Well, it was the busiest weekend of the season on the hiking trails! Everyone is rushing out in droves to catch the last of those stunning fall colours. For some reason (ahem, my darling scientific friends, feel free to explain why in the comments below), there are not as many reds this year. Instead the valley is filled with a spirit lifting sea of bright yellows and fiery orange. Which is a-ok with me!
And while the majority of Ottawa nature lovers headed to Gatineau Park, we went the opposite direction to Lanark County with the goal to sit peacefully on the top of Blueberry Mountain and soak in mother nature in her fall finest. Oh, did we ever.
The autumn wind blew, friends laughed, and sun shined over the valley. Goodbye city stress, and hello to where I feel best.
The Low Down
- Directions: Scroll below for detailed directions
- Cellphone Range: Yes, best signal is at the lookouts.
- Trail Distance: 4.3kms return from parking to Blueberry Mountain (although it feels shorter!).
- Elevation Gain: 140m approximately.
- Duration: 1 hr dependent on fitness level.
- Dogs: As long as they are leashed.
- Crowds: Extreme mild to none.
- Washrooms: None.
- Entrance Fee: Free.
- Waiver Required: You’ll need to sign a waiver prior to starting on the trail. Either print and bring in with you to leave in the drop box at the trail head or fill one out there. Since this is privately owned land, it is understandable that a waiver is required for the public to access the trails. Kindly respect this protocol.
- Season: Open year round.
- Suggested Stops: On your way home, stop in for a little shopping in Almonte (like our friends at Cheerfully Made!) or lunch and a coffee at Equator (the chicken club was our team fave).
- More Information: Visit the cliffLAND website for info.
- Distance: A picturesque 110km (roughly 1.5hrs) drive from downtown Ottawa.
- Address: 502 Hills of Peace Rd.
- Directions: From Ottawa take the 417 West and continue on the 17 West (towards Arnprior/Renfrew/Pembroke). Exit on the (March Rd). Turn left (South) towards Almonte on County Road 49. Follow the 49 through Almonte, Middleville, and then Hopetown where you hit a T junction. Turn right (West) on County Road 511. Once you hit Brightside, turn left on to French Line Road. Next is a right turn on Flower Station Road. You’ll drive past Joe’s lake on the left and eventually it’ll turn to a dirt/gravel road. Take a final right turn on Hills of Peace Road. The trailhead is clearly marked at the end of this road (and right beside the Clifford family home). cliffLAND also has a map and directions posted for you to print.
Blueberry Mountain has evading my hiking list for far too long. It’s little known to Ottawa folks, but rich beyond measure in flora, fauna, and friendly eco loving owners. You see, this is no park. Blueberry Mountain is on privately owned land (adorably called CliffLAND for the Clifford family that owns it) and under a conservation easement with Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust (MMLT).
How lucky were we to run into Howard Clifford on the trails, gearing up to take a group on a longer hike through the woods to the second peak (pulpit rock)! Blueberry Mountain is the only self-guided hike for the public to enjoy, however if you contact them you can arrange for a guided hike on one of the other trails. These hike require a guide for good reason, they are unmarked and without clear paths. Anywhoooooo, Howard is a gem of a soul. Visibly lighting up when chatting about the land, its history, and the wildlife. I could have stayed an chatted for much longer!
It’s a marvel that such a trail is protected by a family that loves it, yet it is graciously open to the public to enjoy.
I found it interesting that the property was once home to a wilderness school (now that’s the kind of school I would have enjoyed).
“cliffLAND, previously referred to as the Alba Wilderness Property and once home to the Alba Wilderness School is composed of 1250 acres of beautiful wilderness located high in the hills of the Lanark Highlands” You can read more about the property’s history on the cliffLAND website.
What really won me over while researching the hike however was when the cliffLAND website stated: “The Clifford’s believe that humans, wildlife, and pure wilderness can co-exist together.” All the love my friends, all the love.
What to bring
- Bear bell/spray: There are bears and other wildlife in the area. So if you’re hiking solo or in a small group, then a bear bell and/or spray is advised.
- Waste bag: What you hike in with, you hike out with. That’s the golden rule, and if you see anything that’s not part of nature (like food wrappers) kindly pick it up to throw out later.
- 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.
Blueberry Mountain Trail is easy to follow and clearly marked. For the most part it is a wider path with a gentle incline. What I really enjoyed was the multiple signage along the route explaining the flora and fauna points of interest.
This really is a lovely walk through the woods with all kinds of flora, ponds, streams, and birds.
Two things to note; a) that the last 140 m to the first lookout has a steeper incline and b) there is no outhouse at the parking or trail so if you’re brave enough, follow backcountry bathroom etiquette. If not…hooooooold it.
Oh. My. Heavens. I know, I know, I get excited over all-the-views. I’m a bonafied ‘lookout’ junky. I just love looking out over the valley ya know? It’s peaceful, grounding, and makes the whole world seem right again.
There are two fantastic lookouts at the top of Blueberry Mountain. And as Howard pointed out (if you have a good enough eye), you can see Manitou Mountain and the top of the chair lift for Calabogie Ski Resort off in the distance. You have to look carefully, but it’s there!
The lookouts leave plenty of room to share the view with others although we had the place to ourselves for a solid 30 mins prior to another group hiking up the trail. For a weekend that had all the trails packed, having that half an hour to ourselves at the peak was pure bliss and we were thankful.
I Love You a Latte
What hiking trip is complete without a post trail lunch?! Back towards Almonte we went and straight to Equator to refuel! I’m lovin’ the newly renovated area for the coffee shop – it’s bright, open, and one of my favourite spots to study. This time though, there was no school on the mind. I’m actually pretty sure I was still smiling ear to ear from that wonderful hike when I made my lunch order.
Aaaaaaand although no one likely cares about what I eat, I do have to say that the chicken club sandwich was ridiculously delish. Oh, and we had coffee, because at this point I’m pretty sure the world revolves around coffee. #nursingschoolproblems
Wrapping it up
What can I say, Blueberry Mountain may be considered one of the Seven Wonders of Lanark but I dare say it’s a lesser know gem for the whole Ottawa valley. Have you hiked Blueberry Mountain yet? Or fortunate enjoy to enjoy a guided hike?
Maybe, just maybe, the fall colours will stick around for another weekend. Regardless, I’ll be back to enjoy Blueberry Mountain! A little know fact is that this girl doesn’t stop hiking and thinks that winter hiking is the best. #justalittlebitcrazy