Oiseau Rock Trail in Pontiac: Hiking Guide

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For some miraculous reason, I had Friday off. No clinical shift for nursing school which means the world of possibilities just opening right up! I took it as a sign from the universe to go have a little fun while I had the chance. Because really, 4th year of nursing school is pretty much unwashed top buns, leggings, and hoodies with a heavy side of all-the-coffee-please.

One quick text to a friend and we were off on a 24hr adventure to Oiseau Rock!

Of course, this was before we realized that Ottawa was tornado bound…

Oiseau Rock

The Low Down

  • Cellphone Range: Yes, kinda. No signal mostly, maybe a bar or two through out the hike. best signal is at the lookouts for full strength.
  • Trail Distance: 8kms return plus 1-2 kms of side trails for lookouts and beach.
  • Elevation Gain: 450m from beach level to Oiseau Rock lookout.
  • Duration: 3-5 hrs dependent on fitness level.
  • Dogs: Check with main office.
  • Crowds: Mild to none.
  • Washrooms: None. There is an outhouse however at the parking lot.
  • Entrance Fee: 10$ per vehicle, 12$ per vehicle to camp overnight.
  • Season: Open May until beginning October. Closed during the fall hunting season.
  • Suggested Stops: There’s not much on the route from Aylmer to the trail head. Best bet for coffee is to go into Shawville or one of the local restaurants in Fort-Coulonge.  In Fort-Coulonge, there is a red covered bridge that’s being re-surfaced and Chutes Coulonge as well.
  • More Information: Visit the ZEC St-Patrice or Pontiac or Outaouais website for info. Oiseau Rock is rich with First Nations history, visit the Friends of Oiseau Rock for more background information (and pictogragh meanings!)

Directions

  • Distance: A smooth and picturesque 186km (roughly 2.5hrs) drive from downtown Ottawa.
  • Directions Option 1: From Ottawa take the 417 West and continue on the 17 West (towards Arnprior/Renfrew/Pembroke). Exit on the #40 (Greenwood Rd) towards (Pembroke/Cotnam Island). Take hwy 148 over Cotnam Island and Ile Morrison. Turn left (west on Chemin Pembroke,  road curves to the North), after the bridge turn left (west) on Chemin de Chapeau Sheenboro (turns into Sheen Rd). Pass Sheenboro and turn right on Mountain Rd. Finally, turn left onto Shyan Rd and continue until you hit the ZEC St-Patrice’s main office.
  • Directions Option 2: Alternatively, from Ottawa you can take King Edward bridge across to Quebec. Take exit for hwy 50 South towards hwy 148. Follow hwy 148 until Waltham and then turn right onto Chemin de Chapeau Waltham (turns into Chemin de Chapeau Sheenboro which turns into Sheen Rd). Pass Sheenboro and turn right on Mountain Rd. Finally, turn left onto Shyan Rd and continue until you hit the main office.
  • Directions to Trailhead: It is a rough gravel road, with dips and bumbs so low cars need not apply for this excursion (or at your own risk). Register at the ZEC St-Patrice’s main office. It is 12$ to camp overnight. From the main office, drive until just passed the #6 road marker and then take the next left for Oiseau Rock. Follow that trail for 1 km untl you reach the parking lot. You’re allowed to camp there overnight if you wish. The trail starts from this parking lot.

Setting The Tone

I felt like Thursday’s clinical shift was bananas. Chalk full of learning sure, but definitely challenging. I think my look of the day could be called ‘frazzled and not-so-fabulous’. Maybe Mercury was in retrograde or something?!?! Meh. Anyways. I was capital D-Oh-N-E done.

As soon as it was  over I raced out of the hospital and changed into hiking clothes in the car. I’m a champ at this. Also pretty sure I’ll end up an accidental YouTube sensation if any one ever catches me.  There is a set of gym clothes, scrubs, and work clothes in my car at all times….actually I think I could survive the week with the amount of spares and gear in the car…I digress.

I’m zonked, hungry, and in severe need for caffeine. Maybe a shower too. This is how our adventure begin.

Oiseau Rock
Fort-Coulonge

What to bring

Besides the 10 essentials and what I would normally suggest for hikes, here are the highlights for this particular hike:

  • Electrolytes: It’s a longer hike and challenging in sections (especially if you head don’t the the beach and back).
  • Tip: turn your cellphone on ‘airplane mode’ during the hike to save battery power, that way you won’t run out for a) emergencies and b) all-the-pics.
Oiseau Rock

Camping

Double check with the ZEC St-Patrice main office. When we arrived, they allowed us to camp at the main parking lot for 12$ the night. No camping is allowed on the trail or Oiseau Rock itself.

That said, we ended up sleeping in the car just passed road marker 6 near the road entrance towards Oiseau Rock parking. Why? Well because my shiny new Mazda 3 sport was just not going to cut it for that final road in (too low to the ground and increased risk for damage). Also, it was a thunderstorm when we arrived. So we adapted by sleeping safely and soundly in the car and trekking from there (adds 2 kms total to your return hike distance) in the morning.

