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Conservation areas

Exploring Ottawa’s greenspaces

Get outdoors! Ottawa has many public greenspaces – from urban parks to rugged untamed natural areas. There are scenic paved pathways for strolling, and trails to satisfy the beginner to the expert hiker! Go out and explore our city and fall in love with its natural, beautiful features.

Please treat other trail users, wildlife, and the natural areas themselves with respect.  The City’s natural areas are protected under the Municipal Trees and Natural Areas Protection By-law. Stay on the trails, don’t litter, and don’t damage the trees or other plants. Dogs should always be under control, to prevent issues with wildlife or other trail users. Pay attention to any site-specific rules posted at trail entrances.

Stay safe out there! Check out Ottawa Public Health’s tips for topics such as sun safety and avoiding tick or mosquito bites. Going out in winter? They have tips for that too!

Examples of natural areas showing marsh, woodland, creek, raccoon, butterfly

Natural Areas Map 

Britannia Conservation Area

What you'll see:

A 79 hectare patch of wilderness in the middle of an urban setting, Britannia Conservation Area is an amazing area of forest and wetlands. It is home to a pond called Mud Lake and hundreds of species of wildlife, with raccoons, frogs, turtles and foxes. This is prime birding territory, with thousands of birdwatchers coming each year to observe hundreds of different species. A walk through this easy-to-access natural area provides an exciting escape from city life.

What you'll experience:

• Distance: 3-5 km of trails
• Location: Along the Ottawa River in Britannia Village
Map [ PDF 919 KB ]

What's in the area:

• An easy network of trails surrounding Mud Lake providing several trail branches, boardwalks, and views of the lake and the Ottawa River
• Pleasant forest experience with very old tall pines
• Britannia Conservation Area is one of the best places in Ottawa to photograph birds, including the spectacular wood duck
• Parking and washrooms in Britannia Park
• Accessible by bicycle and OC Transpo Route 16

Getting There:

Exit at Pinecrest Road (exit 129) off the Highway 417. Go north on Pinecrest, then turn right (east) onto Richmond Road. After Richmond crosses Carling Avenue, turn left (north) onto Poulin Avenue. Poulin intersects with Britannia Road. Turning right onto Britannia will take you to Cassels Street. Parking is available on Cassels Street.

Caldwell-Carver Conservation Area

What you'll see:

The Caldwell-Carver Conservation area has pathways around the eastern shore of McKay Lake and a smaller pond with a sandy beach. The rich woodland retains an abundance of bird species.

What you'll experience:

• Distance: 2-4 km of pathways
• Location: Rockcliffe Park
Map [ PDF 815 KB ]

What's in the area:

• Attractions include hiking and nature appreciation
• Public swimming is permitted in the Pond (an old quarry adjacent to McKay Lake) between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m.. Public swimming is not permitted in McKay Lake.
• Wildlife includes songbirds, porcupine, chipmunk, squirrels
• Accessible by bicycle and OC Transpo Route 5

Getting There:

From Highway 417, take the Vanier Parkway exit, go north to Beechwood Avenue. Turn right onto Beechwood Avenue. Beechwood Avenue will turn into Hemlock Street. Take a left onto Pond Street and keep right, on-street parking available.

Caldwell-Carver Conservation Area

Richelieu Park

What you'll see:

The Richelieu Park is a 17 hectare rich maple forest that is home to many species of birds and small woodland animals. Picnic tables, playgrounds, park benches, flower beds and the 2.5 km of hiking and cycling trails make this a popular spot.

What you'll experience:

• Distance: 2.5 km of pathways
• Location: Vanier
Map [ PDF 708 KB ]

What's in the area:

• Attractions include walking, cycling, picnics, playgrounds and an annual maple syrup festival
• The site offers a variety of services including pétanque and croquet courts and soccer field, the Muséoparc Vanier, the Action-Vanier Sugar Shack as well as the Vanier Branch of the Ottawa Public Library.
• Wildlife includes songbirds, porcupine, chipmunk, squirrels
• Accessible by bicycle, bus (OC Transpo route 5) or car

Getting There:

From Hwy 417, take exit for Promenade Riverside / Vanier Parkway. Turn north onto Vanier Parkway. Turn right onto Montreal Road. Turn left onto Marier Ave. Turn right onto Longpre Street. Turn right onto Des Pères-Blancs. Building is at the end of the road. Parking is available at the Richelieu-Vanier Community Centre at 300 Des Pères-Blancs.

