"Worth the Trip" for Snowshoeing (Winter in Ottawa)

Wow - that's a whole bunch of snow we got this week - time to take advantage of it!

As a follow up to my 2018 post about stellar urban locations to go snowshoeing here are a few of my favourite "Worth the Drive or Bus Ride" snowshoe spots!  I've listed them from East To West so going from Orleans to Mud Lake (Britannia).  Let me know if there are any favourite hidden spots in the Kanata area that I should explore on my snowshoes!

1. Orleans Trail to see Waterfall

Princess Louise - Fallingbrook Falls - This is one of those popular dog spots so you will find that there is a winter walking trail here but it can be lots of fun on your snowshoes especially after a big snowfall!

You can take a bus (the Transitway will get you to Trim or Place d'Orleans and you can take a local bus from there).   Access to the trails are from above on Princess Louise Drive or Old 10th Line Road and then you can have a bit of an adventure exploring this narrow yet beautiful greenspace and identifying the best route to appreciate the falls from either above or below.  It's fantastic to see the creek (upstream from the waterfall) first and then descend along the ridge to the bottom (along St. Joseph Boulevard) to take in the grandeur from below.  There are some options for a more gradual descent or a more steep quick angle down - so choose what feels best for you.  To help you situate where the falls are - they are marked in this online Waterfalls of Ontario - Google Map.

You can extend your snowshoe outing further into Fallingbrook Park (south of Princess Louise Drive) if you want and follow the creek upstream to Charlemagne Boulevard.  Plus we saw wild turkeys along the parkway on our drive back home - you never know what you might see!

2. Green's Creek Trails

This area of the Greenbelt offers some great spots for exploring as Green's Creek winds through and makes some lovely crests and valleys on its way to the Ottawa River.

It's not the easiest spot to access by bus but you can take a local bus from Blair Station to Blackburn Hamlet and it stops right in front of the "Hornet's Nest" - the white dome off of Bearbrook Road.  There are also two parking lots (P 26 - closer to the toboggan hill and P25 - where the dome is).  If you view the N.C.C. Greenbelt All Season Trail map online (click on "Launch the Interactive Map") you will see three trails: 60, 61, 63.  I would recommend all three as some are more out in the open and some in more shrubby, forested areas.  The graffiti pillars (closer to P26) are worth checking out (as seen in the first photo for this post above) as is the informal snowshoe trail along the stream where you can get some great views (as you can see from the Greens Creek image).

Many of the snowshoe paths follow alongside the cross-country ski path.  Ensure that you do not snowshoe across or snowshoe on the ski tracks, as it is hard for nordic skiers to keep pace when their tracks are broken.  (This area is maintained by the Orleans Nordic Ski Club.)  Some snowshoe tracks break away from the bigger trails and go through some of the forested areas so you can explore more of this area on your snowshoes than on skis!  (p.s. Let's pretend that's a sun spot rather than a foggy lens on the photo above!)  We've seen owls, deer and mink here!

3. Forest near Canadian Aviation and Space Museum

You will most likely need your car for this, although there is an occasional bus that goes to the Aviation museum or you could access the forested area from the north end of Blair Road (a local bus stop is here at Blair and Massey).  There may be some more buses once Wateridge Village is built out but for now, this forested area north of the Parkway is pretty quiet.  Some dog walkers park along C.H. Airport-Marina Road (west side of the forest) and others park at the cul de sac at the end of Blair Rd (east side of the forest).

This is a lovely forested area that offers many small trails broken by dog walkers and some varied terrain that opens to the Ottawa-Outaouais River.  (The forest is bounded by the River, the Parkway, the Airport-Marina Road and the extension of Massey Lane to the boat launch.)  Plus there is a new area to explore along the southern side of the Sir George Etienne Cartier Parkway where there is a newly constructed bikepath/walking trail around the recently developed stormwater ponds that were created to capture the runoff from the new development.  They are fed by a waterfall along the ridge.  You won't be able to find the path right now but you could create a trail of your own!  We found some sweet winter tracks made by mice and have seen wild turkey here.  There is also great birding along the river.

4. Uplands Drive Hydro Corridor

This space is a favourite of mine as there is so much to explore.  I've only visited the western section and plan on exploring the areas closer to McCarthy Road this year.  There is some rough terrain here but not too steep and you will find that you go through a variety of environments/habitats, some shrubby, some more sparse and even a few treed areas.  It's more wooded in the eastern section.  With the open areas you may spot some larger birds and/or raptors!

What is amazing here are the long vistas, surprising in a denser area of the city, where the horizon is almost uninterrupted natural area.  You'll meet dog walkers again but feel free to break your own trail and have some fun!  Access here is from some of the dead-ends and cul-de-sacs off Uplands, through McCarthy Park and off McCarthy Road.  You can also access directly from the bus stop on Riverside Drive across from Vittoria Trattoria - which is actually a great place to warm up after - the restaurant offers delicious wood fired pizza!

5. Nepean Sportsplex - Pinhey Forest Trails

This is one of the spots that is easy to take transit to as it is on the main Transitway route in Nepean.  However there is still a bit of hike to get behind the Sportsplex and to the back of the parking lot where you will find the forested paths, so keep this in mind.  If the Sportsplex is open you can even walk through the building and use it to warm up after!

This is a great spot both due to the frequent buses and also because this is one of the larger intact forests in the city.  Ontario Trails notes that the two trails (Trail 31 & Trail 32) add up to almost 7 kms of trails both behind the Sportsplex and on the south side of Slack Road (where Pinhey Forest continues) which gives visitors lots to explore.  The forest is a mix of habitat with cedar and coniferous groves along with some areas that have rows of planted pines.  I visit when I can and wrote about a forest bathing walk I enjoyed here a few years ago.

Keep in mind this is a shared trail with skiers so be considerate when using the trail but the main trail is wide so easy to share.  There are great trail signs to keep you on the right path and a variety of loop lengths that all bring you back to the parking lot.  Lots of great squirrel activity here!

6. Britannia Conservation Area

The Britannia beach area including Mud Lake is just a nature lovers dream!  You may want to snowshoe through the more open areas of the western side or closer to the Parkway and Richmond Road.  Or you can go along the more wooded trails that loop around the lake (the western side paths do not offer the lake views though).  You can check the northern sections for winter ducks or you can even consider the Britannia Beach point (behind the Ron Kolbus Lakeside Centre).  This area also links up by a bike path (which you could snowshoe along) through to Andrew Haydon Park.

There are a few options for taking transit to this location as there is a bus that stops at the Lakeside centre or you can get off at the Lincoln Fields Transitway and venture north into the greenspace area.  One thing to note is that there is only a small connecting greenspace (where the bike path is) between the Britannia Park and Beach area to the Conservation Area and Mud Lake.  This is along Howe Street.  And while you are on Howe Street you might as well take a break and warm up at the Britannia Coffeehouse (273 Britannia Road).  It's open Fri - Sun in the winter months!

(Example of Trail Map and Markers found in NCC Greenspaces such as Green's Creek, Nepean Sportsplex.)

**Princess Louise Waterfall photo by Viliam Glazduri (InstagramFlickr500 pxContributing Creative to Wild. Here.

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