Oiseau Rock
Oiseau Rock

The Trail Route

I haven’t for the life of me found a trail map only however, I’ve included a pic below. The trailhead starts at the parking lot and is approximately 10kms return if you go to all the lookout points. There is an outhouse at the parking if you’re brave enough, if not, follow the backcountry bathroom etiquette.

Don’t forget to take a picture of the trail map at the trailhead!

Oiseau Rock
Oiseau Rock
Oiseau Rock

Trail Conditions

The trail itself is well maintained and easy to follow. There are markers at every kilometer point as well as for the look outs.

This is a gorgeous walk through the woods with all kinds of flora, rock formations, waterways, and cute wooden bridges. Honestly one of my favourite hikes to date for the area! The trail itself is mostly ground with a little rock here and there. The elevation is ‘rolly’ with some section that get your heart pumping nice and good. Slow and steady wins the race with this trail though, considering it’s a longer one it’s better to take it at a steady pace.

Oiseau Rock
Oiseau Rock
Oiseau Rock

Look Out 1

This one took me by surprise, mostly because there’s no view?!? Perhaps in the winter months or early spring – who knows.

Oiseau Rock

Look Out 2

Ladies and gentleman we have a winner! This view is breathtaking, I love looking over the river  and seeing the steep dramatic cliffs. There’s varying flora including juniper bushes (gin anyone?) and no doubt this is a stunning area to hike once the fall colours hit. There’s also a info panel detailing some of the cultural history which I appreciate.

Oiseau Rock
Oiseau Rock
Oiseau Rock

Lake

It’s too bad there’s no camping on the trail because this would be the picture spot.  There’s a picnic table to rest and a tree swing to jump into the water if you’re brave enough! September makes it a little too chilly but perhaps next time. 😉

Oiseau Rock
Oiseau Rock

Oiseau Rock

Oh was this hike ever worth it. The view from Oiseau Rock is breathtaking to say the least. Full view of the cliffs, river below, and the rolling hills of Algonquin Park on the other side. We were pretty giddy and stayed a good while considering we had the whole place to ourselves. Actually we had the whole trail to ourselves.

The pictures, as usual, don’t really do it justice (keep in mind we were hiking on a stormy foggy day). This is the perfect spot to just take. life. in.

Oiseau Rock
Oiseau Rock
Oiseau Rock

Wild Weather

So when we left Thursday, I checked the weather and it mentioned some storms on and off. We decided to head up just the same and didn’t think anything more about it.  There was a pretty good lighting show that night as we eat, and laughed, and sleep in the car.  In the morning the breeze was strong but warm and the rain let up a little. Considered we had the right gear for the weather, we opted to hike!

Once at the Oiseau Rock lookout, I turned my phone only to receive a text from my mother saying to watch the weather. I thought she meant the storms from last night. No biggy right?! We were already through those and the sun was even starting to peak out!

I didn’t there was a severe storm watch on with tornado warnings.

As we drove back towards Ottawa the weather remained sunny and clear, an absolute gorgeous day all around. We were so happy to discover a new trail and have a fun experience, with the right friends even sleeping in the car or not being able to find coffee is ok. Ha ha.

We stopped in Aylmer for supper at the British Pub and then hoped over to British Cafe for coffee and trip planning (heading to Norway in 2019!)

Tornado Watch

The winds picked up. One side was blue skies and the other was layers of a dark mess of clouds.  It was still ridiculously warm out. Hmmmm…so my spiddy senses were tingling. Then we received the emergency alerts on my cell. Ok, that’s it, we’re outta here.

Tornado Watch

Thankfully we were ahead of the storm and ended up missing the tornado by 30mins. I dropped off my hiking buddy downtown and then it took me a whopping 3 hrs to try and make it home. The rain was so intense I pulled over at a friends house to let it pass. Then the traffic lights were out. Power lines were down. Trees blown on the roads causes closures.

I was safe, warm, and the car had plenty of fuel – so really it was all very manageable with the right amount of patience. Thankfully I got home safely, and even though there was no power we were still ok. I turned on some battery powered lights, lit some candles, checked on neighbours and called it a day.

Tornado Watch

Wrapping it up

Thank goodness for having camping essentials in the car at all times! Really came in handy in the last 24hrs.  I might even camp out on my balcony tonight. Who knows really, mottos like ‘go with the flow’ and ‘adapt and overcome’ are kind my thing. Why fuss about what you can’t change? Better to adapt and see the beauty in it. I don’t mind no power, cold showers, and take out…kinda sounds like the perfect set up for a much needed quiet night. Maybe I’ll read more. Or sleep more. I’ll definitely appreciate the stars more, it’s amazing how much they pop when the city has no lights.

Victoria xo