Richelieu Park

Carp Hills

What you'll see:

The Carp Hills are an extension of the same Canadian Shield ecosystem as Gatineau and Algonquin Parks, with rock outcrops and woodlands. The City owns 1000 hectares of this natural area that includes many shallow beaver ponds connected by small streams. Thinly soiled uplands support young forests of red maple, sugar maple, white spruce, trembling aspen, white birch, bur oak and red oak. Several great blue heron colonies are known to use the ponds.

This is an environmentally sensitive area. For more information about the permitted uses, please see Carp Hills Municipal Nature Reserve.

What you'll experience:

  • 1 km pathway at Hidden Lake Park in the Village of Carp, suitable for a variety of pedestrian uses (e.g., walking, snowshoeing, skiing)
  • 3 km Carp Barrens trail, open from mid-August until Victoria Day, featuring a rugged route suitable for mountain biking as well as a variety of pedestrian uses (no dogs allowed)
  • 6 km Crazy Horse trail, open for pedestrian uses only
  • Location: The Carp Hills run roughly northwest from the South March Highlands at March Road to the Kinburn Side Road
  • Map [ PDF 773 KB ]

What's in the area:

  • Attractions include great views of the agricultural landscape of the Carp River valley, and outcroppings of granite bedrock that In the spring explodes with wildflowers and green mosses, sedges, and lichens
  • Local attractions in the Village of Carp include the Farmer’s Market, restaurants and shops, and the Diefenbunker: Canada’s Cold War Museum
  • Wildlife include deer, black bear, beaver, porcupine, turtles, songbirds, herons, chipmunk and squirrels

Getting There:

There are several points of entry to the Carp Hills. Hidden Lake Park is located at 149 Hidden Lake Crescent in the Village of Carp. The Carp Barrens trail can be accessed from the Thomas A. Dolan Parkway, about 2.1 km from the Carp Road intersection (heading northeast) or 1.4 km from the Stonecrest Road intersection (heading southwest). The Crazy Horse trail is located at the southern end of the Carp Hills, and can be accessed from the north side of March Road at the intersection with Huntmar Road.

Parking is limited at all Carp Hills trailheads. Please respect parking restrictions. Do not park on private property or in the natural areas.

Carp Hills Forest

Carp Hills Municipal Nature Reserve

  • Trails
  • Trail Closures
  • Dogs
  • Hunting
  • Ticks
  • Additional resources

The City of Ottawa owns large tracts of natural lands in the Carp Hills, for the purposes of environmental protection and outdoor recreation. The Carp Hills are a local outcropping of the Canadian Shield, with rugged landscapes similar to Ontario’s cottage country – a mosaic of rock barrens, beaver ponds and mixed woods. This beautiful part of Ottawa is home to a rich diversity of plants and wildlife, and is also a popular location for hiking, mountain biking, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and hunting.

The rock barrens are a particularly sensitive part of the Carp Hills. The lichens and mosses that occur here take a very long time to grow on the rocks and are easily damaged or destroyed. The beaver ponds, wet meadows, marshes and swamps found in low areas around the rock outcrops are part of a large provincially significant wetland complex. Several regionally rare species of plants have been identified in the area, along with national and provincial species at risk.

Trails

Some of the City’s properties include authorized trail systems created and maintained by the City or by local partners under written agreements, such as the Friends of the Carp Hills or the West Carleton Snowmobile Trails Association. Other areas do not have trails and public access to those properties is restricted. The creation of new unauthorized trails on City property in environmentally sensitive areas like the Carp Hills is prohibited.

