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Local CAF veteran releases guide to 100+ hiking trails in and around Ottawa

Victoria Walsh says the COVID-19 pandemic is influencing people’s relationship with the outdoors, and they've been looking to her for guidance.

An Ottawa Canadian Armed Forces veteran is putting her extensive knowledge of National Capital Region hiking trails onto paper, as more residents look to explore the outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Victoria Walsh, 41, an avid hiker, traveller and 14-year CAF veteran, discovered that friends and family were often asking her for advice about hiking in and around Ottawa. 

“First, friends would ask where to catch the sunrise in Ottawa, then coworkers would wonder where they could take their families on nature walks on the weekend. Then, [they asked] questions about the best places to camp and if there are any trails with waterfalls,” Walsh said. 

It soon became obvious to Walsh, the person behind the wellness and wilderness website GirlGoneGood, that there was a gap in the Ottawa area when it came to knowledge of trails and hiking information. 

She soon got to work writing the 2020 Guide to Hiking Trails in Ottawa and Region, which was released this spring. 

“It’s the ultimate hiking guide for everyone to enjoy, and I really mean everyone. With 100+ different trail systems, there are short hikes, long hikes, boardwalks and steep inclines. There are trails that are dog friendly, or ‘dogs not permitted’ due to species at risk onsite. Some have epic vistas, deep historical significance or incredible waterfalls,” Walsh explained. 

The guide, organized by county, contains trail features listed in a quick reference guide, including driving time from Ottawa, trailhead address, number of trails, total distance, level of effort, and more, as well as local insights such as the best place to grab a latte. All trails are within two hours of Ottawa. 

Over the past several weeks, Walsh, who grew up in Russell, noticed how the COVID-19 pandemic has influenced people’s relationship with the outdoors. 

“Well, I think we all realize that the pandemic has been incredibly different for everyone: same storm, different ships. Yet, the accessibility and grounding nature of the outdoors has universal appeal and positive outcomes. Hopefully this is a trend most will carry forward with them, post-pandemic, since the benefits of immersing oneself in nature cannot be overstated. In my mind, it’s a return to prioritizing our values over getting lost in the noise of being busy,” said the author. 

Part of the proceeds from the sale of the guide will go to two charities:

  • Boots on the Ground (BOTG) is a non-profit organization that offers 24/7 peer-to-peer mental health support by trained volunteers for EMS personnel in Ontario. 
  • Mississippi Madawaska Land Trust (MMLT) is a charity that manages six large local nature reserves, four of which have hiking trails that are open to the public. 

The 2020 Guide to Hiking Trails in Ottawa and Region is available at these local cafes/stores (or can be ordered online):⁠

  • Badwood Coffee in Metcalfe⁠
  • 692 Coffee and Bar in Manotick⁠
  • Left & Write Paperie in Alexandria⁠
  • Simply Jennifer in Cornwall⁠
  • Artizen Kombucha in Perth (and online)⁠
  • The Hungry in Perth (cash only)⁠
  • Fifth Chute Coffee in Eganville⁠
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