Ottawa – Exploring the Carp Hills on the Carp Barrens Trail

I had the opportunity to explore the Carp Hills area a few years ago while snowshoeing on the Crazy Horse Trail. I really enjoyed this trail which has a few rocky escarpments. I was therefore really looking forward to go back there to explore another trail in the area, the Carp Barrens Trail.

Just over 3 kilometres in length, the Carp Barrens Trail further gives the opportunity to understand the significant geological and natural interest of the Carp Hills. I fell in love with this trail, which made me feel like I was light years from the city.

Carp Barrens Trail
Hard to believe I am still in Ottawa

Located between Carp and Kanata, the Carp Hills are made up of rock formations that are part of the Canadian Shield and are one of the best examples of such formations in the Ottawa area. This particular geology has an impact on nature. The thinner, more acidic soil means that only certain types of trees and plants can grow here.


The Carp Barrens Trail mainly follows outcrop of exposed bedrock covered with mosses and lichens. It offers some pretty views over ponds and swamps. The scattered vegetation, the small rocky hills and the tall white pines give the place a unique scenery, not found elsewhere in Ottawa.

On the Carp Barrens Trail
Perfect day for a hike!

With its multiple rocky outcrops, the trail is particularly popular with mountain bikers, but hikers can also access it. As I enjoy steeper trails a lot, I had a great time following the Carp Barrens Trail. It was a big contrast to the usually flatter terrain of the national capital!

Carp Hills
Rocky trail

The trail is very poorly waymarked so it can be more difficult to follow it in places, although the organization in charge of highlighting the Carp Hills (Friends of the Carp Hills) has a project to improve the signage on the trail and to better delimit the existing loop.

Carp Barrens Trail
Following the trail on the rocks of Carp Hills

The Carp Barrens Trail can be accessed via the Thomas A. Dolan Parkway. Parking is along the road but space is rather limited. Details and trail map here.

It is important to note that the trail closes annually from the first Tuesday after Victoria Day in May until August 15 to allow for the reproduction of endangered birds and turtles. And since the nature of the place is very sensitive, dogs are not allowed, and you must absolutely stay on the trail to protect the fragile vegetation.


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