The following authorized trails are available for public use:

Carp Barrens Trail – rugged trail loop south of Thomas A. Dolan Parkway, suitable for pedestrian uses (e.g., hiking, snowshoeing, skiing) and mountain biking; closed seasonally (see Trail Closures below)

Crazy Horse Trail – longer trail loop at the south end of the Carp Hills, accessed via March Road at Huntmar Road, suitable for pedestrian uses (e.g., hiking, snowshoeing, skiing)

Hidden Lake Trail – short pathway in the Village of Carp, suitable for pedestrian uses (e.g., walking, snowshoeing, skiing)

Many parts of the Carp Hills remain in private ownership. Public access to those properties is not permitted, except at the sole discretion of the landowner. Private property may or may not be marked with signs or red dots at the property limits. Stay on approved trails to avoid accidentally trespassing on private lands.

Trail users should treat the landscape, the wildlife and each other with respect, and should follow any site-specific rules posted at trailheads. Some basic rules for all of the City’s natural areas include:

  • Stay on the trails.
  • Do not litter.
  • Do not move rocks or logs.
  • Do not damage or remove trees, lichens or plants.
  • Do not harm or harass any wildlife, except when legally hunting or fishing.

Parking is limited at Carp Hills trailheads. Please respect parking restrictions. Do not park on private property or in the natural areas.

Trail Closures

The unauthorized hiking/biking trail located north of the Thomas A. Dolan Parkway is hereby closed. It has been decommissioned and will return to a natural state in keeping with the management plan for the area. The snowmobile trail is not affected by this closure. Local hunters and other authorized groups may continue to use the area in accordance with all applicable regulations.

The Carp Barrens trail loop located south of the Thomas A. Dolan Parkway will be closed seasonally each year to protect nesting turtles and birds. The trail is closed from the first Tuesday after Victoria Day in May until August 15. Please respect the trail closure and stay out of the area during this time.

Dogs

Dogs must be under control at all times, and are not allowed in some parts of the Carp Hills. This area is home to black bears, deer, moose, and a wide variety of other wildlife. Dogs may disturb nesting birds and turtles, chase wildlife, or provoke attacks by larger wildlife. Provincial regulations prohibit allowing dogs to run at large in areas frequented by deer and other large game during the closed season.

Dogs are not permitted on the Carp Barrens trail located south of the Thomas A. Dolan Parkway.

Hunting

Hunting is allowed in the Carp Hills in accordance with Provincial regulations and the City’s Discharge of Firearms By-law. Residents should refer to the Ontario Hunting Regulations Summary for more information on hunting regulations and seasons. The Carp Hills are in Wildlife Management Unit 64B.

Ticks

Warning: black-legged ticks are common throughout the Carp Hills and many of these ticks carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Ticks are active throughout much of the year, as long as daytime temperatures remain above zero. Thorough tick-checks are strongly recommended after spending time outdoors. Mosquitoes, black flies and deer flies are also common during the spring and summer months. For more information on avoiding tick and mosquito bites, visit Ottawa Public Health’s web page.

Additional resources

For more information, consult the following:

Friends of the Carp Hills 

Ducks Unlimited 

Morris Island Conservation Area

What you'll see:

The 47 hectare site offers a diverse natural environment of wetland and upland areas with beautiful sheltered bays, small off-shore islands and spectacular scenic views of the Ottawa River. Picnic areas and canoe launches are available. Fishing for pickerel, perch, and pike is a common activity at the site. A diverse bird population makes it a popular birding location.

What you'll experience:

  • Distance: 6 km of trails
  • Location: Along the Ottawa River near Fitzroy Harbour
  • Map [ PDF 656 KB ]

What's in the area:

  • Attractions include two main hiking trails, and a 0.5km wheelchair accessible loop. Fishing platforms, canoe launches and picnic areas are available
  • The area is open to the public year round and offers recreational activities such as hiking, picnicking, canoeing, fishing and nature areas. Morris Island provides an ideal location for photographing autumn foliage, which is often reflected in the calm waters of the Conservation Area.
  • Wildlife includes birds, deer, beavers, chipmunks, squirrels, raccoons and porcupine
  • Modern wheelchair accessible washrooms located off the parking lot and outhouse style washrooms are located throughout the site

Getting There:

From Highway 417, take the Antrim exit and drive northeast 0.8 km to Antrim and Highway 17. Turn left or northwest on Highway 17 and go 6.2 km to the Galetta Side Road. Turn right and proceed 4.2 km to Logger's Way. Turn right onto it and go 0.8 km to the bridge onto Morris Island.

