The Top 10 Ottawa Hiking and Nature Trails in Ottawa and the surrounding area
If there’s one thing that most of us can agree on, are the physical and mental health benefits of hiking. From reducing the risk of heart diseases, to lowering stress levels and improving your mood, it’s a budget-friendly hobby no matter what the season. Hiking is also a great way to get to know your city better and soak in all the breathtaking views.
If you’re in the Ottawa region, welcome to hiker’s paradise. With scenic hikes within the city’s limits to parks you can find deeper into the wilderness in Quebec and Ontario. You’re just a quick road trip away to some of the best spots to explore in the country!
If you find yourself visiting, living or passing by Ottawa, grab your hiking boots and gear because here are my top 10 Ottawa hiking and nature trails you want to visit at least once in your lifetime!
1. Gatineau Park
If we’re talking about hiking in Ottawa, of course Gatineau Parks is number one on everyone’s list! With over 361 square kilometres of forests, waterfalls, caves and more to explore — it’s no wonder it has landed itself as the second most visited park in Canada. There are a ton of trails and pathways to conquer, with a wide range of difficulty levels. One visit won’t be enough to take in everything the park has to offer. You can even stop by their designated picnic areas after a long day of hiking or go for a quick dip to any of the four major lakes, which includes Meech Lake, Philippe Lake, La Pêche Lake and Leamy Lake.
Gatineau Park is accessible all season whether rain, shine or snow. It’s a different experience depending on whether you go in the summer, fall, spring or winter. Summer hiking season typically starts from April 15 to November 15 with 183 kilometers of pathways to explore. From easy trails like the 1.9 kilometer Sugarbush loop, to intermediate ones like Pink Lake. Work your way up to Lusk Cave trail or Wolf trail.
During the wintertime, the Park offers 10km of winter hiking trails (or more if you’re willing to strap on some snowshoes) like the 1.6-kilometre Capital Pathway trail and the challenging 4.5-kilometre Lauriault Trail.
Before heading off for your outdoor adventure — make sure you check the parkway network hours and access routes. And most importantly, always be sure to refer to the outdoor ethics code and help do you part in conserving the park’s ecosystem and environment. It’s easy to see why Gatineau Park gets the #1 position in the top 10 Ottawa hiking and nature trails list!
2. EAGLE’s nest lookout
Just a short 1 hour drive from Ottawa’s downtown core is Eagle’s Nest Lookout. A popular spot for both hikers and rock climbers. It’s no wonder they call it Eagle’s Nest with the breathtaking bird’s eye view of the Madawaska Highlands. It’s an intermediate hiking trail spanning 8-kilometers in length with multiple different pathways to the lookout. If you get there extra early, you can even watch the sun-rise.
If you want to make the ultimate trip out of it, book a room at the Calabogie Peaks Resort, where you can fish, bike, golf and more. You can also check out the Manitou and Skywalk trail which are all located close by. Once you complete the hike in the summertime, be sure to come back in the winter for a totally different experience and views. And hit the ski hills while you’re at it too!
3. Pinhey Forest Trails
Made up of Trail 30, 31, 32 and 33, Pinhey Forest Trails is located right in the city behind the Nepean Sportsplex and spans around 6.4 kilometres in length. These beginner pathways will lead up to the trail’s sand dunes. Which are believed to have been around for over 10,000 years! While the dunes themselves are sectioned off for restoration, you’ll still be able to walk through a stretch of sand. Making you feel like you’ve transported to the desert.
4. Rideau TraiL
If you’re looking to experience Ottawa’s longest hiking trail this is the one! Featuring a network of trails spanning over a distance of 387 kilometers from the City of Ottawa to the City of Kingston. Hiking trails feature a mix of flat farmlands to rugged terrains of the Canadian Shield. While I would recommend hiking the full trail in sections, if you’re brave enough to do the full trail in one go, you can expect it to take between 9 to 16 days. The route will take you through smaller towns like Smiths Falls, Perth and Merrickville on your way to Kingston.
For overnight accommodation, whether you’re looking for campgrounds or a charming bed and breakfast along the way, check out the Rideau Trail Association site for the full list of places to stop by.
5. Rock Dunder
Speaking of Kingston, halfway between the city of Ottawa and Kingston you’ll find Rock Dunder. Located in the UNESCO Thousand Islands Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve, it’s a 4-kilometer mix of trails that leads up to a panoramic view of the Rideau Waterway. There are three main pathways to explore: The Cabin Trail, The Morton Bay Loop and the Summit Loop. You’ll want to make sure you have some cash handy because you’ll have to purchase a day pass to get access to the trails.
6. Chapman Mills Conservation Area
If you’re looking for an easy, gentle urban trail — Chapman Mills Conservation Area just east of Barrhaven is for you! It’s 1.5 kilometers of boardwalks and walkways along the Rideau River. The trail also passes under the newly built Vimy Memorial bridge. With picnic areas and scenic lookouts, this 23-acres of protected land is truly a hidden gem of the city.
7. Stony Swamp
With over 40 kilometers of trails to explore in the city’s most popular wetlands and forests region. Stony Swamp is home to over 700 species of plants and over 250 rare bird species. The region is located in the Greenbelt between Kanata, Bells Corners and Barrhaven, making it an easily accessible spot. From the Jack Pine Trail to Lime Kiln Trail, many of the boardwalks connect, which makes it easy to extend or shorten your hikes as needed. If you have a furry loved one in your life, bring your dog to Bruce Pit. This location has 3.2 kilometers of off-leash dog walking area.
8. Mer Bleue
Located east of the city’s limit, you’ll find the second largest bog in southern-Ontario known as the Mer Bleue Bog. Mer Bleue is one of the more popular hiking areas in Ottawa. Boasting over 8,500 acres of conservation in the Greenbelt region, this 7,700-year-old bog is one of nature’s greatest playground. Featuring over 20 kilometers of paths to explore, hike trails range from beginner to intermediate will lead you to some incredibly diverse plants and animals that are more commonly found in a northern boreal landscape than in the Ottawa Valley.
There are also a ton of picnic spots along the way so you can refuel and enjoy the views.
9. Pine Grove Trail
If you’re looking for an easy hike located just south of downtown Ottawa, you’ll want to put Pine Grove Trail on your Ottawa bucket list. With 18.4 kilometers of trails to explore, you can take a self-guided tour along the forestry interpretation trail and even visit the tree identification arboretum. Pine Grove has the largest region of forest in the Greenbelt and is arguably more popular during the wintertime. With Winter outdoor activities like tobogganing, cross-country and snowshoeing being a fan-favourite for this trail. Your furry friend can also join in on the action at Conroy Pit — a dog park located within the region.
10. Shirleys Bay Trail
With over 7 kilometers of hiking trails — made up of the Watts Creek Pathway and the Greenbelt Pathway West — Shirleys Bay is a natural wetland and conservation area that sits on the Ottawa River. Located on an important migration route for Canada’s arctic and boreal birds, this trail has become a popular spot for birdwatchers with more than 270 species identified over the years. You can also find an additional 19.3 kilometres of multi-use pathways for biking, skiing and snowshoeing for all your outdoor adventure needs all year round.
So there you have it – the top 10 Ottawa hiking and nature trails list in 2021! What are your favourite trails? Feel free to share with us!