archived post about Lusk Falls Trail in Gatineau right now, perhaps looking for more information about it. My advice: you may feel like you want to […]

7 | a peek inside the fishbowl » Blog Archive Birthday wishes - a peek inside the fishbowl

August 18th, 2017 at 4:42 pm


[…] Gallery to take in an amazing exhibition. That was pretty tame compared to the year we hiked the Lusk Falls Trail in Gatineau. The girls STILL talk about it. (And let’s be clear, it was a victory for everyone but they […]

comment form:


Me and my pet projects

Ottawa Bucket list

Subscribe via email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (23) and Sarah (21). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

If you'd like to contact me, please use this form. If you're so inclined, you can read more about me here. Thank you for visiting!


Connect with me at these places too!

All hail the mighty Twitter