Island Conservation Area

Kemp Woodland

What you'll see:

The Kemp Woodlot is a 9 hectare mature cedar forest in Stittsville that is well over 100 years old. The natural area is along the Trans-Canada Trail and there are informal trails in the natural area.

What you'll experience:

  • Distance: informal trails
  • Location: Stittsville

What's in the area:

  • Attractions include hiking and nature appreciation
  • The trail systems is being improved with a partnership with the Ottawa Stewardship Council and Sacred Heart High School
  • Wildlife includes songbirds, porcupine, chipmunk, squirrels
  • Washrooms are available at the Goulbourn Recreation Complex
  • Accessible by bicycle and OC Transpo Route 96

Getting There:

From Highway 417, take the Terry Fox exit south to Hazeldean Road. Turn right on Hazeldean Road, left on Iber Road, and right on Abbott Street. There is parking available at the Goulbourn Recreation Complex at the intersection of Shea Road and Abbott Street beside Sacred Heart High School. The address is 1500 Shea Road.

Kemp Woodland

Kizell Wetland

What you'll see:

The provincially significant Kizell wetland, which includes the area known as the beaver pond, has been integrated into the community of Kanata Lakes. Pathways have been developed on both sides of the wetland.

What you'll experience:

  • Distance: 3 km of trails
  • Location: Kanata North

What's in the area:

  • Attractions include hiking, dog walking, jogging, skiing, snowshoeing
  • Wildlife include deer, beaver, Blanding's turtle, songbirds, frogs, chipmunks and squirrels

Getting There:

Located a short distance north of the intersection of Terry Fox Drive and Kanata Avenue. The trails can be accessed from Goulbourn Forced Road or from the east end of Walden Drive. There is a parking lot at the Walden Drive trailhead.

Wetland

Sheila McKee Park

What you'll see:

The escarpment along the Ottawa River's shore allows visitors to experience the peacefulness and beauty of the area. The rocky shore's special qualities include waterfalls in summer, ice formations in winter; miniature evergreen trees and some very old evergreens growing out of the steep cliffs.

What you'll experience:

  • Distance: 2 km of trails
  • Location: Along the Ottawa River east of Dunrobin
  • Map [ PDF 683 KB ]

What's in the area:

  • Attractions include walking and pedestrian access to the Ottawa River
  • The City, through purchase of service arrangements with the Kanata Nordic Ski Club, also supports the grooming of cross country ski trails at the park
  • Wildlife include salamanders, squirrels, porcupines and songbirds

Getting There:

Sheila McKee Park is at 1730 Sixth Line Road, north of Riddell Drive. Take the March Road exit off of Highway 417. Drive north on March Road and when the road curves to the left, turn right onto Dunrobin Road. Turn right again almost immediately onto Riddell Drive. Follow Riddell Drive east; when it curves sharply to the left, it becomes Sixth Line Road. Continue past the Y camp entrance. A short distance later, turn right into the park driveway – you will see a Sheila McKee Park sign.

Sheila McKee Park

South March Highlands Conservation Forest

What you'll see:

Visit 450 hectares of beautiful and diverse habitats ranging from woodlands and wetlands to rocky outcrops of the Canadian Shield. It includes a mature sugar maple forest, scenic outlooks, numerous small ponds, a large central wetland, ponds, rugged terrain and steep slopes.

What you'll experience:

  • Distance: 15.2 km of trails are maintained by the Ottawa Mountain Bike Association and open to everyone
  • Location: Kanata North
  • Map: Ottawa Mountain Bike Association 

What's in the area:

  • Attractions include hiking, dog-walking, jogging, skiing, snowshoeing, and mountain biking
  • Wildlife include deer, black bears, beavers, porcupine, Blanding's turtle, songbirds, herons, chipmunks and squirrels

Getting There:

The South March Highlands are located in Kanata North. One of the main points of entry and parking can be found at the junction of Klondike and Second Line Road along the shoulder of Second Line Road. Parking lot at the Richcraft Recreation Complex can be used to access the South March Highlands (via pathways).

