Ottawa's big back yard: 150 km of nature trails to discover

Taking time to head outdoors can be a big mood-booster. With the arrival of spring, and with plenty of sunshine in the forecast, discovering the capital’s Greenbelt, a protected network of forest trails, can be the perfect nature escape close to home.

At the Mer Bleue Bog, a protected nature reserve, visitors can see stunted spruce trees, blueberry bushes and plenty of cotton grass along the 1.2 km boardwalk that rests above the acidic water of the bog. Wildlife is abundant: birds, beavers and muskrat, even turtles if you keep your eye out.

For Jeanne Chan and her sons Gavin and Blake, there is serenity here.

“You come to a place like this and it’s beautiful and it just lifts your spirits,” says Chan. “It’s about getting out of the house it’s about keeping the kids engaged about the world around us. The city is kind of amazing at how much it has to offer it’s pretty wonderful.”

Mer Bleue Bog belongs to Canada’s Capital Greenbelt, which is comprised of 20,000 hectares of green space including farms, forests and wetlands.

The massive horseshoe-shaped area spans the city from east to west, just south of Ottawa's urban core, with both extremities on the shores of the Ottawa River.

The Greenbelt is divided into six main sectors, each area with its own unique landscape and experience. There are more than 150 kilometres of recreational trails.

At Pinhey Forest Trail, off Slack Road in west Ottawa, there are 6.4 kilometres of hiking trails, which will take you to a 10,000-year-old sand dune complex.

Dogs are allowed at some of the trails, but it can be depend on the time of year. When visiting greenbelt trails, you are asked to stay on the path and not feed the wildlife.