The warmer weather is here (hopefully to stay), which means it’s a great opportunity to venture out to one of the many family-friendly trails in Ottawa. Although some trails are open year-round for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, spring opens up further opportunities to get outside and explore during what is usually a quieter time of year on the trails.
Of course, the term “family-friendly” is subjective. If you have a stroller some of the trails may be a little difficult to navigate. Mer Bleue, which has a boardwalk trail, may be okay. The idea is that these trails are not difficult to walk, are not overly long to complete, and are scenic - offering kids of all ages a chance to explore the best that Mother Nature has to offer in Ottawa.
1) Mud Lake Trail
Located along the Ottawa River in west Ottawa, Mud Lake is a 2-kilometre trail through deciduous swampland. It is a popular migratory stop for many species of birds (over 250 bird species have apparently been recorded there!) and this area is currently being studied for its invasive plant species. There are tall pines, lake views and you can walk over to Britannia Beach from the trail.
This area is very unique and the trail is a great length for younger kids. Because this is an ecologically sensitive area, visitors are asked to not pick plants, and not capture or handle any animals. Free parking.
2) Mer Bleue Bog Trail
A popular trail in the east end, Mer Bleue Bog Trail follows a boardwalk that loops around the wetland. This 1.2 km trail is short enough that young kids can explore it with ease. There are other trails off the boardwalk as well for older kids or those looking for more outdoor adventure. Parking is free.
3) Stony Swamp Trails
Located in Southwest Ottawa, Stony Swamp has over 40 kilometres of trails, some of which connect to the Trans Canada Trail. Some of the more family-friendly ones include Jack Pine Trail, which crosses over beaver tails, and Sarsaparilla Trail, which has a lookout over a beaver pond. The Wild Bird Care Centre is also located along Stony Swamp. Free parking outside the trail entrances.
4) Shirley’s Bay
In addition to 7 kilometers of hiking trails, Shirley’s Bay also has 19 kilometres of walking trails. The shoreline trail (tail #10) is a 4 km loop that provides great views of the Ottawa River. This is also a great spot to bring your canoe or kayak, as well as a picnic lunch!
5) Green’s Creek
A great tail for older kids, Green’s Creek has some steeper hills, but offers some unique urban ruins, including ruins from an old train trestle bridge. If you're looking for something a little different and about more than just bird watching and nature, this is a great trail to try.
Before venturing out with the family for a leisurely hike, here are a few tips:
1) Pack bug spray. Once the snow melts and the temperatures rise, remember the bug spray! This is especially important in early spring when the black flies make their appearance.
2) Wear shoes and socks. Ticks and Lyme disease are on the rise in Eastern Ontario and although not all the paths and trails have long grass, many do. Ticks also like to hide out in cedars and other bushes.
3) Don’t forget snacks and water. Kids get hungry and thirsty, so it’s great to be prepared. When their tummy rumbles half way through the hike you have some snacks to get them through… also some special treats are a good incentive if they suddenly don’t want to walk anymore.
4) Don’t get burned. Even in spring the sun can be strong, so remember the sunscreen, sunglasses and hats!
5) Dogs are not always welcome. While some Ottawa trails welcome dogs, some do not. You’re always best to check the NCC website to ensure your furry family member is welcome