Outdoors enthusiasts in Ottawa can easily find great hiking spots nearby. In addition to the beautiful Gatineau Park just minutes from downtown (and where I went last week), the city is surrounded by a network of protected natural areas called the Greenbelt.
The Pine Grove is the largest forest of the Greenbelt and has about twenty kilometres of trails for hiking, skiing or horseback riding. It is composed of natural forests, but also of tree plantation.
The history of the Pine Grove is reminiscent of other Eastern Ontario forests, such as Larose Forest and Warwick Forest. The first European settlers had cleared the area for agricultural land, but the lack of forest cover and the wind erosion eventually turned the land into an uncultivable desert.
The city of Ottawa purchased this vast area in the 1950s to reforest it. Today, tall red pines proudly cast their shadow on the surrounding landscape and create a valuable habitat for the flora and fauna of the area.
In addition to the trail network, you can find in the Pine Grove an arboretum and interpretative signs to explain the characteristics of each species of trees found in the forest. There are also interpretative signs to explain some principles of forest management and the history of the area. This makes the hike in the Pine Grove highly instructive!
As the terrain is rather flat and the trails are clear and large, the hike is relatively easy. Still, it’s a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city!