That time I finally hiked to Eagle’s Nest Lookout in Calabogie

I hesitated for a long time before heading to the famous Eagle’s Nest Lookout Trail, in Calabogie. I knew this trail was extremely popular, I also knew Eagle’s Nest is often described as the most beautiful hike to do in the Ottawa area. But since I prefer to avoid overcrowded trails, I didn’t really want to go hike there.

But we are now in November. The fall colours are over, the weather is a little gloomier and more unpredictable, and hikers are starting to be less numerous on the trails. I thought maybe this was the perfect time to finally hike this famous trail and understand what all the hype was about.

Eagle’s Nest Lookout is part of the trail system found at Calabogie Peaks Resort. There are several ways to get to the famous lookout (the interconnected trails in this mountainous area allow for several hiking possibilities of different lengths), but the most popular is arguably the short one that follows an old logging road that goes directly to Eagle’s Nest (and is about 1.5km).

Hiking to Eagle's Nest Lookout
Exploring Calabogie area for the first time

There were already a few cars when we pulled into the parking lot along Calabogie Road, although we were there quite early on a November weekday. The hike along the logging road, however, was rather quiet. The road is wide, and although it climbs steadily, it didn’t feel like a really challenging hike. The forest along the road was lovely, and the tall pines almost looked majestic on this quiet autumn morning.

Eagle's Nest Lookout Trail
Not a hard climb

After more than a kilometre, the trail leaves the logging road rather abruptly and branches off under the pines towards the rocky promontory. After a short climb over some rocks, we finally reached the famous Eagle’s Nest Lookout. I must admit that the view of the Madawaska region was rather impressive, even if the trees have lost all their leaves.

View on Madawaska wilderness
Stunning view

The rock promontory is named Eagle’s Nest, because this used to be a nesting area for bald eagles. In front of the landscape that stretched out before our eyes, I had no problem imagining this bird soaring above this vast wilderness (although now, if you see a soaring bird, there are more chances for it to be a turkey vulture than an eagle).

This site was apparently considered sacred by the Anishinaabe. It’s good to remember that there is more to it than it being the perfect spot for your next Instagram shot.

Eagle's Nest Lookout
Like the Lion King rock in the Eastern Ontario wilderness

We came back down via the Little Pine Path, a path that runs along the rocky cliff and parallels the old logging road. This short trail brought us back to Calabogie Road, which we followed back to the parking lot. The hike took us less than an hour, and during that time the parking lot got completely full and we could see that cars kept coming.

So, after hearing so much about it, did the Eagle’s Nest Lookout Trail live up to my expectations? Yes and no. The view is definitely spectacular and I really want to come back to Calabogie to explore the other trails. The drive to get there was actually quite scenic and we promised ourselves we would come back next summer and maybe get to the top of Manitou Mountain.

Little Pine Path in Calabogie
I definitely want to explore more the Calabogie area

But the Eagle’s Nest Lookout hike itself seemed too short and not challenging enough for me. And its extreme popularity is definitely leaving its mark (if you knew the amount of rubbish and dog poop bags we saw along the trail…).

So if you want to go to hike to Eagle’s Nest Lookout, try to avoid the busy periods. Follow the principles of Leave No Trace to respect the environment around you. And find yourself an alternative backup plan if the parking lot is filled to capacity when you get there. I’m sure your Instagram shot can wait a bit.

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