South March Highlands Conservation Forest

Trillium Woods

What you'll see:

This natural area of 134 hectares of woods is rich for its biodiversity, recreational trails, frog pond, and great opportunities to spot white trilliums and other wildflowers in springtime. It is known for its mature upland forest, which includes sugar maples, beech, white pine and red oak trees.

What you'll experience:

  • Distance: 5 km of trails 
  • Location: Kanata North

What's in the area:

  • Attractions include walking with accessible pathways, hiking, dog-walking, jogging, skiing, snowshoeing, and mountain biking
  • Wildlife include deer, porcupine, beavers, Blanding's turtle, songbirds, wood frog, chipmunks and squirrels
  • Trail connection to the South March Highlands trails north of Terry Fox Road
  • Washrooms at the Richcraft Recreation Complex

Getting There:

Trillium Woods trailhead is located at the Richcraft Recreation Complex located at 4101 Innovation Drive. Lots of parking located at the recreation complex, (distinct trailhead parking lot located to the south of the sports field), located in Kanata North, near the Terry Fox Drive and March Road Intersection.

Trillium Woods

Torbolton Forest

What you'll see:

The Torbolton Forest is 260 hectares of tall red, white and jack pine and red oak in the centre of the Village of Constance Bay. After a walk in the forest, enjoy the nearby beach on the Ottawa River! The natural area is within the Constance Bay Sand Hills, which is a provincially significant dune forest complex. As the areas is known for poison ivy, take care to take precautions.

Torbolton Forest

What you'll experience:

What's in the area:

  • Attractions include walking, horseback riding, cycling, skiing and snowmobiling
  • Torbolton Nordic Ski Club maintains approximately 30 km of ski trails through-out the Torbolton Forest and around the peninsula
  • The snowmobile trail, which runs down the centre of the forest, is marked and groomed and requires the use of a West Carleton Snowmobile Trails Association trail pass
  • Wildlife includes songbirds, porcupine, black bear, white-tailed deer, red fox
  • Vegetation on the sand dunes is very sensitive. Please avoid disturbing the dunes as much as possible.
  • Washrooms are available at the Constance Bay Community Centre

Getting There:

From Highway 417, take March Road exit to Dunrobin Road. Follow Dunrobin Road for 17 km and turn right onto Constance Bay Road. Turn at first left onto Allbirch Road. Follow Allbirch Road to the end (1 km), turn left onto Bishop Davis Drive. Bishop Davis Drive curves to the right and becomes Bayview Drive. Follow Bayview Drive for 1 km, turn at first right onto Len Purcell Drive.

Parking is available at the Constance Bay Community Centre, 262 Len Purcell Drive.

Cumberland Forest

What you'll see:

The Cumberland Forest is 600 hectares in size, split into three parcels of land surrounding the Village of Vars. The forest is dominated by red maple, poplar, birch trees, red and white pine. The properties in the central block form part of the provincially significant Limoges Wetland Complex and serve as an important wildlife corridor.

What you'll experience:

What's in the area:

  • Attractions include hiking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, and snowmobiling. There are a number of trails in each of the forest parcels; those near Sand Road are actively used and maintained by the Carleton Regional Snowmobile Club
  • Wildlife includes songbirds, porcupine, black bear, white-tailed deer, red fox, coyote

Getting There:

From Highway 417, take Anderson Road exit, turn right and follow Anderson Road to the 1st cross street. Turn onto Leitrim Rd/Ottawa Regional Rd 14. Continue onto Russell Rd/Ottawa Regional Rd 26 E and turn right onto Sand Road.

