Hiking and respecting our local trails becomes effortless when you understand the land.
Why is it so hard to find trail information? Why are there different trail rules?
The short answer to both those questions is that the land is managed by different people all with their own priorities (community building, ecological efforts, fitness, business) and resources (funding, employees, volunteers).
This is why GirlGoneGood® created the ‘Guide to Hiking Trails in Ottawa + Region’ and the wilderness section of this website – to consolidate, with accuracy, the information you need to find the right trail and hike safely while respecting self, others, and nature.
Types of Land Ownership + Management
Governments (Federal, Provincial)
When we normally think of crown land, we think of government owned land that is unmanaged and open (within regulations) for hiking, camping, and hunting. In actually, the term ‘crown land’ refers to all land owned by either the Federal or Provincial government. Which means our Parks Canada and Ontario Parks sites as well. In Ontario, 87% of our land is crown land and is managed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. You can learn more about how this land is managed and the process to use crown land by visiting the Province of Ontario.
The best information I can find states that we have 19 counties, 3 united counties and 8 regional municipalities or regions in Ontario. Within those, we have 444 municipalities!
Understanding municipality types can be like a good Dr Seuss riddle at the beginning if you’re not familiar. There are different types and can include a county, town, or city. Here’s an example: the town of Almonte is in the Municipality of Mississippi Mills in Lanark County.
This is mostly private land owned by organizations and businesses that is open to the public.
Example: Some sugar bushes also have hiking trails on the property that they open to the public, however the land is privately owned and the sugar bush is their business. Another example is Macnamara Trail in Arnprior. The land is owned by the neighbouring business and the trails are managed by the Macnamara Field Naturalists’ Club.
There are instances where individuals own land that is either opened to the public to hike and/or turned into a nature reserve.
Example: Blueberry Mountain at CliffLAND in Lanark County is private land owned by the Cliffords and managed by the Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust.
In Southeastern Ontario, we have eight Conservation Authorities:
Conservation Authorities, Areas, and Watersheds
Conservation Ontario represents 36 Conservation Authorities. Each Conservation Authority not only has conservation areas that they manage (and we all love hiking in them!), but more importantly the Conservation Authorities are watershed management agencies.
What does that mean and what is a watershed?!
Conservation Ontario states: “Unique to Ontario, Conservation Authorities are local watershed management agencies that deliver services and programs to protect and manage impacts on water and other natural resources in partnership with all levels of government, landowners and many other organizations.” These efforts are vital not only for conservation purposes but for the safety of the community (think flooding).
Watersheds are not organized by governmental boundaries but are rather an area of land that “catches rain and snow and drains or seeps into a marsh, stream, river, lake or groundwater” learn more from Conservation Ontario.
(Image sourced from Conservation Ontario and to be used for general reference only)
Counties and Regions in Southeastern Ontario
For the sake of ease, the ‘Guide to Hiking Trails in Ottawa + Region’ and this website focuses on organizing trails by county or region. The counties, or perhaps we should say ‘municipalities’ although that’s a bit confusing isn’t it? Let’s stick with counties, the counties in Southeastern Ontario include Prescott-Russell, Stormont Dundas & Glengarry, Leeds Grenville, City of Ottawa, Lanark, Renfrew, Frontenac, Lennox + Addington, Prince Edward, and Hastings.