Visitors to Gatineau Park urged to stay on the beaten path

Visitors to Gatineau Park are being urged to stick to designated trails after two hikers who ventured off the beaten path were recently rescued.

The National Capital Commission (NCC), which owns and operates the park, said one of the two visitors was injured and the other was lost. Both had to be rescued.

“We have to locate these people, and it’s not that easy when they’re not on the official trails,” said Alain d’Entremont, NCC’s senior manager of visitor services and recreational programs.

D’Entremont said such incidents have occurred more frequently during the pandemic as more people seek out outdoor adventures in the 361-square-mile park.

But users who rely on smartphone apps to guide them can be led down unofficial paths, d’Entremont said. What’s more, cell reception in the park is notoriously unreliable.

“If you get lost [or] you will be hurt … it will be difficult for … the emergency services to get you back to safety, “he said.

SE | Incidents with lost, injured hikers a warning, officials say:

Gatineau Park officials are asking visitors to stay on trails after incidents involving lost, injured hikers

Alain d’Entremont, Gatineau Park’s head of visitor services, says visitors should bring a paper card, stay on marked trails and plan their hike in advance. 0:41

Instead of apps, d’Entremont recommends using an old-fashioned paper card and bringing other supplies such as extra clothes, food and a first aid kit if possible.

Jonathan Bigras, owner of Alt Plein Air outfitters in Gatineau, Que., Recommends preparing well before a hike.

“If it’s a four- or five-hour hike, be prepared and you need to stay on track,” Bigras said. “If you do not know the path, you do not know where to go.”

Smartphone apps can sometimes lead hikers away from the park’s official trail system, warns NCC. (Nafi Alibert / Radio-Canada)

He agrees that apps fall short, especially if the hiker does not know the terrain. Still, Bigras said hikers should make sure their phones are fully charged before setting out, especially in colder weather.

Bigras said it is also a good idea to carry a compass and learn how to use it. Other important supplies include plenty of water, good hiking boots and a backpack to carry everything, Bigras said.

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