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Cassandra Demers

Content Strategist

Ready to escape the hustle and bustle of the city? The National Capital Greenbelt trails may be just what you were looking for. Boardwalks and natural trails through forests, wetlands and sand dunes — the Greenbelt has it all.

This oasis forms a u-shape around Ottawa’s urban core. From Parliament Hill, a 20- to 30-minute drive in roughly any direction in Ottawa will get you there! If you’re up for it, some trails are also accessible via the Capital Pathway network.

Lace up your hiking boots, grab your water bottle and get ready to explore some of the best hiking trails in the Greenbelt.

Shoreline Trail

Two people walking on the Shoreline Trail.

The Shoreline Trail is located in the western edge of the Greenbelt, in the Shirleys Bay area. If you like birdwatching, this might be the perfect destination for you. The trail is located on an important bird migration route, and offers spectacular views of the Ottawa River.

Although it is very short (a little over 0.5 km round-trip), it connects with the Greenbelt Pathway West, which allows for a longer walk.

  • Starting point: P1
  • Dogs: Not permitted

Greenbelt Pathway West

Still in the west end, the Greenbelt Pathway West is a good option if you’re into longer walks. It stretches over 21 kilometres and connects the Shirleys Bay sector to the Stony Swamp area.

The trail is flat and is made of asphalt and stone dust. It is part of the Capital Pathway network and welcomes pedestrians, joggers, cyclists, in-line skaters, people with a mobility impairment and more.

  • Starting point: P1, P2, P3 or P4
  • Dogs: Permitted on a leash, year-round

Old Quarry Trail

Another favourite in the Stony Swamp sector is the Old Quarry Trail. This one is also divided into loops: a medium (1.9 km) and a long one (2.7 km).

This trail features interpretive panels that depict the geological history of the National Capital Region. It’s also a great spot to see wildlife, including white-tailed deer. And if you’re lucky, you may see painted turtles and snapping turtles and hear the chorus of tree frogs in the wetland area at the centre of the short loop.

  • Starting point: P5
  • Dogs: Not permitted

Jack Pine Trail

A little to the south, in the southwestern end of the Greenbelt, you can explore the Jack Pine Trail. This one is a central point to a larger network of trails, which allows for a variety of hikes in the Stony Swamp sector. This area boasts the most trails in the whole Greenbelt — so, not a bad place to start if you like exploring.

The trail divides into three loops: a short (0.7 km), a medium (1.7 km) and a long one (2.3 km). It features a wide diversity of habitats, which support many different bird and plant species.

On your next outing, be sure to check the American hornbeam, one of our 170 remarkable trees. Fun fact: its surprisingly strong stalks were once used by log drivers to attach wood piles to the rafts. Find it with the help of our Remarkable Trees interactive map.

  • Starting point: P9
  • Dogs: Not permitted

Trails 43 and 44

To the south, you don’t want to miss the trails in the Pine Grove area — a large, forested area. Trails 43 and 44 form a 4.4 -kilometre loop that features interpretive panels about forest management and how to identify various tree species. The red pine plantation from the 1950s attracts red-breasted nuthatches, pine warblers and pine siskins.

  • Starting point: P18
  • Dogs: Permitted, on a leash, from April to November

With well-marked paths and picnic areas minutes from downtown Ottawa, the Greenbelt is a perfect destination for a day trip.

But with more than 3.5 million visits annually, we all have a role to play to protect it. Please enjoy the outdoors responsibly.

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