Exploring High Lonesome Nature Reserve near Pakenham

Winter is starting to be felt but it isn’t quite there yet, so I’m taking the opportunity to continue hiking before having to take out my snowshoes. Last week I felt like exploring somewhere I had never been before, and that’s how I ended up at the High Lonesome Nature Reserve in Pakenham, west of Ottawa.

The High Lonesome Nature Reserve is a 200-acre property managed by the Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust. This non-profit organization also manages access to the Blueberry Mountain trail in Lanark, a trail that I really enjoyed hiking last year. So I was rather eager to now explore the trails of the nature reserve.

High Lonesome Nature Reserve is at the end of a long gravel road not far from Pakenham in Lanark County. I parked my car in the tiny parking lot near the entrance to the property, and started my hike.

High Lonesome Nature Reserve
It’s starting to feel like Christmas at High Lonesome!

The nature reserve has over 8 kilometres of trails, thus offering many possibilities of hikes of different lengths. I decided that I would follow a large loop that would allow me to go all the way around the property. I first started by following Joel’s Pond Trail.


High Lonesome was a property that belonged to the McWatty family. At the end of the 19th century, they settled on the property, cleared part of the land and began to operate a farm there. The property was logged and cultivated until 1997 when it was purchased by Barry (Sam) Spicer. Sam wanted the property to be returned to its natural state and protected. This is why upon his death in 2010, the property was donated to the Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust.

High Lonesome Nature Reserve
A forest that is now protected

Reforestation work has been undertaken in recent years to return the property to its natural state. The trails give you the opportunity to explore this young forest, in addition to going through different ecosystems.

After Joel’s Pond Trail, I followed McWatty Trail and then Beaver Pond Trail. This one was probably my favourite. It follows the shore of a large beaver pond. I especially liked the fact that you can easily detect the presence of beavers in the surroundings.

Beaver Pond in High Lonesome
A beaver was here

Under its cover of ice, the pond was very still and silent. But the soft November light gave the place a serene and peaceful atmosphere, which I really enjoyed.

A bench near a beaver pond
A perfect place to take a break

I continued my hike following the White Pine Way (with its tall pines), the Lost Antler Trail, and then the North Wind Trail. The latter made me walk along the limits of the property and pass near a very old oak tree. Then I followed Wolf Trail, Spring Pepper Trail (where you can see another pond between the trees), then Wolf Trail again.

In fact, Wolf Trail could have taken me back to my starting point, but since I really wanted to explore the nature reserve as much as possible, I took another detour, this time on the Spooky Marsh Trail. I admit that the name intrigued me, but under its cover of ice, the marsh seemed pretty harmless to me. Although the hemlocks and pines that surround it do give it a gloomy look, and I imagine that at dusk, it might be a bit spooky.

Spooky Marsh
Spooky or not spooky, that is the question

I ended my hike with Sam’s Hill Trail, which leads to the highest point on the property, then descended back to my starting point. I met a group of hikers there, the first people I had met since arriving at High Lonesome.

In all, I hiked a total of 5.6 kilometres, with an elevation gain of 92 metres (the property is located in the Pakenham Hills, which may explain its more rugged terrain). Above all, I was able to discover another natural gem very close to Ottawa!


    1. We have plenty of them in Canada! I hope you get to see some at work one day! Thank you for reading Kellye 🙂

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