Arnprior, located 30 minutes west of Ottawa, offers a picturesque winter landscape for those looking to explore the great outdoors. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced snowshoer, there are several fantastic places to go snowshoeing in the area.
Gillies Grove and House National Historic Site (3.6kms):
Gillies Grove is a beautiful forested area situated along the Ottawa River. This historic site is not only rich in natural beauty but also offers a glimpse into the past with the Gillies House, a restored 19th-century mansion. Snowshoers can explore the trails that wind through the tall trees (the tallest tree in Ontario stands proudly here!) and enjoy the serene winter atmosphere. It's an excellent place for beginners and families.
Macnamara Trail (4kms):
The Macnamara Trail is a hidden gem for snowshoers in Arnprior. This trail, located directly beside the Nylene factory, offers a tranquil and immersive winter experience. The trail meanders through a peaceful forested area, making it an excellent choice for nature enthusiasts seeking solitude and serenity during their snowshoeing adventure. The well-marked paths and gentle terrain make it accessible to snowshoers of various skill levels. Keep your eyes peeled for the beauty of the winter landscape and the possibility of spotting local wildlife.
Robert Simpson Park (1.2kms):
Adjacent to Gillies Grove, Robert Simpson Park is a great spot for snowshoeing. The park features a well-maintained, and recently updated riverfront trail that provides easy access to scenic views of both the Madawaska and Ottawa Rivers. With a mix of open areas and wooded sections, it offers a diverse snowshoeing experience suitable for a variety of skill levels.
Arnprior and District Regional Trail (296km Mattawa - Smiths Falls):
The Ottawa Valley Rail Trail is a must-visit destination for snowshoeing enthusiasts in the Ottawa Valley. This trail follows the historic railway route, offering a unique and scenic winter experience. The trail stretches for kilometres, passing through picturesque landscapes, including forests, wetlands, and open fields. Snowshoers can enjoy a peaceful and immersive journey while taking in the natural beauty of the Ottawa Valley.
One important thing to keep in mind while snowshoeing on the Ottawa Valley Rail Trail is that it's a mixed-use trail. This means that in addition to snowshoers, you may encounter snowmobiles and ATVs sharing the path. To ensure a safe and enjoyable experience, it's crucial to be aware of your surroundings and watch out for these motorized vehicles. Stay on the designated path and use caution when crossing intersections or encountering other trail users.
2. Forest Lea Trails
Located just outside of Pembroke, about 1 hour and 40 minutes from downtown Ottawa. Forest Lea Trails offer an unforgettable winter experience, with snowshoeing trails that beckon the adventurous at heart.
While the snowshoe trails at Forest Lea are not maintained, they provide a unique opportunity to explore the untamed winter landscape. Winter bikers are also welcome to traverse these trails, making it a versatile destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
A marked snowshoe trail on Crown Land at Forest Lea is ready for you to explore. The trail starts to the right of the cabin and is marked with yellow circle snowshoe signs. You have the option of a 'short' loop, approximately 1.5 kilometers, or a longer one at 3 kilometers. Both loops begin and end at the same location, with the shorter loop offering a cut-off that heads back to the starting point.
One crucial reminder: Please avoid snowshoeing on the ski trails at Forest Lea Trails. While the snowshoe trail does cross the ski trail at certain points, it never runs alongside it. Always follow the yellow markers, as these indicate the official trail that leads you back to the parking lot. It's worth noting that some adventurous snowshoers may choose to bushwhack their own trails, resulting in several branches and potential confusion. To avoid getting lost, stick to the marked trail with yellow signs.
Calabogie may be renowned for its ski hill, but there's a lot more to discover beyond the downhill slopes! Located about 1 hour from downtown Ottawa, winter brings a unique charm to this Valley town. With beautiful lake views unobstructed by leaves on the trees.
Eagle's Nest Lookout (2.7kms):
For a snowshoeing adventure with yet another breathtaking view, make sure to explore Eagle's Nest Lookout. It's a must-visit spot in the Calabogie area, and snowshoeing to this picturesque lookout will reward you with panoramic vistas that are stunning at all times of the year. This is undoubtedly one of the more popular trails, so be ready to share the trail with lots of other hikers and snowshoers.
K&P Trail (21kms):
Uncover Ontario's captivating history along the K&P (Kingston to Pembroke) Trail, affectionately referred to as the Kick and Push railroad. Operating for more than a century, the K&P Railway played a pivotal role in transporting minerals and timber between Kingston and Renfrew. Today, the K&P Trail stands as a living testament to this historic railway's legacy, offering a 180-km multi-use recreational route.
The northern segment of the trail stretches from Calabogie to Renfrew, covering approximately 21 kilometers. This beloved year-round destination welcomes snowshoers, hikers, cyclists, skiers, and snowmobile enthusiasts to explore its flat terrain. This makes it ideal for snowshoeing, even for beginners and families. Be on the lookout for wildlife, including muskrats, beavers, wolves, coyotes, and a variety of bird species that call this trail's ecosystems home. Additionally, please exercise caution and share the trail responsibly with snowmobilers and ATV users, as it accommodates multiple recreational enthusiasts.
4. Petawawa Terrace Trail
Located 1 hour and 30 minutes from downtown Ottawa, Petawawa Terrace Trail boasts compact, groomed trails perfect for snowshoeing. Park in the lot next to the fish hatchery park at the intersection of Laurentian Drive and Sunset Crescent. From there, the trail leads you through the enchanting woods, eventually opening up to the breathtaking marshes of Petawawa Terrace.
