Located at the western edge of Canada’s Capital Greenbelt, Shirleys Bay is an internationally significant conservation area on the Ottawa River. The natural wetland features along the shore, as well as the inland wetlands, provide many benefits, including improved water quality and thriving wildlife habitats.
Shirleys Bay is great for outdoor recreational activities, including hiking, boating, cycling, birding and picnicking. During the winter, the bay area offers cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and ice fishing.
- When out enjoying nature, please follow the principles of outdoor ethics.
- Dogs and other pets on leash are permitted year-round on the Watts Creek Pathway, Greenbelt Pathway West and Ottawa River Pathway. When on the Capital Pathway, please be considerate and share the path.
- In winter, dogs are not allowed on any Greenbelt trails. For conservation reasons, dogs are not permitted on the Shoreline Trail.
- To help you prepare for a safe and enjoyable outing, check out these tips about safety in the Greenbelt.
Points of interest
Nature trails for hiking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing
Explore nature on seven kilometres of trails at Shirleys Bay: you’ll get a healthy dose of fresh air, and may also get a chance to observe some of the area’s wildlife inhabitants. Access to all trails is free.
- The Shoreline Trail starts at parking lot P1, and connects to Trail 10 and the Greenbelt Pathway West.
- Trail 10 and the Greenbelt Pathway West partially overlap one another.
- Trail 10 starts at parking lot P2, and links to the Shoreline Trail.
- Trail 12 starts at parking lot P3.
Shirleys Bay boat launch
Be dazzled by the scenery, quiet vistas and historic points along the Ottawa River. Shirleys Bay is a popular location for canoeing, kayaking, fishing and sailing.
The public boat launch is suitable only for small, shallow-draft boats because of the shallow, rocky shoreline. Access to the boat launch is free.
The Shoreline Trail, which borders the Ottawa River, offers spectacular views of the Gatineau Hills and is a popular destination for observing shorebirds. It is also one of the best spots to see the vibrant colours of the sunset. For conservation reasons, dogs are not permitted on the Shoreline Trail.
Master builders on Trail 10
Just like a master builder, the iconic Canadian beaver builds complex dams that define engineering masterpieces. You may catch these enthusiastic beavers at work, creating new wetlands near Trail 10.
Just a short walk from the sandy shore of Shirleys Bay, you can visit BeetBox Farm. They offer fresh, seasonal vegetables, grown right here in our beloved Greenbelt.
How about them apples! The best time to visit Pinewood Orchards is in September and October, when you can pick your own apples in the crisp, fall air.
- Parking: Free, year-round parking is available at parking lots P1, P2 and P3.
- Washrooms: There are two outhouses at parking lot P1.
- Picnic area: There are sheltered and unsheltered picnic areas at parking lot P1.
- Universal accessibility: These natural trails do not meet universal accessibility standards. However, the Watts Creek Pathway, Greenbelt Pathway West and Ottawa River Pathway are universally accessible.
- Hours, directions, maps and planning tools
About Shirleys Bay
Wetlands and birding
Shirleys Bay is one of the Ottawa Valley’s most diverse and undeveloped wild areas. Its habitats support a variety of plants and animals, some of which are rare and regionally significant. Shirleys Bay forms part of an important bird migration route along the Ottawa River, a migration gateway for Canada’s arctic and boreal birds. More than 270 bird species have been seen in the area over the years, including the bald eagle.
Other nearby activities
Scenic bike rides
Enjoy cycling on the Capital Pathway. Along the way, you’ll pass farmlands, marshlands, creeks and forests. There are three multi-use pathways in the Shirleys Bay sector: Watts Creek Pathway, the Greenbelt Pathway West and the Ottawa River Pathway.
Other Greenbelt farms nearby
Make the most of your outing! After your hike, visit a Greenbelt farm — and take home fresh, local produce. Eating well tastes so good!