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Take a Hike in Oshawa

I’ve always loved the outdoors, and my kids and I got hooked on hiking throughout the pandemic. We explored dozens of trails and conservation areas in Durham and many have become favourites we visit again and again.

We love to use apps to help us identify interesting plants, wildflowers, mushrooms, insects and birds. Oshawa’s natural areas are beautiful in every season. Like true Canadians, we hike just as much in the winter as at other times of year - maybe more, because there aren’t any ticks or mosquitos to contend with. Just be warned that some trails are not maintained in the winter!

Whether you’re a longtime Oshawa resident or new to the city, check out my three favourite local hiking spots.

Cedar Valley Conservation Area Parking on Niagara Drive, Oshawa

I love that this space has a beautiful mix of hardwood forest, wetlands and valley lands, and a section of Oshawa Creek. It’s a huge area with multiple trails that have different lengths and scenery. See if you can find the staircase that descends into the forest — it offers a great view, especially in the fall. Cedar Valley is a great spot for checking out wildflowers, mushrooms, butterflies and birds and you can see salmon in the creek in the early fall. Heads up that the trails here are not as well marked here as in other areas, consider downloading a map before you go!

Second Marsh and McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve 555 Colonel Sam Dr., Oshawa and 1908 Colonel Sam Dr., Oshawa

This is such a unique place - did you know Second Marsh is the largest remaining urban wetland in the GTA? It’s home to marsh, swamps, wet meadows and woodlots. According to the Second Marsh website, 305 bird species have been observed here as well as 32 species of mammals, eight species of reptiles, 10 species of amphibians and 57 species of fish. I can personally vouch for this, it seems like we see something new every time we visit. Most recently we spotted swans, muskrats and fish. We have even seen snakes sunning at the snake hibernaculum! The trails are well-maintained and there are decks that give good views of the wetlands. Second Marsh connects to McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve, which has several trails and viewing platforms, and the Dogwood Trail, which can be used by people who are partially sighted or visually impaired.

Purple Woods Conservation Area 38 Coates Rd. E., Oshawa

Purple Woods is best known for its annual maple syrup festival in March (which is awesome), but this conservation area is beautiful in every season. It’s located on the top of the Oak Ridges Moraine and has some great views. There are 1.3 kilometres of trails, so it’s a short hike — but great for kids. My boys especially love to run up and down the giant hill! You can also access the Oak Ridges Moraine Trail if you want to extend your hike. There’s a small pollinator garden near the parking lot that often has amazing butterflies and caterpillars, depending on the time of year.

Jillian Follert has been a reporter in Durham for 20 years and currently writes about Oshawa municipal issues for Metroland, you can find her work at

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