The Petawawa Terrace is a provincial park, overseen by Ontario Parks. With approximately 12 kilometers of well-maintained trails, you'll have plenty of opportunities to explore the pristine wilderness while enjoying picturesque river views. Keep your eyes peeled for the diverse birdlife that calls this area home, and keep an eye out for the majestic Ottawa River.
5. Westmeath Provincial Park
6. Mount Pakenham
Another fantastic option for snowshoeing enthusiasts is Mount Pakenham, just a 35-minute drive from Ottawa. This small ski hill is not just for skiers! With 10 kilometres of scenic trails, Mount Pakenham is a great destination for snowshoeing. You can pick up a trail map at the front counter when you purchase your trail pass. The Trail Day Pass is priced at $12+tax.
Families looking for a fun and educational experience can embark on Mount Pakenham's Wonder Trail: a self-guided adventure offering engaging facts about nature and eastern Ontario wildlife. This fun adventures is designed for ages 8 to 14 and included information about animal scat and tracks, outdoor survival trivia, and a brisk walk in the woods.
7. Wheeler's Pancake House
For those seeking a unique snowshoeing experience combined with a delicious meal, Wheeler's Pancake House is a must-visit! Located about 1 hour and 10 minutes from Ottawa, they offer free admission to 14 kilometres of hiking/snowshoe trails when you have a reservation at the Pancake House. After your outdoor adventure, relax by the fireplace and enjoy a tasty pancake meal.
Wheeler's Pancake House and Sugar Camp features top snowshoeing trails, including:
Woksis Run (3.5 km):
This trail offers a fantastic variety of the sugar bush's beauty. It takes you through mature sections of the sugar bush, alongside conifers, maple stands, swampy areas, and more. Keep an eye out for glacial erratics, beaver ponds, and scenic boardwalks.
Maple Trail (4.5 km):
The longest trail at Wheeler's, the Maple Trail provides varied views of the sugarbush. It starts with the Ridge Trail but branches off to explore deeper into the maple forest.
Ridge Trail (1 km):
This is the most popular trail at Wheeler's, offering a short hike through the sugar bush. The boardwalk from the Maple Heritage Museum leads to a forest amphitheater where you can learn about the seasons and photosynthesis. You'll pass through old growth maple forests, coniferous areas, and sections managed for maple production.
8. Deacon Escarpment
If you're looking for something truly exceptional, consider exploring the Deacon Escarpment in Golden Lake. Located 1 hour and 30 minutes from Ottawa, these trails offer a unique elevated geographic area. Featuring rocky outcrops, oak savannah forest, towering pines, serene ponds, and breathtaking vistas of Golden Lake in the Bonnechere Valley below.
With a Day Use Access Pass priced at $11.30, you can access the 30 kilometres of trails that crisscross this stunning natural landscape. The trails are colour-coded, and you can find a laminated map either at the entrance (main parking lot) or in your cabin if you choose to stay here.
Deacon Escarpment's trails are well marked, but it's worth noting that they are one-way. The main trails are well maintained, while the smaller trails offer a more narrow but equally captivating experience. Many of the trails feature challenging inclines, perfect for those seeking a good workout.
During your snowshoeing adventure at Deacon Escarpment, you'll have the chance to spot numerous animal tracks, sparking your curiosity about the local wildlife. There's also a lookout between the Trackers Cabin and the Sarah Leslie Cabin that provides a panoramic view of the valley and Golden Lake. It's an ideal spot to rest and soak in the natural beauty.
For those who value privacy and an authentic wilderness experience, Deacon Escarpment offers four rustic, hike-in or shuttle-in cabins. These low-impact solar-powered cabins provide a cozy, off-grid retreat that allows you to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of city life.
9. Morris Island Conservation Area
Only 50 minutes from downtown Ottawa, located along the Ottawa River, this 47-hectare site features forested woodlands and wetlands. With 6 kilometres of trails, Morris Island Conservation Area invites you to enjoy the best of Ontario's weather throughout the seasons.
Morris Island Conservation Area is a one-stop destination for hiking, canoeing, kayaking, dog walking, jogging, fishing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing. The area is jointly owned by Ontario Power Generation and the City of Ottawa and is managed by MVCA.
For access, you can purchase passes at the pay machine as you enter the conservation area. Day passes are valid for four hours and cost $6 per vehicle.
Two of the notable trails at Morris Island Conservation Area include:
Causeway Trail (1.7km):
This straight and flat trail is easy to walk and offers absolutely stunning views. The flat causeway was once a former railroad, providing a peaceful walk with panoramic views of small islands with pine trees lining the water. Make sure to pause at the bridge for a moment to take in the breathtaking vistas.
This loop trail takes you through the forest, offering plenty of opportunities to branch off to lookout points by the Ottawa River. It's a scenic trail that immerses you in the natural beauty of the area.
10. Johnny's Lookout Trail, Shaw Woods
So, this winter, escape the hustle and bustle of the city and immerse yourself in the tranquility of snowshoeing in the Ottawa Valley. These remarkable destinations offer a chance to reconnect with nature, create lasting memories, and marvel at the pristine winter landscapes that this picturesque region has to offer.
With your snowshoes strapped on, embark on a journey of discovery, where the whispering pines, crunchy snow, and the beauty of the Ottawa Valley await your exploration. Don't forget to bring your sense of adventure, loved ones, camera, and appreciation for the magic of winter. The Ottawa Valley welcomes you to experience the season in all its glory, one snowshoe step at a time!