Cumberland Forest

Petrie Island

What you'll see:

Petrie Island is a 291 hectare conservation and recreation area located along the Ottawa River in the east end of the City. It is primarily known for its beach but also offers hiking, canoeing, kayaking and it is considered a favorite destination for naturalists and hikers. Petrie Island consists of wetlands, forests and a series of islands on the Ottawa River with a total shoreline length, including all channels and bays, of about 12 km. It includes a provincially significant wetland. The Friends of Petrie Island operate a nature centre in an old cottage near the picnic area. The centre is open weekends in May, June and September and daily in July and August

What you'll experience:

  • Distance: 5 km of trails
  • Location: Accessible from the Trim Road exit on Regional Road 174
  • Map [ PDF 704 KB ]

What's in the area:

  • Attractions include hiking, jogging, picnics, swimming at the beach and watching wildlife
  • Bicycles are not permitted on trails
  • Dogs are not permitted
  • Friends of Petrie Island offer summer programs for children. 
  • The Rideau Canoe Club runs a 1/2-day summer program for children to learn about kayaking. 
  • Common Petrie sightings include turtles and birds including the painted turtle, map turtle, frogs, herons and ducks
  • Easily accessible by bicycle, bus or car

Getting There:

Take Highway 417 and Regional Road 174 to Trim Road. Head north on Trim Road past North Service Road down towards the island. Paid Parking is available, $2 for 5 hours, 07:00-18:00, 7 days a week.

The nearest bus stops are the Trim Road park-and-ride lot and the North Service Road local bus stop. The 95 route runs every 15 minutes during the week and the local bus runs every hour. Some of these buses will have bicycle racks. From the bus stop it is an enjoyable 15 to 20 minute walk or a 5 to 7 minute bike ride to Petrie Island, down the hill and along the causeway with many views of the water and optional trails to take off the main road.
OC Transpo route 198 is a summer weekend and holiday route that offers frequent trips from Place D'Orleans station to the beach at Petrie Island.

Petrie Island

Marlborough Forest

What you'll see:

The Marlborough Forest is one of the most significant areas in the City of Ottawa for maintaining diversity and ecological functions. The City owns 8,149 hectares of this large natural area. It includes several different types of wetlands and a wide variety of forests, thickets and open fields. In addition to being part of the Rideau Trail System, a hiking trail that runs from Ottawa to Kingston, the Marlborough Forest features the Cedar Grove trail (with parking lot on Roger Stevens Drive), and a number of snowmobile trails maintained by the Rideau Snowmobile Association.

What you'll experience:

  • Distance: The Cedar Grove Nature Trail that is 2 km in length. It is maintained The Rideau Trail Association.
  • Location: Roger Stevens Drive
  • Map [ PDF 946 KB ]

What's in the area:

  • Attractions include hiking, skiing, and snowmobile trails
  • Wildlife include deer, grouse, moose, beaver, herons, turtles and frogs
  • Hunting is permitted in the Marlborough Forest. Visitors are encouraged to stay on forestry roads and established trails during the autumn hunting season, and to wear bright clothing.
  • Washroom facilities at Cedar Nature Grove Trail parking lot

Getting There:

There are several points of entry to the Marlborough Forest. There are three parking lots on Roger Stevens Drive between Malakoff Road and Dwyer Hill Road and one on Paden Road. To reach the parking area for the Cedar Grove Nature Trail, take the Roger Stevens Drive exit from Highway 416. Follow Roger Stevens Drive southwest 14.5 km to the parking area.

Marlborough Forest

Richmond Conservation Area

What you'll see:

The Richmond Conservation Area is 56 hectares and borders the Jock River. The area is characterized by three large built ponds or lagoon cells, meadows planted with young conifers and small patches of regenerating forest. There are a number of pathways which weave through the forest areas and around the lagoons. The lagoons are known as a stopover point for migratory waterfowl and shorebirds. Portions of the pathway may be closed intermittently in 2015 and 2016 for work associated with the Richmond Forcemain Project.

What you'll experience:

  • Distance: 2-4 km of pathways
  • Location: Village of Richmond

What's in the area:

  • Attractions include hiking, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling
  • Part of the pathway is maintained by the Rideau Trail Association
  • Wildlife includes area-sensitive songbirds, ducks, herons, turtles and beaver

Getting There:

The Village of Richmond is easily accessible from Highways 416, exit and Brophy Drive and Highway 417 via Eagleson Road South. There is a parking lot for the Conservation Area on the west side of Eagleson Road just north of the intersection with Barnsdale Road.

Richmond Conservation Area