Dreaming of a beach day, but without the crowds? Ottawa has got your back. There’s a short hike near the city that will take you through a dreamy forest and out into vast, golden sand dunes. The best part is, Ottawa's sand dunes are a well-kept secret by locals, so they're often deserted. What are you waiting for?!
If you’ve completed almost all of Ottawa’s best hikes, and you’re looking for a new adventure, it’s time to add Pinhey Forest to your local bucket list.
Located in the south of the city, the Pinhey Forest Trail is the perfect mini-hike for both beginners and seasoned experts simply because it’s so pretty.
The easy 3.2-kilometre trail leads you through a vast conservation area, where you’ll pass through red maple forests and along Instagram-worthy boardwalks.
If that doesn’t sound like enough of a challenge for you, don’t worry. Pinhey Forest actually has 6.4 kilometres of different trails, so you can take the long way around if you’d prefer!
The real draw here though is the secret sand dunes that can be found right at the edge of the Pinhey Forest Reserve.
Here, you’ll find golden sands that will stretch all around you, and it almost feels like you're lost in the desert.
According to the National Capital Commission (NCC), these glistening dunes have a seriously unique ecosystem, so you should also be on the lookout for unusual wildlife and plant species.
It's the perfect spot to have a picnic on a sunny day, especially if you want to avoid the crowds on the city's beaches.
Here, it'll feel like you're in your own private paradise, and the fact that you have to find it first makes the experience even sweeter!
Per Ottawa Rewind, these sand dunes used to be around 3 kilometres long, but they’re disappearing fast.
Fortunately, since 2011, the NCC has been doing their best to restore the area, which is believed to be over 10,000 years old!
The NCC told Narcity that Pinhey Forest is an “ecologically sensitive area,” and therefore visitors should stick to designated trails and refrain from leaving any garbage behind them.*
There is free, year-round parking available at the Pinhey Forest Trail, and a public bathroom alongside the trail entrance.
There's also an unsheltered picnic area on-site if you want to avoid sandy sandwiches.
Ottawa's Hidden Sand Dunes
Address: Pinhey Forest, Ottawa, ON
Why You Need To Go: Avoid the crowds and get lost in Ottawa's secret sand dunes before it's too late!
We strongly advise that before you go swimming or visit any location, you check the most recent updates on potential hazards, security, water quality, and closures. If you do plan to visit a location, respect the environment.
*This article has been updated.