5 Ottawa-area trails where you can socially distance in nature

Here are five local hiking trails that will help you breathe — and keep your distance at the same time.

A walk in the woods can provide some peace during trying times

Gatineau Park, seen here in May 2018, is a great place to be alone with your thoughts, and maybe your dog, during the COVID-19 pandemic. (CBC)

Social distancing doesn't mean you can't get outside for some fresh air, health officials keep reminding us. Nature can also be a calming force when anxiety is running high.

Here are five local hiking trails that will help you breathe — and keep your distance at the same time.

Poet's Pathway 

Running from Britannia Beach to the Beechwood Cemetery, much of this walking and biking trail consists of existing pathways. The complete trail stretches across 35 kilometres and is divided into 12 shorter walks, such as the Rideau River section and the McCarthy Woods Loop. The trail also features plaques with Canadian poetry along the way. 

Details on the walks and maps can be found here.

Stony Swamp Trail

Located on National Capital Commission land near the junctions of highways 417 and 416 in Ottawa's west end, the 40 kilometres of trails at Stony Swamp are a great place to get back to nature without leaving the city. The area is classified as a provincial significant wetland, where you'll find 700 species of plants and over 250 species of birds. There are also beaver ponds and a sugar maple forest. 

There's free parking all year round, and more information and maps available here

Eagle's Nest Lookout

This hike at Calabogie Peaks is only moderately challenging, with a gradual climb up an old logging road. It can take two and a half to three hours, but hikers are rewarded with a fantastic view from the top.

More information and details are online, including this Eagle's Nest hiking guide

Pinhey Forest Trails

Located in the woods behing the Nepean Sportsplex, Pinhey Forest's Trail 30 is an easily accessible hiking route through a conifer forest. It runs 3.5 kilometres and is open year-round. The trail is maintained by the City of Ottawa, and parking is available behind the recreation complex on Woodroffe Avenue. 

Details and maps are available here.

Gatineau Park 

The obvious choice for many nature enthusiasts, Gatineau Park has a host of trail options from short strolls to difficult climbs, hiking to skiing and winter biking.

Many end at stunning lookouts, so there's a payoff at the end of your workout.

Though the NCC has closed the park's visitor centre, the sprawling park's path network and parking lots remain open, at least for now.

Conditions on some trails may deteriorate in Friday's warmer weather and rain, but the NCC said they should improve this weekend.

More hiking trails are scheduled to open next month.

Trails and maps are online here.

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