Shirleys Bay Trail, Ottawa

Quick Stats

  • Length: 4.4 km return
  • Hiking Time: 1 hr
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Activities: hiking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, birding
  • Highlights: birds and wildflowers

Shirleys Bay Loop – NCC Trail 10

Shirleys Bay Trail is a one hour loop that winds through a young forest and fields of wildflowers. A small section of the trail also travels along the Ottawa River. There are two unofficial paths leading to the water where you can get a view of the bay and the Gatineau Hills.

A chocolate Labrador retriever shakes water from his coat.
Moose cools off in the Ottawa River. Leashed dogs are permitted at Shirleys Bay Trail from April 15 – November 30.

Access Shirleys Bay Trail from NCC Greenbelt parking lot 2, off of Carling Avenue. Parking is free. Leashed dogs are permitted from April 15 – November 30.

Difficulty and Advice

This trail is perfect for birders, dog walkers, and families. There are maps and markers along the route, making it easy to follow.

The path is a mixture of gravel and compacted dirt. Bridges and boardwalks take you over wet areas. That said, these areas are prone to flooding in the early spring. If you visit then, wear boots.

There are no washrooms or garbage cans at the trailhead. But, there’s a covered picnic area, washrooms, and garbage cans at Shirleys Bay Park. The park is a short 4 minute drive away from the trail.

You can expect biting insects (mosquitoes, black flies, and deer flies) in the spring. Don’t let this deter you from visiting! Cover up and pack insect repellent.

Wildflowers and Eastern Cottontails

My dog and I have hiked this trail a few times. My favourite part is seeing the wildflowers. They grow in the disturbed soils along the trail and in abandoned fields. I’ve seen meadow anemone, crown vetch, bird vetch, bladder campion, forget-me-nots, milkweed, red clover, bergamot, chicory, thistle, aster, and others.

I regularly see Eastern cottontail rabbits on the trail. They are often scurrying around in the morning hours.


Shirleys Bay is most famous for its birds. According to the NCC, the bay is “an important bird migration route along the Ottawa River.” Over 270 bird species have been recorded in the area!

I’m not a great birder, but I’ve seen ducks, robins, geese, cardinals, herons, warblers, chickadees, and nuthatches. Check out the Innis Point Bird Observatory Facebook and eBirdCanada to learn about the birds in this area.

Sadly, the sound of traffic from Carling Avenue and Rifle Road can drown out the bird song.

More About Shirleys Bay

You can learn more about Shirleys Bay by visiting the NCC website and AllTrails. If you’ve hiked this trail or plan to, let me know in the comments section!

As always, happy adventuring!

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