Petawawa is nestled between Pembroke and Chalk River in the scenic Ottawa Valley region. The Ottawa Valley is known for its Provincial Parks, white water rafting, year-round fishing and natural resource preservation. Petawawa isn’t just home to one of Canada’s largest military bases- it is offers hiking trails perfect for beginner or expert snowshoe enthusiasts.
Once the snow hits the ground the Ottawa Valley springs back to life- this area has a huge cross country ski and snowshoe community. Several ski and snowshoe clubs exist in Petawawa and the surrounding area and they maintain the trails every winter. Outdoor adventure is in people’s blood in the Ottawa Valley and winter exploration is welcome and celebrated.
3 best parks to snowshoe in Petawawa
Petawawa Terrace Provincial Park – located just off of Laurentian Drive- may be one of the smaller of Ontario Parks but it is vibrant and alive during each season. Every trip to the Terrace is a different adventure. The lower Terrace is a 6 km hike through beaver habitats, historic goose ponds and the former fish hatchery- it is the more advanced part of the park to snowshoe. The 3.6 km of hiking trails in the upper Terrace twist and weave through a red pine plantation that is perfect for birding.
The upper Terrace is easier to navigate and a great place for snowshoeing. The trail is maintained by Fred Molson- founder of the Petawawa Ski Club and owner of the small ski hill and chalet Mount Molson. Most parts along the main trails have beginner level terrain. Novice or advanced snowshoe enthusiast may want to go bushwhacking through the red pine plantation. Due to a recent storm there is a lot of deadfall making it an all-natural obstacle course. What is a snowshoe trip without a few falls?
Another great place to snowshoe is the Petawawa Research Forest (PRF) trails. Established in 1918 this 100 square km of protected forest is located on the edge of the Canadian Shield just off of Hi-way 17. This forest is rich in history and wildlife making it one of the best spots in Petawawa for outdoor adventure enthusiasts.
The PRF has many intricate trails great for snowshoeing. The small lakes and streams that are scattered about the park make for great scenery- the PRF is part of the Great Lakes- St. Lawrence forest region.
Snowshoeing the PRF will take you on a journey through Red Pine, Red Oak, White Pine, White birch and Aspen trees. Those interested in exploring the PRF should check out the PRF Ski Trails Map to plan the best snowshoe route for your level of expertise.
The Forest Lea Trails is a looping trail system that is maintained by the Pembroke Area Cross Country Ski Club (PAXC). These trails are located at the end of Forest Lea Road and are a series of four main loops with intricate trails weaving around and trough the loops. There is also a skating trail so snowshoers may want to bring their skates along and heighten their experience.
Conditions vary on the 14 km of trails- the loops are color coded to show difficulty. The PAXC has many events and races that snowshoe enthusiasts and cross country skiers can take part in. If you get too cold you can always visit the Warm-up Cabin at the top of the Green Loop.
Equipment rentals in Petwawawa
The Jubilee Lodge Marina offers snowshoe rentals in Petawawa. Located on Givensche Rd the Jubilee Lodge Marina also has some cross country ski trails in the woods behind the Lodge. You can snowshoe here and test out your rentals before heading on your trip. For CAC and Defense Team members rentals are free. The lodge also offers lessons and group outings rates.
Jubilee Lodge Marina also offers canoe and kayak rentals when the weather gets warmer. It is the home of Petawawa’s Yacht Club. Jubilee Lodge Marina handles most snowshoe rentals in Petawawa but you can also call The Petawawa Public Library to reserve a pair of snowshoes to borrow for the day.
Tips for a fun day on the trails
All of these trails and ski clubs have one important rule- people are not allowed to snowshoe on or along the cross country ski trails. Snowshoe enthusiasts and cross country skiers have a mutual respect for one another and take their own trails through the bush. Do not cross a ski trail on snowshoes- find another way to get around it.
When hiking places with a lot of deadfall be sure to lift your snowshoes higher off of the ground as you walk. You are more likely to fall snowshoeing in deeper snow. The deep snow also hides things from view to move forward cautiously. If you are a beginner you may want to bring poles.
If you are planning to snowshoe one of these parks for the first time make sure you map out your area. Petawawa Terrace has an information kiosk at the Laurentian Drive entrance that has a map of the park. Take a photo of it with your camera or phone and keep a compass handy. PRF has a Ski Trail Map on their website that you can screenshot or save to your phone. PAXC offers a Forest Lea Trails Map on their blog.
The Ottawa Valley is cold- the weather conditions send shivers up the spine of even the most winter-loving Canadians so prepare for it. You can always remove layers if needed. That is the best tip for anyone who takes on a Valley winter in any capacity. It is worth every frigid moment because the pure, untouched wilderness in Petawawa will make up for any cold feet you may have.