There is a reason that GirlGoneGood® is partnered with #NatureForAll, because hiking and getting out into nature really is for everyone. It is our job as a community to ensure accessibility and inclusion when it comes to our trails and ecological wonders. Whatever your reason for seeking out gentle hikes, whether it’s comfort level, mobility needs, little hikers/robust strollers, or interest – this post is for you. We’ll explore recommendations for boardwalks, gentle hikes with features, and mild elevation trails in Ottawa and region.
What is a gentle Hike?
In my books, what I’m looking for when listing gentle hikes are trails that offer little to no elevation, have little to no trip hazards (like rocks and roots), wide pathways, and have some unique features that make them beautiful trails to explore and enjoy.
Boardwalks and Birds
We are very fortunate to live in a region that offers up such a wide range trail types and environments. I think the marshlands are incredible with their boardwalks and most often, abundance of bird life. Not to mention, they make gorgeous backdrops for sunrise or sunset pictures…
- Baxter Conversation Area in Ottawa: An excellent spot for children as well with the learning centre, interpretive signs, lookout tower, viewing plateform, and beach. Flat mix of trail and boardwalk through the forested area.
- Purdon Conservation Area in Lanark County: Boardwalk through the orchid colony area (blloms in June) and a boardwalk lookout over Purdon Pond.
- Cooper Marsh Conservation Area in Stormont, Dundas, & Glengarry County: Another excellent spot of grandparents and children alike with boardwalks through the marshlands, bird viewing platforms, chickadee feeders, small tower, and a learning centre.
- Upper Canada Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Stormont, Dundas, & Glengarry County: Boardwalk through the marshlands with plenty of bird watching opportunities. Can combine trails for a longer hikes.
- Mer Bleu Conservation Area in Ottawa: Short and very popular boardwalk hike over the marshlands, gorgeous particularly in the fall when the larches turn bright golden yellow.
- Parc Nationale de Plaisance in l’Outaouais: Offers multiple trails with unique features like an observation tower, suspension bridge, and waterfalls. Try the La Zizanie-des-Marais try where parking is available at the trailhead and you can walk the 1km loop and observe marsh wildlife.
- Chapman Mills Conservation Area in Ottawa: A popular trail along the the Rideau River in Barrhaven/Riverside South that offers benches and bridges.
Flat walks with Features
There’s no need to be bored on the trails in our region, plenty of the paths interesting interesting features to admire like full forest immersion, lookout points, wildflowers, maple production, learning centre or interpretive signs.
- Two Creeks Forest Conservation Area in Stormont, Dundas, & Glengarry County: Features a lush forest walk, wide trails, and a meadow walk. Nearby beaches on the St-Lawrence seaway.
- Carp River Conservation Area in Ottawa: Features a paved section, carp river, and a beautiful spot to catch the sunset.
- Morris Island Conservation Area in Ottawa: Rich is wildlife, fully accessible section with the bridge, and islands that remind you of a group of seven painting.
- Oschmann Forest in Stormont, Dundas, & Glengarry County: Short trail, covered in trilliums in the spring, and maple production with interpretive signs.
- Almonte Lagoon in Lanark County: 800m walk, lagoon view and bird watching plateform with bird identification posters as reference, small viewing tower, chickadees in forest section.
- Tay River Pathway in Lanark County: Under 2km, wide flat trail, flower garden, forested area, and a viewing platform at the river. trailhead located behind the seniors residence.
- Limerick Forest in Leeds & Grenville County: A short interpretive located at the centre. Long boardwalk over the marsh section.
- Burnt Lands Provincial Park in Lanark County: Rich in flora, this alvar (over limestone) is an ecologically significant area. Wildflowers and butterflies in springtime.
- The Pines Community Forest in Lennox & Addington Count: Offers full forest immersion for those that love to hear the birds sing and large pines offering a majestic overhead canopy.
Short Walks with Big Wins
Certainly I’ll be looking to grow this list, so if you have more trails to suggestion that are short but have ‘big wins’ please comment below so that I can go hike them myself and then add!
- Foley Mountain in Lanark County: Features a 400m walk to Spy Rock that overlooks the town of Westport.
- Mont Morisette in l’Outaouais: Features an incredible observation tower with 360′ views of the hills in Outaouais and it is the perfect spot to watch the sunrise. You can drive up to the tower instead of hiking, and there is also another viewing platform along trail 2 less than 1 km away.
- Alfred Bog in Prescott-Russell County: This 400m boardwalk trail offers up wild orchids and pitcher plants during the summer.
- Sheila McKee Park in Ottawa: A short trail, it does have stairs down to the beach and some elevation. The beach is an other fantastic spot to watch the sun rise over the Ottawa River.
These gentle hiking trails offer mild elevation dips and gains (< 20m) and the chance to really enjoy nature.
- Lanark County Forest (Gun Creek Trail) in Lanark County: Is a beautiful and tranquil well marked marked trail that is a 2.5km hike through the forest with a rest stop at the river.
- Summerstown Trails in Stormont, Dundas, & Glengarry County: Multiple trail options are available for this forestlands hike. In the spring, the ground is covered in triliums.
- Mac Johnson Conservation Area in Leeds and Grenville County: Offers multiple trail length options, wide trails, and a lookout point over the water reserve. It is rich in bird life including trumpeter swans!
No doubt that this list will grow and change over time, but it’s a good starting point to help you make the most out of the summer!
I was fortunate enough last week to be a guest speaker for MERA School House which is our local recreation and arts community centre. They are the most wonderful group and it was a pleasure to share a few hiking insights and roadtrip ideas with them. One of the questions was to recommend gentle hikes and/or hikes that would be suitable for grandparents to bring their grandchildren to – hence this post. Since then, there were a few other organizations that requested the same, and it’s been a pleasure to share the little local knowledge I have on this.
There will be more posts in the future that are focused on hiker types (including family friendly trails and resources). Feel free to also check out The Ultimate Guide to Spring Hiking in Ottawa + Region and the Ultimate Guide to Hiking with Dogs in Ottawa + Region.