Urban Wild Exploring: Finding New Places - Part Three

There are so many ways you can discover new wild spaces to explore.

I've already provided some ideas for locations and things to consider when searching for new urban nature sites (Wild. Here. Exploring Part 1) and I've highlighted some organizations, events and initiatives to look into that may offer urban nature experiences (Wild. Here. Exploring Part 2).

Now I have another list that could point you to some other easy to access resources for getting to know the hidden green gems in your city!

These gems can be larger wild areas or they might just be smaller and simpler locations close by such as the wilder edges of parks, an urban brownfield or pedestrian shortcuts or paths that provide views and vistas that you hadn't realized were there.

The main thing is to get out and explore - even if you hear about a new location or find a place on a map, it's hard to tell what is there at the site unless you ground truth it.  You'll never really know what's there unless you check it out yourself!
ground truth (╔íround tro͞oTH): a term used in various fields to refer to information provided by direct observation - collected on location (link)


  • Ask your friends, ask people you meet, ask those who are leading walks, just keeping asking people where their favourite nature spots are in the city!
  • Local blogs (on urban, outdoor activities and/or environment topics) may highlight natural areas and nature events that are occurring in outdoor spaces that are worth exploring.  There's also the national Spacing magazine (look at the "Parks" + "Green Space" categories) - it can reveal some great ideas in major cities across Canada.
  • How about your city newspaper - if you have a subscription?  There's the outdoor section, garden events and even possibly a day trip column that could provide hints. 
  • Instagram is another option. You can search through local nature tags or just specific city tags and you'll find some of the regular instagramers who probably know the best outdoor spots for scenery, sunsets, etc. You can also check if they geotagged their photo (check for location (geotag) just under their name)!
  • Reddit is also a great resource - just ask the local Reddit community for recommendations!  I've read about some small hidden spots downtown and learned about a lazy river float planned for Gatineau River.  No matter what your speed or interest, the Reddit community can give you some insight! 


  • iNaturalist is a great website for nature lovers to record flora and fauna observations anywhere in the world.  You don't even need an account to see what's been spotted in your neck of the woods.  Just hop on the site (on any of your devices) and choose: Explore.
  • Check with your local environmental organizations.  For example, Ottawa Riverkeeper has created an interactive map of the Voyageur Pathway on the Gatineau side and Nature Canada offers a virtual tour of the Nature Hood in Ottawa: Lac Desch├¬nes which is an IBA (Important Bird & Biodiversity Area).
  • Depending on where you are and/or where you are visiting, you can find great apps to help you find wild spaces - whether it's crowd sourced like Yonder (where you can search for sites for birdwatching, geocaching or even outdoor yoga, among other activities) or whether it is information-driven like the Parcours Riverain (Montreal),  Nature Near Me (New South Wales) or Nature Finder (U.K.) app. 


  • Check out dog-friendly locations. Find out about some of the lesser known parks or wilder areas that your friends with dogs frequent.  If you're not keen on having dogs run up to you, choose an on-leash area and/or visit during off peak hours (i.e. weekday late mornings, early afternoon, overcast days) so that you get to enjoy the location without the crowds.  TIP: We especially like visiting popular dog walking spots in the winter as there will be paths trodden down through the snow.
  • Give yourself an outdoor challenge.  A friend told me about how someone she knew challenged themselves to walk every street in their city.  To get more exposure to nature, make it every bike path or a visit to every park.  Or how about a 365 photography challenge to take one picture outdoors every day or get to know 52 new flora or fauna species by learning the identification of a different animal or plant each week?

What other great ways are there 
to discover new and exciting urban wild locations?  

I think part of it for me is discovering cool spots or having an amazing encounter with wildlife. These are things that you have to experience for yourself!  So even if something seems unexciting or possibly even less than promising, it's worth it to get outside and check for yourself.  And you just never know...  Just this weekend, we went for a walk along a trail by the water that we check out every couple of months or so.  We were observing the arc of the setting sun (for future photo opportunities), found signs of beavers and I even encountered an intrepid white moth (flying above the frozen ground) - all great experiences and encounters from a basic city trail by the water.

What's been your greatest resource?

Photo by Viliam Glazduri (Instagram, Flickr, 500 px) Contributor to Wild. Here.

Other Posts on Urban Wild Exploring:

Intro to Urban Wild Exploring (Wild. Here. May 2016)

Urban Wild Exploring: Finding New Places - Part One (Wild. Here. July 2016)

Urban Wild Exploring: Finding New Places - Part Two (Wild. Here. August 2016)

Next Up: Urban Wild Exploring: Searching for and Sightings of Wildlife (Stay Tuned!)


  1. www.ebird.org is a great resource for people looking for outdoor areas with birds. You can pull up a map of your city and see pins where people have recently reported bird species. It's very popular and up to date.

  2. Thanks so much Laura! That looks like a great resource! Do you have any tips to using it (or a blog post?). The great thing with ebird that I noticed right off, is that you don't have to sign up (enter your email, etc) to access the data - love that.

    Under the heading "EXPLORE DATA" - three of the great options are:

    1. a list format that shows hotspots, recent sightings and species: "Explore a Region" (http://ebird.org/ebird/subnational2/CA-ON-OT?yr=all&m=&rank=mrec)
    2. a map option, where you can zoom in to an area and identify a specific species you want to locate, which then provides points where this specific species has been seen before: "Species Map" (http://ebird.org/ebird/map/)
    3. another map option, that allows visitors to explore specific hot spots in the area "Explore Hotspots"

    Thanks so much for the tip!

  3. Holly Drew (from Algonquin College) did her own urban hiking challenge - working on a walking challenge in Ottawa in 2016 - you can read about her experiences (including what she packs) here: