Summer is right around the corner and with school getting out soon, it’s a great time of year to get outside and drag your kids along on a hike. Now, I say “hike” but some of the trails we do are pretty easy and some would categorize them more as “walks”, and I say “drag” because I know sometimes I am literally dragging my two year old and four year old by the hand. But, on those days when they have heaps of energy (and won’t be constantly asking for a piggy back ride), heading out on one of these hikes is our favourite thing to do. So here is a list of my favourite kid-friendly trails.
I’ve talked about my appreciation of Beaver Trail on the blog before. It’s a great walk at any time of year, but like most trails in the Ottawa region, it is especially wonderful in the fall when the autumn colours are out!
Beaver Trail is just off Moody and Hunt Club, with lots of easy to get to parking lots. It is an easy, flat hiking trail with two boardwalks that overlook the wetlands. You can always see the busy work the resident beavers have been up to.
I highly recommend bringing along a bag of birdseed (I have found sunflower seeds to be a favourite of the local birds). We always do, and there are so many birds that will fly up and eat the seed right out of your hands.
You can do a loop which will bring you down Beaver Trail one way and back around Chipmunk Trail the other way. It only takes about 30 minutes or so, and my two little kids can easily walk it. It is also flat enough that you can bring along a stroller. Beaver Trail also takes you right past The Wild Bird Care Centre, where you can often see a few large birds hanging out in the outdoor cages or through the windows.
The Mer Bleue Bog Trail on Ottawa’s east side, is one of the largest bogs in Southern Ontario. The trail is around 3 km long, with nearly half of that taking place on an easily accessible and well maintained boardwalk.
The boardwalk is lovely. It takes you right through the bog and allows you to check out a myriad of different plants and birds. This is another trail where it is a good idea to bring along some birdseed. It is also very stroller friendly.
Mer Bleue Bog is a great option at any time of year, and even when it may be muddy out you can avoid the mud on the boardwalk. There are also a number of picnic tables at the end of the boardwalk if you want to bring along a picnic lunch.
Conroy Pit is a series of off leash dog walking trails in the South End of Ottawa. It is considered part of the Pine Grove network of trails. There are a few different parking lots where you can access the trails. I first took my kids on this walk when we were invited by my friend Erin, her two girls and their lovely, large Bernese Mountain Dog, Lily.
This is is a fabulous walking trail option if you are looking to bring your dog along. It is primarily flat everywhere and stroller friendly. There are lots of different turns and trails you can explore.
Keep in mind it is an off leash dog area, so if your children are scared of dogs this might not be a good option for them. We have never had a problem with dogs jumping up on the kids, but that could always be a possibility.
Now, the rest of my favourite trails in this blog post are located in Gatineau Park. It truly is such an asset to have such a gorgeous park right on our doorstep. One of my favourites with the kids is to hike the Waterfall Trail which begins at the lovely Mackenzie King Estate. You can park at the Mackenzie King Estate (it is pay parking), enjoy exploring the beautiful grounds and ruins on site, and then head towards the signs that point you in the direction of the waterfall.
The trail probably only takes about 20 minutes each way (45 or so minutes total) to reach the waterfall. You could take a stroller on the trail, although it does get rocky at times. My kids have been able to walk it without help. There is a small tunnel and a few bridges along the walk that always keep my kids interested (especially when we tell them there are trolls under the bridges).
The waterfall is a scenic, mid size fall with a great spot for snapping photos or stopping on the benches for a much-needed snack and water break before heading back to the estate.
Pink Lake is always a favourite among hikers, and it’s easy to see why – it’s gorgeous. This Gatineau Park gem isn’t as easy for little kids to hike by themselves, because there are A LOT of stairs along the trail. So, bringing a stroller isn’t an option either.
Pink Lake is not one I would do by myself with the two little kids, but if I have my husband with me then it’s absolutely doable. Usually we put my daughter in a carrier, and my son will walk a bunch of the way and get a piggy back in some of the tougher spots.
Because of the stairs, Pink Lake can be a great workout! It takes about 40 minutes to make it all the way around and it is incredibly scenic. It is also very popular, so it can get busy, particularly on weekends and holidays. ALSO, bring bug spray! In fact, all of these Gatineau Park trails can get pretty buggy at this time of year.
If you’re looking for stunning, photo worthy destination, then this is it. The Carbide Willson Trail is around a 5 km trail (there and back), and leads you up to the stunning waterfall and ruins of the old Carbide Willson Mill.
To hike this trail you want to park at the first Meech Lake parking lot. Then head up the trail. It’s a lovely hike, and I would categorize this one as a hike, not a walk. There are plenty of hills, and the kids may find it slightly more challenging than some other trails. I have done it alone with both of my kids, but I was certainly dragging my four year old by the hand part of the way.
I wouldn’t categorize the trail as stroller friendly, but I have brought a stroller along and then abandoned it for the last 250 m before the waterfall (when it simply got way too rocky to bring it any further), I picked it up again on the way back (I took the chance that no one was stealing my stroller deep in Gatineau Park). The ruins provide a great spot for photos and a little picnic, But WARNING there is a waterfall rushing by, so keep a close eye on small kids.
The Sugarbush Trail in Gatineau Park is a super easy walk if you are looking for something toddlers can do by themselves, or a trail that is quick and stroller friendly. The Sugarbush Trail leaves from just behind the Visitor Information Centre in Chelsea.
The trail is a loop and runs slightly under 2 km. It is flat, wide and well maintained year round. It is popular due to its accessibility, and can get busy on weekends.
In the spring there are thousands of trilliums that bloom along the trail and there is a nice little river along the trail which makes for a good spot to have a snack and snap a photo (you’ve probably noticed by now that we stop for a lot of snacks!) The trail is also next to the Visitor Information Centre, which is worth checking out with the kids. My kids love seeing the wildlife displays (tons of buttons with animal noises to push).
Another huge plus about The Sugarbush Trail is that it is right next to Chelsea which means La Cigale ice cream! This gorgeous ice cream spot is a favourite treat with our family. I love the huge yard and kids sand box in the back as well.
In fact, if we do any hike in Gatineau Park we usually always end up eating ice cream at La Cigale after.
I hope this blog post encourages you to get outside with the kids, and I would love to hear about any of your favourite hikes that I have yet to try! Happy hiking!