I’ve recently had an extended stay at the place where, no matter how many times I move, I still call Home. Its an easy place to like, even in the dead of winter. There’s lots of water, sandy beaches, bright red lighthouses, places to hike, bike and ski, good restaurants, a few solid breweries. I was really proud a few years ago, when it was named a happiest-healthiest town in America, and Coastal Living’s 2017 Happiest Seaside Town. We could have told you that.
One of the best things to do around here, in my humble opinion, are dune hikes. They can be enjoyed in Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter, as well as through all seasons in life. I enjoyed these hikes when I was a kid, before I had kids and especially now that I need kid-friendly activities to keep us busy. They can be adapted for any level of fitness. I hope to be able to continue hiking these dunes until I’m a very old, wrinkly, little lady.
In no particular order, here are a handful of my favorite trails around:
Rosy Mound for trail runs out to the water, with a quick jump to cool off in the Lake at the halfway point. I love running on the boards there. There is a fee to park from Memorial to Labor day, but you can avoid this if you are cheap like me by parking at the school just a wee little way down the road and walking up the bike path to the entrance.
Coast Guard Park aka North Ottawa Dunes for stairs and Sunday afternoon fresh air and exercise in all seasons.
The new Ottawa Sands trails across the street from Coast Guard are unexpectedly open and flat through the dune grass. Who knew there was a little lake back there? (watch out for the bald eagles, I always see them). We took our snowshoes out there a month ago and literally blazed the trail around the lake.
Hoffmaster State Park for slightly longer hauls and stretches of beach almost to yourself.
Ok, don’t tell anyone I told you this, but you can totally hike up the back of Dewey Hill and watch the musical fountain from up above. You just can’t mind coming down in the dark and keep your head down if you wander below the fountain during the show, or the operator guy will come out and yell at you.
Highland Park walk/Mulligans Hollow trails. There’s a service road behind the Imagination Station. Walk up it to the top of the Ski Bowl. Walk across the top of the hill to the far side and you’ll see a trail in to the woods. Go on that trail until you run in to the sidewalks going between the beach houses up on the Highland Park side. Stroll through Highland Park (find the boardwalks into the woods) and enjoy the sunset from the overlook above city beach. You can also park at the cemetery and walk toward the lake, or city beach and walk up the stairs across the road to the overlook. Loop back along the beach to the YMCA.