Pink Lake is a beautiful trail in the Gatineau Park, in Canada, with a fascinating history and unique ecosystem. It’s one of the most scenic trails, with stunning views of the lake at every turn.
I’ve lived in the National Capital Region for most of my life, so I get to hike beautiful trails like this one whenever I want to. It’s amazing how you can disappear in the Gatineau Hills and feel like you’re far away from everything. In reality, the city is just a 10 minute drive away. This trail has been one of my favourites for years, because it’s scenic all the way around.
Truth be told, I was dismayed by some of what I saw on my last visit here. I want to encourage you to go out and enjoy places like Pink Lake, and also to help protect them.
Hiking Pink Lake
Pink Lake trail is a loop that circles the lake, and it will take you about 45 minutes to 1 hour (if you stop for photos like I do). The trail takes you up and down many flights of wooden stairs, and onto many beautiful look outs. It occasionally darts back in to the forest, giving you an awe-striking moment when the lake comes in to view again.
Along the way, you’ll find panels at the lookouts that tell you about the history and ecosystem of Pink Lake.
This is one of the easier trails in the Gatineau Park, so it’s perfect if you’re looking for a leisurely day in nature. That said, there are a lot of stairs in some parts. The boardwalks and stairs are there to help protect Pink Lake’s unique ecosystem, to stop our footprints from causing erosion.
Things to know before hiking Pink Lake
- Time: 45-60 minutes.
- Difficulty level: Easy + stairs.
- Bring: water, sunscreen, bug spray. The hike is short, so it’s unlikely that you’ll need snacks.
Pink Lake’s Ecosystem
Pink Lake is a meromictic lake, meaning that the upper and lower layers of water never mix. This is possible because the lake is surrounded by cliffs, and it’s very small. The lake is about 20 meters deep, and there is no oxygen in the bottom 7 meters.
Over 10,000 years of history are preserved at the bottom of Pink Lake, because animals and plants decompose very slowly in the absence of the oxygen. Only one organism lives at the bottom of Pink Lake, a prehistoric, pink bacterium that makes it’s own food from sunlight.
The Pink life-form has nothing to do with the name, though. Pink was the surname of an Irish family that cleared a farm nearby in the early 1800’s.
From the photos, you can see the Pink Lake is actually green in colour. The green comes from microscopic algae, a beautiful but harmful component of the ecosystem that takes up oxygen, suffocating the lake. This process, called eutrophication, takes thousands of years. With more visitors to the lake, though, the rate is increasing.
P.S. follow me on Instagram for more glorious photos!
Protecting Pink Lake
I saw so many wrappers and empty bottles along the trail that I finally took a photo of one them, so that I could show you. I’m sure you’ve seen a plastic bottle on the side of a path before, but what struck me about this plastic water bottle was it’s distance from the trail. It was intentionally launched in to the trees, by someone who is not doing their part to protect the environment.
I’ve seen the same thing at various other hiking trails across the world. It must stop, or we will loose the privilege of enjoying beautiful places like Pink Lake.
What you can do to protect Pink Lake, and other environments.
- Stay on the trails or boardwalks. One trail through the trees is enough of a footprint. Exploring is great, but if you’re asked to stay on the path to help protect and ecosystem, respect that.
- Carry re-usable water bottles. Reusable water bottles cost $10-$20, so you’re saving money in the long-run, and it’s better for environment.
- Take your garbage out. Whatever you bring in, you are responsible for bring back out. Empty bottles, wrappers, empty sunscreen and bug spray cans (yes, I saw all of these things along the trail), are all your responsibility. Parks like Gatineau are well maintained, and you’ll find a garbage as soon as you finish your hike.
- Leave life alone. Did you find a really cool plant? Great, take a picture, and leave it be. Don’t take living things out of their homes.
- Make changes at home that protect the environment. Reduce your use of plastic, pack your own lunches, switch to cleaner shampoos and skin products, and put on a sweater before cranking up the heat. I love this blog post by Laura the Leo, 3 Easy Ways to be Eco-Friendly at Home, that has a few other creative, easy-to-implement suggestions.
The ecosystems around you are constantly changing. It’s not all because of humans- processes like eutrophication occur naturally. The environment doesn’t need our help to change over time, it will do that on it’s own. What the environment needs from us is a conscious commitment not to interfere.
Do your part, and places like Pink Lake will be around to enjoy for generations to come, and for you to visit on your travels.
Have you hiked Pink Lake before? What’s another place you’ve been recently that our needs our help to allow the ecosystem to thrive?
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