Rock Dunder in Frontenac: Hiking Guide

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IMPORTANT NOTE: “Starting September 18, 2020, visitation to Rock Dunder hiking trails will be limited to 30 groups per hour to manage the number of people onsite at any one time and allow for social distancing protocols to be followed. This will allow everyone to better enjoy their visit in a safe manner.” ~ Conservation Lands Rideau Waterway Land Trust

Rock Dunder is one of the best overall hiking options in the Ottawa/Kingston area with it’s dramatic views, rustic cabins, and oh-so-climbable trees.

There is a reason it’s the backdrop to so many profile and dating pictures. It’s got the ‘wow’ factor. A trail so fun and beautiful that I hiked it twice in the fall, yet only writing about it now?! Eeek. My bad. In my mind this post was already up…obvs not. Ha ha. The speaks to my oh-so-terrific memory of things. Or maybe to the craziness of late? Everything is a blur. Anywoooo…that was a rabbit hole. <shrugs shoulders> So back to this you-must-experience hike!

Rock Dunder

The Low Down

  • Distance: A lovely country drive roughly 130 kms (approx 1hr 20mins) drive from downtown Ottawa.
  • Address: Stanley Lash Lane, Lyndhurst, ON K0E 1N0
  • Directions: Take the 417 West, to 7 West, to the 15 towards Smith Falls. Continue through Smith Falls on Hwy 15 towards Crosby and Elgin.  Stanley Lash Lane is 9kms past Elgin on the right (west) side.
  • Cellphone Range: Spotty throughout the trails depending on your provider, excellent reception at lookout.
  • Trail Distance: Over 5 kms of trails to explore.
  • Elevation Gain: Approx 75m elevation gain.
  • Duration: 1-3hrs depending on which trail loops are explored and fitness level.
  • Dogs: Yes, leashed.
  • Crowds: Ridiculously busy during peaks days (weekends) and hours (10am to sunset)
  • Washrooms: There is an outside (it’s clean!) at the trailhead.
  • Entrance Fee: Buy online – 10$ per vehicle per visit or you can purchase a 50$ season pass.
  • Season: May 15th to November 15th, sunrise to sunset.
  • More Information:  Visit the Rideau Waterway Land Trust and the Frontenac Arch Biosphere for trail maps, tickets, and more info.

Good Company

As far as having good company on the trails, I think I’ve pretty much won the lotto.  Whether it’s new friends, new hikers, new trails…it always ends up being a great time. Almost the perfect mix of social and solitude really. I’m grateful to have the type of people in my life that will randomly go explore a trail with me. It’s all part of a master plan though, the more people I get outside, then more comfortable they become with new trails, then maybe they’ll take out their friends – and the cycle continues. It’s pretty wild to see that positive ripple effect in play.

Rock Dunder
Rock Dunder

What to bring

Besides the 10 essentials and what I would normally suggest for hikes, here are the highlights for this particular outdoor adventure:

  • Water: All the drinking water you’ll need and extra snacks on top of your meals.
  • Small Picnic: It is a large lookout area and the perfect spot for lunch (just hike out whatever you hike in)
  • Garbage Bag: Help keep our trails clean by picking up any trash and hiking it out.
  • DEET: Bug spray is a MUST for the summer months. Remember your tick protocols.
Rock Dunder

Rock Dunder Trails

Hey guys, this ain’t no small time slice of near-the-city wilderness with an impressive total of 230 acres. The trails are are clearly marked and colour coded (print out that colour map). The trails are well maintained throughout, easy to hike, and offer plenty of views/rest posts. The Frontenac Arch Biosphere  website describes the trails best as below;

“The Cabin Trail is an easy 1.3 km walk past a beaver pond, through mixed forest and a white pine plantation.

The Morton Bay Loop comprises two moderately steep sections to and from a small peninsular outlook over Morton Bay. The hike is 2km through mixed forest.

The Summit Loop is a 3.9km climb which runs alongside Dean’s Island through a variety of forest, offering sneak peaks over rocky cliffs. The summit offers a panoramic view of the Rideau Waterway.”

Rock Dunder

Rock Dunder Lookout

Do I really need to say much here, or is it best just to show all the pictures? Ya. Thought so.

Rock Dunder
Rock Dunder

This, this is why is ends up being the backdrop for so many local pictures. It’s stunning. Although it’s a popular trail, the lookout is massive. There’s more than enough room for everyone to take pictures or simply take in the moment or both.  As you can see, it is spectacular in the fall with the valley below lighting up with bright yellows and orange hues.

Rock Dunder Points of Interest

Along with the varied terrain, what actually makes Rock Dunder a fun trail is the multiple points of interest along the routes. We raced around the forest, climbed trees, chilled by the lake, and explored rustic cabins. The old time cabins are admittedly a little creepy for some (what it is about them that makes them so…eerie?!?!) but be brave! Go explore and have fun with it.

Rock Dunder
Rock Dunder
Rock Dunder
Rock Dunder

I Love You a Latte

Sure, the fastest route home is by taking the highways but if you’re still up for a little small town exploring or hungry as all get out try taking a detour to see my friends John and Cynthia at The Cottage Coffee in Westport for an epic sandwich and caffeine fix.

The Cottage Coffee

Wrapping it up

If you’re looking for a family adventure or solo hike or friendly-hiking-type-social-with-friends, Rock Dunder is a good fit. I loved it. No laughing, but even though I rarely hike in Ontario in the summer (chalk it up to my fear of bugs), I’d likely brave it (read: all the DEET) and do this one again soon! Other hikes on repeat for this summer? Well that will be chutes-de-denholm, oiseau rock, and a stay at Deacon Escarpment again!

Victoria xo