Rideau Trail – Marlborough Forest and its horseflies

*** This text is part of a series of blog posts that I have written on my Rideau Trail hike. To read the other blog posts of that series, click here***

I was looking forward to hike in Marlborough Forest. Since Stony Swamp, the Rideau Trail has mostly consisted of quiet country roads, except for a short interlude on a wooded trail north of the village of Richmond (a part of the trail that was rather difficult to hike because of its many flooded sections). The country roads were nice, but after walking more than twenty kilometres on them, I was really looking forward to the Rideau Trail becoming again a real trail in the middle of the wilderness.

I was therefore excited when I arrived in front of the sign telling me I was entering Marlborough Forest. Marlborough Forest is made of more than 8,000 hectares of public land and is an important ecological and biodiversity area for Ottawa. I actually knew nothing about Marlborough Forest before starting my Rideau Trail challenge, and I could not wait to explore it for the first time.

And for the occasion, I decided to bring my dog with me. I often take Rose with me when hiking in the woods, but I had not done so yet in my adventure on the Rideau Trail. I thought the Marlborough Forest gave me the perfect opportunity to do it.

Rideau Trail
Last look on Richmond countryside before entering the forest

I accessed the forest south of Richmond, at the end of a long gravel road. The trail follows what appears to be a winter snowmobile trail. It is wide enough, with big rocks. And again, there were lots of puddles, most of them easy to get around, but others caused me some problems (yes, I once again found myself with wet shoes).

Marlborough Forest
Rose didn’t seem to mind the water puddles

But quickly, I realized that the Marlborough Forest had a worse scourge than the flooded portions of the trail: horseflies. They flew around us relentlessly, were getting in my hair and attacked Rose without mercy. We had a break when it started pouring down. I never thought I would welcome the rain with so much relief.


At one point, I realized with horror that Rose’s muzzle, forehead, and ears were swollen. She threw herself into all the puddles we came across, trying ferociously to get rid of the flies that were constantly landing on her. I had not hiked as many kilometres as I had planned but I decided to turn back. Rose and I had enough.

Marlborough Forest
So pretty … if you can ignore the bites of the horseflies

This experience in Marlborough Forest discouraged me for the rest of the challenge. But I am stubborn and I came back two days later to continue my hike. And this time, I asked my boyfriend to come and drop me further on the trail. By leaving my car at my intended arrival point and being brought to where I wanted to start my hike, it allowed me to do more kilometres in one day.

After a little mix-up with Google Maps, I finally parked my car near the place where I gave up my hike last time, then my boyfriend took me to a parking lot further south from where I would start my day hike. Contrary to what I have done so far (hiking the trail heading south), I was going to follow the trail in a northerly direction up to the point where I had stop two days before (it was logistically the best option, but my OCD side had a little difficulty with that – and still has).

Except that once my boyfriend left, I realized that I couldn’t find any of the Rideau Trail orange triangles. There were many trails, but none were marked. I was in the middle of the forest and had no idea which direction to take. I was panicking a little.

I looked at the maps on the Rideau Trail website and read the directions. I walked a few metres down the gravel road from the parking lot and finally found the trail. Phew!

Marlborough Forest
Marlborough Forest, take 2

Once on the Rideau Trail, I quickly realized that this part would please me. No gravel or asphalt, only the forest path barely beaten by hikers who have been there before. The orange triangles were the only indication that I was going in the right direction. So be sure to pay close attention to them to avoid getting lost (I had to retrace my steps a few times …).

Marlborough Forest
Do you see the trail? Me neither.

The trail passes through different ecosystems. Quiet swamps where I disturbed a great blue heron. A grove of white birches. A cedar plantation. A meadow where blue jays were frolicking. The terrain was a bit more rugged too. Nothing drastic, but I had to go up and down small hills.

And, most fantastic of all, there was almost no water on this stretch of the trail. I almost cried of joy.

Horseflies were present again, but only in the less shadowy places. Under the thick canopy of trees, they gave way to mosquitoes, which seemed to me far less unpleasant. I felt like I could finally enjoy Marlborough Forest, its beauty and the tranquility of the landscape.

Marlborough Forest
Simply beautiful

And with that, I’m now more than halfway through my goal! And motivated for the rest of the challenge!

Ps: Rose is fine. The bites were less swollen by the time we got home, but I think I’ll wait a bit before bringing her back with me on the trail.

Next: Burritts Rapids and Merrickville

My journey on the Rideau Trail:

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