Ultimate Guide to Spring Hiking Trails in Ottawa + Region

Spring is in the air! Can you feel it?! I can. It’s always springs (pun intended) a renewed sense of well-being and adventure. Many of us are like sprinters at the start line, just oh-so-eager to get on the trails. I hear ya!

Although really, winter is my favourite hiking season and I think I’ve shared enough to encourage a few of you to also get out and enjoy the calmness that winter hiking brings. No matter, spring is around the corner – bring on the wildflowers and waterfalls! So, how can we make the most of the season, while recreating responsibly? Read on…

Parc nationale de Plaisance

Responsible Recreation Insights

The name of the game when getting out in nature is to ‘take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but tracks’.  Here are a insights and considerations when it comes to hiking during spring (aka mud season).

Many trail managers opt to do trail and facility repairs during the early spring, check the specific trail your planning to hike before you head out.

Early spring is considered ‘mud season’ and in order to protect our trails and ecological efforts always remember to hike through the mud and not around.

Overall, most trail systems that have groomed trails for skiing or snowshoeing specific trails, switch back over to hiking designated trails by April 15th (or prior depending on weather conditions). A good example is our local NCC trails in the Greenbelt and in Gatineau Park. It’s always worth checking before you  go.

Know what trails are designated no dogs permitted, on-leash dogs permitted, and off-leash dogs permitted. Check out ‘The Ultimate Guide to Hiking with Dogs in Ottawa + Region‘ for trails details, insights, and recommendations.

Hiker Hacks for Early Spring

Try out these insights to make the most of your spring hiking season!

  • always check area public health guidelines prior to adventuring (check zone changes!)
  • opt for inner city/town trails in early spring (paved trails and boardwalks)
  • choose trails with southern exposure (increased sun and drier trails)
  • focus on local trail clean up activities (like the Eco-Activist Series Challenge)
  • consider hiking with poles to increase balance through the mud
  • bring extra socks and shoes/boots for post hike (and have a brush to clean hikers before leaving)
  • keep your day pack stocked with the ten essentials for out of the city hikes (free packing lists)

Ticks and Lyme Disease

Assume that every trail has ticks.⁠ Because it likely does, at least in Ontario, and certainly in Ottawa. This is simply a part of hiking in 2020. In 2018 a @uottawa found that 1 in 3 ticks in our area tested positive for lyme disease. Nymph ticks are as small as poppy seeds, yet the ones most likely to carry the disease.⁠

Prepare & Prevent:⁠ Apply insect repellent with DEET or icardin (use Health Canada approved products only)⁠. Wear long sleeve shirts, pants, sock, and hikers. Tuck those pants into your socks!⁠ Wearing light coloured clothing helps you spot ticks.⁠ Always stay on the path.⁠ Always do a full body check post hike.⁠ (Adapted from Ottawa Public Health)

Hikers Hacks:⁠ Choose trails with wide paths making it easier to stay away from long grass.⁠ Use a sticky lint roller post hike to help remove/identify ticks.⁠ Shower post hike and do a second full body check.⁠ Put hiking clothes in dryer for 10 mins.⁠

Be Bear Aware

Bear spray is a controlled item in Ontario⁠, and can be purchased at local outdoor stores like @cabelas with proof of ID and signature. Carry bear spray in an easy access location and learn how to use bear spray properly. Emergency call 911. Non-emergency call Bear Wise reporting line at 1-866-514-2327 (TTY 705-945-7641 )

If you encounter a BLACK BEAR. First of all, know that black bear attacks are extremely rare. Stop. Stay calm. Do not panic. Slowly back away while keeping the bear in sight and wait for it to leave. If the bear does not leave, throw objects, wave your arms and make noise with a whistle or air horn. Prepare to use bear spray. If you are near a building or vehicle get inside as a precaution. Drop any food you may be carrying and slowly move away. If a bear is in a tree, leave it alone. Leave the area. The bear will come down when it feels safe. Sourced from www.ontario.ca

DO NOT Run, climb a tree or swim. Do not kneel down, make direct eye contact, or approach the bear to get a better look/picture. Never attempt to feed a bear.

Amazing Resources

What to up your hiking game? It starts with curiousity and access to great resources to learn from. Try checking out some of these:

Spring Hiking trails with Wildflowers

Did you know that Ottawa and region has an abundance of trails that spring up gorgeous wildflowers in late May / early June?! We do! Trilliums, pitcher plants, wild orchids… Here are some of my favourite spots to ‘stop and smell the roses’:

Also noteworthy, is our ‘Lilac Capital of Ontario’, Franktown. You can take a walk or drive down Lilac Lane which is walled with large fragrant lilac bushes when in full bloom.

Spring Hiking Trails with Waterfalls

Everyone loves exploring waterfalls, some are gorgeous year round and others are best in spring. Here are a few trails and location of waterfalls to explore:

Spring Hiking Trails with Bird Watching

In the winter we’re focused on owls, woodpeckers, and chickadees mostly. In the spring however, flora and fauna really come alive that we have some fantastic areas to observe birds.

  • Upper Canada Bird Sanctuary in Stormont, Dundas, & Glengarry County
  • Almonte Lagoon trail in Lanark County
  • Cooper Marsh in Stormont, Dundas, & Glengarry County
  • Mac Johnson Conservation Area in Leeds and Grenville County
  • Foret la blanche Ecological Reserve in l’Outaouais

What are your favourite Spring hiking Trails or insights?

Comment below with your favourite spring hiking trails! Any that I missed for waterfalls, wildflowers, or birding?  Do you have hiking hacks specifically for spring or eco insights that you’d love to share? It would be great to hear them!