Visiting Meisel Woods Conservation Area

I didn’t want to go to Meisel Woods. I’ve been postponing this hike for several weeks. As you may know, this year I challenged myself to visit all of the conservation areas in Eastern Ontario. While I have visited all of the ones in the South Nation River watershed this summer, I am now exploring those managed by the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority. And one of the last on my list was Meisel Woods Conservation Area.

The problem was that when I looked on a map, Meisel Woods seemed kind of far away. A drive of two hours from where I live, in a location that seemed to me in the middle of nowhere. So I postponed my visit. For several weeks.

With the increase of Covid-19 cases over the past few days, however, I have decided to limit my hikes in Eastern Ontario and to visit less popular places. A hike to Meisel Woods Conservation Area therefore seemed appropriate to me.

Meisel Woods
Good morning Meisel Woods!

Meisel Woods Conservation Area is the newest of the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority’s conservation areas. This 130-acre property was donated in 2000 by John Meisel with the wish that that the property remains undeveloped and is protected. It is located around Little Beaver Lake.

The conservation area has two trails: one of 1.5 km on the east side of the lake, and another of 3.5 km on the west shore of the lake. Unfortunately, the two trails do not meet to form a loop around the lake. So you have hike it out and back.

I don’t know why, I decided to start with the longer trail. Meisel Woods is part of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere, a granite arch recognized by UNESCO for its importance for biodiversity. The forest is a typical example of the Precambrian forests found in this region. Like many sites that I have visited in the Frontenac Arch (Foley Mountain or Rock Dunder for example), Meisel Woods has few steep sections that are not negligible.

Meisel Woods trail
Going up in the forest!

In fact, that’s what made me forgive Meisel Woods Conservation Area for being so far away. I had a lot of fun on its trails. The forest is pretty without being particularly remarkable, but I enjoyed the many descents and climbs on the trail. The longer trail circles Beaver Lake to the south, passes over a pretty footbridge, and follows the west shore of the lake.

Footbridge at Meisel Woods
A lovely footbridge on the trail

The trail eventually leads to a lookout overlooking the lake, where there is a picnic table and a bench. The perfect place to take a break.

Lookout on Beaver Lake
Alone at Beaver Lake

When I finally reached the end of the trail on the west side of the lake, unfortunately I had to retrace my steps. Go up and down again in the opposite direction, cross the footbridge again and pass the parking lot again, this time to follow the other trail, the one on the east side of the lake.

This trail is shorter and ends in a loop. I was hesitant to follow the entire loop at first (I intended to get to the second lookout and then walk back to the parking lot), but I ultimately decided that since I drove all the way to get there, better to hike the entire trail. I’m finally glad I did it. The trail gets a little elevation gain until it reaches a rocky plateau from the top of which it is possible to see all the way to Crow Lake. I also passed by a place where there were several inukshuk, proof that I am not the first hiker to hike there.

Inukshuk in Meisel Woods
A strange sight in the forest

The loop eventually took me to another lookout on the lake, this time a platform built directly on Beaver Lake. The lake is not very large, but it was particularly photogenic with the fall colours.

Fall at Beaver Lake
These colours… Fall is lovely this year!

My hike on the Meisel Wood trails totaled almost 7 kilometres. Was the two-hour drive to get there worth it? Maybe not. Am I glad I did it? Yes! In fact, it allowed me to discover a region that I didn’t know much about, where there are many lakes and some provincial parks and where I intend to return one day!

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