In the 1950s the Greenbelt, more than 20,000 hectares of land was created to protect the rural land bordering Canada’s Capital, Ottawa. This was done to protect the area from any urban sprawl. The Ottawa Greenbelt is the largest one in the world and consists of farms, forests, and wetlands. My favorite part of the Greenbelt is Jack Pine Trail which offers multiple trails ranging from 1.5 km to 13.5 km loops.
This area is known for its tame black-capped chickadees who land on visitors’ open hands to feed on sunflower seeds. There are so many reasons to visit Jack Pine Trail and I share with you my top 7 although I know I could easily list at least 20 good reasons.
1 – Feeding the chickadees. Regardless of the season, the Jack Pine Trail chickadees are often willing to partake of visitors’ yummy treats. After decades of people feeding them, they and their offsprings have become accustomed to land on one’s hand to quickly grab their favorite black sunflower seeds. My husband and I discovered Jack Pine Trail back in 1991 when we moved to the area. With our very young daughters in tow, we would walk the trails and enjoy watching them feed the little birds. To this day feeding the chickadees is still something I enjoy! In fact, a visit from my friends from abroad would not be complete without a visit and a bird feeding, something all of my guests admitted was a first for them. Chickadees are not typically tame enough to eat in one’s hand. You might even have the occasional White-breasted nuthatch visit you.
2 – Walking the trails. Jack Pine has many loops of varied distance which should address most visitors’ preferences. If my time is limited I tend to keep to the 1.5 km loop which allows me to see just about everything the area has to offer – marsh, forest, and open areas. The trails are well marked with distance information and intersection points to other trails.
3 – Observing nature. Jack Pine Trail is accessible yearlong and offers endless opportunities to observe plants, trees, flowers, and wildlife. I’ve spotted whitetail deer, raccoons, many different birds, chipmunks, squirrels, geese and ducks and other less seen critters. In mid-spring the official flower of Ontario, the White Trillium is in abundance on the trails. For mycologists, Jack Pine Trail offers many species of mushrooms. I’ve been to the trails at least 100 times, and I never tire to see the changes in nature throughout the year.
4 – Winter Wonderland activities. Given the trails are open year round, one can cross-country ski and snowshoe. What I like about winter activities on the trails, there are limited open areas which provide shelter from the wind. Cross-country ski tracks are often found on the longer loops.
5 – A nature photographer’s paradise. I admit that I never visit Jack Pine Trail without my camera. At times, taking pictures is the sole reason I visit, and regardless of the time of the year, I have never been short of things to capture in photographs. I also admit I never tire of seizing the moment a chickadee picks through the seeds or takes off to eat its treat. This is also my go-to location to take family or friend pictures, given all the great locations including multiple areas that offer wooden seats overlooking beautiful areas.
6 – A great location to feature little ones’ homemade bird feeders. If you visit during the week, you might just encounter children from local schools during one of their nature outings. The trails offer so much for every age group and this location is one of the favorites given the closeness to the many schools in nearby neighborhoods.
7 – A quiet place to connect with nature. For those of you who feel a walk in the woods or on the trail is a great way to recharge your battery or ground yourself, an early morning walk or one just before dusk at Jack Pine Trail could do the trick. Early mornings are quiet since the school age groups typically don’t arrive until mid-morning. Early evening walks offer beautiful sunset colours that bathe the trails.
Jack Pine Trail can be accessed from Moodie Drive parking lot 9 of the Greenbelt area. Bathrooms are at the trailhead and as mentioned, trails are well marked. Jack Pine Trail – a gem of a location for all ages!