Marlborough Forest (15B) to Burritts Rapids (14A), 15.1 km
July 4th, 2021
This was hands down the most interesting section of trail that we’ve done so far. It was also the longest at 15.1 km, the vast majority of the trail through Marlborough Forest. The bugs have started to die down, much of the trail was tree covered, there was a beautiful breeze and we saw more wild animals than we saw humans. This section also had a few structures in it that were an interesting interlude. The entire hike took us 4 hours but it really didn’t feel that long. And because we were trail walking most of it, we weren’t as physically tired as if we’d been walking on a gravel road the whole time.
Today’s goal was to complete Map 14. We parked one vehicle in Burritts Rapids and drove back to our start point of Cedar Grove parking lot (which is actually at the end of Map 15). We were packed up and on the trail at 8:40. This time, knowing we had a bit of road walking at the end, we brought music to help pass the miles.
The first section of the trail goes over a small metal bridge and along a small lake. There is a 4km loop around the lake if you are only interested in a short walk. We had started out fairly early, we were the first car in the parking lot and the sun was shining brightly. So of course, the wildlife was a little perturbed that we had disturbed their peaceful morning. As the geese made their flustered way to the water, I happened to see movement at my feet along the footbridge and stopped in time to see a large northern watersnake slither off the metal deck and down into the vines. As I pointed him out to Bob, I noticed another movement along the handrail and jumped back when I discovered an entire nest of little garter snakes sunning themselves in a big tangle. I’m used to snakes being at my feet and not elbow level so while I was pretty sure they wouldn’t attack me as I walked past them, I can honestly say, I felt a little uneasy passing by them.
We continued alongside the pond and enjoyed the morning sunshine. Eventually we can to the fork in the road (one path the Rideau Trail, the other the loop that continues around the pond) and after about five more minutes, we came to a fence and an old fire road.
We followed this fire road for about 20 minutes (about a kilometer according to All Trails) and came to a fork in the road. The orange arrows are obvious and both of us agreed that the arrows were pointing to continue straight (the left branch). I’d love to go back and look at the arrows again because we should have veered to the right at this point. It wasn’t until we had walked another 20 minutes without seeing an orange arrow that I checked our All Trails map and discovered that we were not on the proper trail. Thankfully, we were still walking in the right direction and would meet up with the trail again in only another 500 meters. Even though the walking was easy and we did see a doe and fawn walking ahead of us on the road, I was a little disappointed as we weren’t on the true trail (I am a bit of a purest sometimes). I’m sure it would have been lovely as it passes between two other bodies of water or wetland.
We continued down Flood Road and came to a T-junction with a ATV/snowmobile signpost and turned right. After only 100 m (one minute of walking), we found the real Rideau Trail again. The Rideau Trail doesn’t see a lot of traffic in a season so it can be quite overgrown with grass, flowers and branches. This was our favourite section so far but we also had to look for the triangles more than any other section we’d done because the foot trails were not always obvious.
Back on the foot trail, we enjoyed the shade and a slight decrease in bugs. The forest was a magical place, mossy and green, with sun dappling the leaves. It held an atmosphere that made you feel that if you stayed long enough, faeries would appear.
Just under a kilometer in on this part of the trail, we saw a structure in the woods. We hiked to it and discovered a lean-to. This structure is on the map but we didn’t know what type of structure it would be. It is indeed a proper lean-to. This made the hike truly feel like an adventure. There were artifacts in the shelter and a fire pit. The lean-to wasn’t very deep and so made me think that it wasn’t meant to be used for camping, like in the Adirondacks, but more for a rest area. I suppose if necessary, up to 4 people could sleep in it, though it would be squishy. I haven’t been able to find anything about whether camping is permitted in Marlborough Forest.
This marks the halfway point of the Rideau Trail through this portion of Marlborough Forest so we figured we’d actually have a seat and a bite to eat.
As we left the lean-to, we followed the orange markers with the yellow tips only to find a very winding trail that seemed to circle back towards the lean-to. After a minute or two of walking, we could still see the lean-to through the trees, only about 20 meters away.
We soon came across another structure that looked quite haphazardly assembled so we went to investigate. Not going to lie, I thought for a second I heard banjos. We wondered if this was the outhouse that was marked on the map, though we knew we weren’t anywhere near the location. Being the intrepid explorer I am, I let Bob approach the small structure first. He called hello and thank God, there was no answer. He opened up the “door” cautiously. I kept thinking an animal was going to jump out. Anyway, the suspense (but not the creep factor) diminished quickly when we discovered an old, beat up office chair inside. It was a hunting blind.
On the map this section is very winding and we had to watch our step, which meant that we ended up AGAIN on a trail right alongside the Rideau Trail. It wasn’t a big chunk but it was a bit frustrating to keep losing the trail. The arrows are not always obvious. We got back on the trail and about 15 minutes later, we came across a porta-potty. I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of hiking experience in the woods and generally using these portable toilets are absolutely disgusting. I would rather use a good old-fashioned outhouse to be honest. In fact, just finding a spot in the woods is even better. I have no idea what state it was in because there was no way I was going in there. But if you’re okay with the heat, the stench, the bugs and the puddle of piss on the floor, you go for it.
Onward we walked. We managed to stay on the correct trail for the next 2 km. We came out of the woods to this beautiful scene. Near the end of this body of water, there is an orange arrow on a sign on the left hand side of the road, pointing directly to the right. When we looked to the right, we couldn’t see a trail. This is why we’ve been taking so many wrong trails in this section. Everything is so overgrown and the arrows are hidden (unintentionally) in leaves. But indeed, there is a trail to the right.
This was our last section of foot trail before hitting Paden Road for the final 3km road walk into Burritts Rapids. It was beautiful. We scared a couple of partridges out of the brush and we walked alongside a split rail fence for a while. The ATV ruts were quite deep here which made walking a little more adventurous. The Rideau Trail walks alongside Paden Road for about half a kilometer before actually coming out onto the road itself.
The trail used to continue across the road but the owners of that property have revoked hiking privileges and this section is now permanently closed. We followed the alternate (now the only) route southwest on Paden Road and then southeast on Dwyer Hill Road. This is the only section of road walking on Map 14 and it is only 3.2 km. We put on our headphones and passed the time with music.
We arrived in Burrits Rapids at around 12:30 pm, with the plan to do a walking tour. But in fact, we had to walk the same path as the walking tour to get to the vehicle so by the time we’d walked through the village, we’d seen pretty much everything there was to see.
Burrits Rapids is a tiny village with only one store that we saw in it – a tack shop which is closed on Sundays. The buildings are adorable along the main street and the main part of the village is on a small island in the Rideau River. There is a 4.3 km trail called the Tip-to-Tip Trail that goes the length of the island. There is also a lockstation at the eastern end if you are interested in seeing it.
Having walked through Burritts Rapids, we have officially made it to Ottawa City Limits. Hard to believe that finally, after walking 82 km from downtown Ottawa, we have finally reached the end of the city. Our next stretch isn’t that long (only 9 km) to Merrickville but it’s all road.
This section was definitely the most fun we’ve had so far. Marlborough Forest is an absolute gem of a hike and I don’t know why I’d never heard of it before researching the Rideau Trail. We will definitely be revisiting this beautiful natural area to enjoy its trails in winter too.
After changing into sandals and finding a grassy spot under a tree for a picnic lunch, we headed home again. An absolutely wonderful day of hiking.
Total km to date: 82.7 km of 387km