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When planning a trip to Canada, many travelers stay near Banff or Jasper on the country’s western half.
There you can marvel at the towering peaks of the Canadian Rockies and turquoise waters of glacier-fed lakes. But on the other side near Montreal exists the lesser-known Oka National Park.
This national park is easily accessible from New York or Vermont and worth a visit for a couple of days. Let’s dive in and learn more about Oka National Park in Quebec!
Where Is Oka National Park?
Oka National Park is located not far from Montreal in Quebec, Canada. The park sits along the Ottawa River just off QC-344.
Ottawa is about a two-hour drive west, while Montreal is less than an hour east of the park. Crossing the border into New York takes about 90 minutes.
What Is Oka National Park Famous For?
Oka National Park preserves the rich cultural heritage of the area. Although many enjoy this summer destination because of the beaches, Oka National Park also has oratories and chapels.
In the 1700s, the governor of New France ceded land to missionaries who established a mission to evangelize the Iroquois, Mohawks, Hurons, Algonquins, and Nipissings. This establishment was similar to the San Antonio missions in Texas.
The Sulpician missionaries used the land for agriculture and logging. They developed the Calvaire trail, built four oratories and three chapels, and opened a school of agriculture.
Together with French Trappist monks, the Sulpicians helped grow the area and prospered.
In 1962, the Quebec government bought land from the Sulpicians, which later became Oka National Park.
And in 1974, the government acquired more land for outdoor recreation and to protect the natural environment. In 2001, the park became a national park, named by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Outdoor Things You Can Do in Oka National Park
Today, you’ll discover a lot more to do and see than just touring the historic structures of the missionaries.
The total area measures just over nine square miles. Maples and oaks surround the landscape, and the river and tributaries have created wetland habitats. This beautiful park offers solitude and serenity just outside the bustling metropolis of Montreal.
You can hike five different trails in Oka National Park. You can choose to either hike one of the three easy trails, hike the moderate trail, or challenge yourself to take the difficult trail. A few have accessibility for strollers and wheelchairs, and three allow dogs.
Many people enjoy hiking the 2.7-mile Calvaire Trail. Now a historic site, it leads hikers to the restored oratories and chapels and eventually to the summit of Calvaire Oka, where you have a beautiful view of Lac des Deux Montagnes.
Pro Tip: Before you hit the trails, make sure you know these hiking tips that might end up saving your life!
Les Dunes Campground, near the visitor center, offers 42 ready-to-camp tents fully equipped with everything you need for an enjoyable stay in Oka National Park. The tents have a kitchen, a living room, a sleeping area, and heating.
You can also camp at Les Dune Campground in the cube-shaped Étoile ready-to-camp sites.
These structures compare to yurts with a canvas-sealed wood structure. These large tents provide room for six people to sleep but still offer the same conveniences as the tent sites.
You can also stay at the traditional campsites at Oka National Park as these sites accommodate tents and RVs. Some offer full hookups, while others provide partial hookups. All of these camping locations are available May-October depending on the weather.
From mid-May to early September, the beaches of Oka National Park come alive with visitors. These beaches are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. with lifeguards on duty from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
You do have to pay for a parking pass, and we suggest buying this before your arrival. They have also provided picnic tables and charcoal grills so guests can enjoy the sunshine and water the whole day.
Hiking isn’t the only way to explore the trails of Oka National Park. You can rent a bike at the visitor center, and kids can ride for free!
The 25-mile cycling corridor, La Vagabonde, links Oka National Park to nearby cities. This paved bike path includes over six miles within the park’s boundaries.
You can also bike the Sentier du Sommet trail. This rugged trail stretches 4.1 miles and remains a favorite among mountain bikers.
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Many kayakers and paddleboarders enjoy La Crete. Getting out onto the water gives you a completely different view of Oka National Park.
If you don’t have your own kayak, you can rent one. You can choose from a solo or tandem kayak and rent them by the hour, for a half day or a whole day. You can also rent paddleboards, pedal boats, and life jackets.
Finally, due to the diverse landscape of Oka National Park, you’ll find a variety of wildlife. The park is a prime location for birding, from the birds of the marshlands to the ducks or the swamps. The observation tower also provides a unique experience to watch migratory birds in the spring and fall.
If you lace up your hiking shoes or hit the trail on your bike, you’ll likely encounter white-tailed deer, beavers, muskrats, and turtles. The forests have smaller mammals like raccoons and squirrels as well.
How Much Does It Cost to Visit Oka National Park?
Parking costs $9.35 per car or RV when the supervised beach is open.
Bike rentals start at $15.50/hour, solo kayak rentals start at $17/hour, stand-up paddleboard rentals start at $18/hour, and two-seater pedal boat rentals start at $18.25/hour. Rentals are also available for fat bikes, four-seater pedal boats, lockers, canoes, and tandem kayaks.
Before entering Oka National Park, visitors must also pay an entrance fee. Adults cost $9.55/day, and children 17 years and younger are free.
This fee gets you into the national park for one day. Frequent visitors can also purchase an annual Quebec National Parks Card, which provides unlimited access to all national parks for 12 months. This card costs $86 per adult.
Along with unlimited entry for a year, cardholders also get other perks like one free night of camping, a one-day pass for a friend, 25% off parking, and other benefits.
When Is the Best Time to Visit Oka National Park?
The best time to visit Montreal and the neighboring Oka National Park is during March-May or September-November.
These shoulder seasons mean better hotel and accommodation rates and decreased crowds. But the weather is still pleasant in the spring and fall.
However, if you can only visit Oka National Park when the kids get out of school for the summer, you will still have a good time. Just be prepared for larger crowds and warmer temperatures. The kids will have a blast swimming at the supervised beach while you relax along the shoreline.
Is Oka National Park Worth Visiting?
Oka National Park may not be a destination you’ve heard of before. It’s a hidden gem in Quebec definitely worth visiting, especially if you’re planning a road trip through New York or Vermont.
Plan a detour for a couple of days to visit Montreal and then enjoy a respite from the traffic and noise of the city at the park. Pack your hiking boots, swimsuit, and picnic basket, and enjoy at least a day at Oka National Park!
Have you ever visited this national park in Canada?