Carp Barrens Trail

Welcome to the Carp Barrens Trail, a 3 km loop operated by the Friends of the Carp Hills under an agreement with the City of Ottawa and in partnership with the Ottawa Mountain Bike Association, who maintain the trail.

The Carp Barrens Trail lies on one of the most ecologically significant areas in the region. Outcrops of exposed one billion year old Canadian Shield bedrock are folded into glacial-scraped ridges and troughs of provincially significant wetlands and ponds.  This generally acidic and extreme environment supports plants uncommon or rare in the Ottawa area.  Because of it unique character, the Carp Barrens are a candidate for the designation as a Provincially Significant Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (Life Science).

The trail is closed seasonally each year to protect Species at Risk nesting turtles and birds.  Trail closure runs from the first Tuesday after Victoria Day in May until August 15. We ask people to respect the trail closure and other conservation measures to keep the area special for future generations.

The Carp Barrens Trail is for pedestrian and mountain bike use only.  Dogs are not permitted.

The Carp Barrens area is ecologically sensitive. You can enjoy its beauty and minimize your impact by staying on the trail. FCH conducts active environmental stewardship and monitoring of the trail to ensure issues are identified and addressed early.

The 2019 Carp Barrens Trail Study documented the impact of human use on the Carp Barrens.  Its recommendations have guided the City of Ottawa’s closure of unauthorized trails, seasonal closure, and prohibition of dogs, for conservation purposes.

Work on the Carp Barrens Trail will be conducted in late 2020 and 2021 to close off side trails, add trailhead signs, and better delineate the existing trail loop.  Please respect the City of Ottawa’s Nature Reserve – No Entry signs.

Trail Map and Trail Access

Download a Trail Map (PDF).

The trail is a loop and can be accessed at two trailhead locations on Thomas A. Dolan Parkway.  These locations are currently not marked.  GPS coordinates are shown in the Trail Map.

Parking is very limited near the trailhead on the narrow shoulder of Thomas A. Dolan Parkway.  Exercise caution on this high speed road when exiting/entering your vehicle.

Learn More

Read the City of Ottawa’s information about the Carp Hills Municipal Nature Reserve.

Read about the special Ecology of the Carp Barrens and why it’s important to preserve Ottawa’s natural heritage. 

Read about the public consultation and the Carp Barrens Trail Study, which provided evidence-based recommendations for stewardship of the trail, balancing human recreation with conservation.

Read about the Carp Hills and its rock barrens in our Background information.

Why are dogs prohibited?  The cumulative impact of many dogs on the sensitive landscape is significant. Dog poop is often left and introduces alien microprobes into the ecosystem. Read this two page research summary on the Impact of Dogs on Wildlife.


Use the trail at your own risk. Download the map to your smart phone or print the map and take it with you.

The trail is rugged and strenuous in places with many exposed rocks and wet areas. Hikers should be relatively fit and use appropriate footwear; i.e. hiking boots with good ankle support.  

There is poison ivy on some portions of the trail and ticks are present, particularly in the spring and fall. Contact us if you want to report an issue.

Trail Code – Be a Responsible Steward of the Land

  • Minimize your impact on the area’s fragile ecology by staying on the trail.
  • Please keep your dog at home.
  • Please stay off the trail and area during seasonal closure from the Tuesday after Victoria Day weekend to 15 August to allow turtles and birds to nest in peace.
  • Do not move rocks or build rock cairns as this disrupts ground habitat for wildlife.
  • No camping, no fires. The area is very dry and brush fires can move quickly to engulf adjacent homes.