Lately, I’ve been exploring the smaller trails in Ottawa’s Greenbelt. Beaver and Chipmunk trails are two of my favourites. Combined this trail section is known as Trail 28 and it’s a great place to spot birds and other wildlife.
Together Beaver and Chipmunk trails are 2.6 kilometres long. They will take you around a half-hour to complete. Making them perfect for short walks with children. The terrain is level and I’ve seen many families push strollers through this area with little difficulty.
You can access the trails from parking lot 8 on Moody Drive. At the trailhead you’ll find two outhouses, waste receptacles, a map of the area, and further trail information. Dogs are not allowed on these trails.
The trail itself is wide and composed of crushed gravel, compacted dirt, and boardwalk areas. The route is well marked at each intersection.
When to Visit
I’ve visited Beaver and Chipmunk trails in all weather and seasons. I think the trails are most beautiful in the summer months when the trees have leafed out, the reeds have grown tall, and the summer wildflowers are in full bloom.
That being said, the trails are open year round. In the wintertime, they are beautiful after snowfall. Because they experience frequent foot traffic the snow is usually packed down enough to make them accessible. But, when the snow is at its deepest, it’s best to equip skis or snowshoes.
An advantage of visiting in the winter is seeing the non-migratory bird species that often flock together. The National Capital Commission, with the help of community members, puts up several bird feeders in the wintertime. This attracts lots of chickadees, nuthatches, cardinals, and woodpeckers. You can bring your own birdseed and feed the birds by hand.
What to Bring and Precautions
If you are visiting the trails in the spring and summer months it is likely that you will encounter mosquitos, black flies, deer flies, and horse flies. Some sections of the trails will be worse than others. It’s best to wear lightweight pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and a hat to protect you from bug bites. I also wear bug spray for extra protection.
If you are visiting the trail after heavy rainfall, wear a pair of boots to keep your feet dry.
There are ticks in this area. If you stick to the trail the likelihood of encountering them is slim. Make sure to check yourself and family members whenever you hike in the Ottawa area.
I said my favourite part of the trail is the wildlife. In my experience, the best times to see wildlife are in the early morning hours and around sunset.
The Ottawa Greenbelt is home to 251 regionally rare bird species. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of some of these rarer birds. If not, you’re guaranteed to see nuthatches and chickadees. They will often come to you because they’re accustomed to people feeding them.
It’s also common to see woodpeckers, cardinals, bluejays, red-winged blackbirds, herons, cedar waxwings, wild turkeys, and ducks. You can spot herons and ducks at the lookout on Beaver trail.
There are plenty of white-tailed deer around as well. In the summer months, they bed down in the wildflower field on Chipmunk trail. The does bed down in groups. It’s unlikely that you’ll see them unless you are silent and visiting early in the morning, but you’ll see plenty evidence of their presence.
It’s also possible to see beavers. To see them, you’ll have to make a quick detour off Trail 28 at section G. There you will find another boardwalk with a lookout. I recommend you make this brief detour before heading back to the trail. It’s beautiful and another great place to see birds.
Other animals you are likely to see on the trails are rabbits, snakes, chipmunks, squirrels, and turtles.
Beaver and Chipmunk trails pass through a deciduous forest. In the summertime the trees and underbrush make the forest bright green. In the fall, the trees get their spectacular autumn colours.
My favourite part of these trails are the summer wildflowers. These include St. John’s wort, yarrow, wild carrot, milkweed, vetch, purple loosestrife, prunella, daisy, clover, rose, thistle, white sweet clover, and many others. You’ll also see several species of pollinators including bees and butterflies.
Beaver and Chipmunk trails are great for families with small children who want a short trek outside. They are also great if you are looking to see some of Ottawa’s wildlife.
Have you visited these trails? I’d love to hear about your experience and what animals or wildflowers you’ve spotted!