Ottawa – Exploring South March Highlands Conservation Forest in Kanata

It’s already November! This is usually the time of year when I start to lose some of my motivation to go out. But November is warm and sunny so far this year, and it made me want to spend a few hours hiking some trails, which I did this weekend in the South March Highlands Conservation Forest.

The South March Highlands Conservation Forest is located in Kanata, a suburb of Ottawa. It comprises 457 hectares of municipally owned land and is considered one of the most ecologically significant and diverse areas in the City of Ottawa.

South March Highlands trail
A frosty morning in Kanata

Like the nearby Carp Hills, the South March Highlands are made up of rock formations that are part of the Canadian Shield, over a billion years old. They are therefore ideal terrain for hiking, trail running, and mountain biking.

South March Highlands
A rare sight in Ottawa: a rocky trail

The Ottawa Mountain Bike Association is in charge of maintaining the twenty kilometres of trails found there. These trails form loops of varying distances, thus offering the possibility of a hike of different lengths (you can consult the trail map here).

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This was my first time hitting the trails in the South March Highlands Conservation Forest, although I have heard a lot about it over the past few years. This is some of my friends’s favourite hiking spot in Ottawa, and from the first few metres I could see why.

South March Highlands
It’s a beautiful day to get lost in the forest

Not only is the trail fun to hike (I love rocky, steep trails, so I have been served well), the forest is particularly pretty. There are several ponds and marshes, and the rocks are home to colonies of fragile and rare plants. On the trails of the South March Upland Conservation Forest, it’s easy to forget that residential neighborhoods are just across the street.

I tried to cover as many trails as possible. I did a long loop going through the Beartree, Dogsled, Ridgetop, Outback, PWT, and Fastout trails. In all, my hike totaled over 10 kilometres. Ten kilometers of pure happiness, which reminded me that November could be beautiful.

South March Highlands
Reminding myself that I need to get out more in November

Last I heard, the City of Ottawa was working on a management plan for the site. With the adjacent urban sprawl and the rise in popularity of the area, the South March Highlands are under increasing pressure. I hope this natural Ottawa gem continues to be adequately protected!

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