By: Serge Guenette

Hiking in Ottawa – COVID-19 edition


With the rapid changes we have experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our lifestyles and physical activity levels are something that many have had to adjust accordingly. Fortunately, Ottawa has been lucky enough to be facing spring and warmer weather, allowing us all a chance to head outdoors while continuing to physically distance from others.

There have been many closures throughout the city, including most parks, hiking trails, and conservation areas. And while there is talk of loosening some restrictions, it’s not yet clear what and where will be OK to visit.

Although many areas will remain closed, there are still several city-owned walking, running, and biking trails open to explore, giving you and your family a way (and a reason!) to get outside and stay active. We’ve provided some options here, but before heading out to a nearby pathway, also check the NCC-CCN list, which will give you an update on any changes involving NCC-managed pathways, trails, and several outdoor locations due to COVID-19.

First, social distancing outside

It is still important to follow all social or physical distancing rules are in place when venturing out to the open pathways available around Ottawa. Below is a few tips and tricks of what you can do to keep yourself safe while exploring the outdoors:

  1. Choose your routes carefully and try to avoid high traffic areas as much as possible.

  2. Be mindful of the surfaces you may have to touch along your route. Whether it is opening a garbage can to throw something out or touching a crosswalk button, make sure to avoid using your hands.

  3. Stay at least six feet away from others you might pass along the way. Stepping off the pathway to give a two-metre space between you and other individuals will help to keep both you and them safe.

  4. Make sure to keep moving during your outing. All equipment within municipal parks — including playgrounds, benches, and fields — are temporarily off-limits. All areas are only for passing through and not for stopping in.

  5. Test the best time of day to be out (that is, when there is the least amount of “traffic” around you) by changing your regular routine or time of day that you are out for your activity.

  6. Talking to others can be tempting during a time like this, but avoid stopping, gathering and speaking with others in order to keep the two-metre distance and decrease the chance of spreading the virus.

Top trails in Ottawa

Here are a few trails you can explore now.

Queen Elizabeth Driveway

Location: Between Laurier Avenue and Fifth Avenue
Ottawa residents living within the area of Laurier and Fifth Avenue near the downtown core now have an opportunity to get outside and stay active on the Queen Elizabeth Driveway. The National Capital Commission closed down a section of this drive to motor vehicles daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in order to allow residents to have a chance to walk and spend time outdoors while still social distancing. Take advantage of this large pathway until May 10.

Moore Farm Pathway

Location: Alexandre-Taché Boulevard, Gatineau
This walking pathway is located near the Moore Farm Estate — a heritage building that was restored from the 1950s Moore Farm equestrian centre. This pathway has limited access but is still available for area residents to get outside, pass through and enjoy the history that this trail offers.

Champlain Corridor Pathway

Location: Aylmer, Gatineau (Near the Royal Ottawa Golf Club)
This bicycle pathway provides a beautiful ride for the whole family to enjoy. For cyclists out for a day ride, or nearby residents looking for an easy trail to explore, the Champlain Corridor Pathway is a great option.

Top trails… when the open again

Even though pandemic restrictions are still in effect and many areas will remain closed well into the summer months, we can still look forward to the day when parks, hiking trails and conservation areas are re-opened and we can explore more of what is offered around us. Below are three of the top hiking trails and areas in and around Ottawa that are worth checking out once they have re-opened.

King Mountain Trail

Location: Gatineau Park
This beautiful 1.8 km loop trail offers 10 stunning lookout views overlooking the Ottawa River Valley. There is a series of informational panels throughout the hike that will give you facts and guidance on the environment surrounding you along the trail. This trail is more difficult, as there are steep areas involved, so be prepared before heading out.

Stony Swamp Trails

Location: Greenbelt, Ottawa
This area offers over 40 km of hiking trails to explore within the Greenbelt. With numerous boardwalks, wetland areas, and interpretive exhibits throughout, the Stony Swamp offers a variety of environments to explore with the whole family. Also, this area is home to many reptiles, amphibians, mammals and birds, so be sure to bring your camera in case you get the opportunity to capture some animals within their natural habitat.

Pink Lake Trail

Location: Gatineau Park
This unique 2.5 km loop trail is an easy trail for a quick hike when the weather is warm. No, the water isn’t a pink colour, but it is a beautiful meromictic lake with turquoise waters instead. This lake is one in which the layers of the water do not intermix together, causing the turquoise colouring to shine on top. With a delicate and protected ecosystem, and stunning water, this hike is worth the 30-minute drive from Ottawa into Gatineau Park.

If you aren’t able to access the local parks and pathways in Ottawa, another great resource that you can use at home to help motivate your family to keep active during the pandemic is the ParticipACTION website. This site provides you with tips and tricks to staying active indoors, keeping active when working from home, and youth activities to keep the whole family moving together.