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6 Easy Hikes in Kitchener-Waterloo


Homer Watson trail in Kitchener, Ontario

I love hiking a mountain or trekking along a coast as much as anyone, but when you live in a Southern Ontario city you do what you gotta do!


The Waterloo Region may not be filled with the views you picture when you think about hiking, but it does have some nice trails to explore! I've compiled this list of 6 of my favourite trails directly in KW. How did I pick?! My list basically boils down to how I view things from a 'photogenic' perspective. These trails are pretty and they usually aren't wildly busy. My partner and I do most of our exploring on weekdays during the day so if you show up to one of these on a weekend and it's packed, it's not my fault, okay?!



Bechtel Park in Waterloo, Ontario

1. Bechtel Park

Bechtel park is located off of Bridge and University in Waterloo. The park has plenty more than just trails! There are 3 soccer fields, 4 tennis courts, a dog park, a playground, and more!


I like to enter the park from the 'main' trail head (it's the main one in my opinion) which is right off the parking area beside the playground. From here, it pretty much immediately becomes a 'choose your own adventure' type trail and you'll have lots of options to pick a new path as you continue along. There is lots to see on the main trails, including a river! The river does get quite high and fast flowing when we've had particularly wet weather so take note of that if you're going with pets or small children.


I personally find the true adventure starts when you follow any of the smaller side trails that branch off of the main ones. Now, this is definitely not good advice so if you do go off the main trail, please use caution! These side trails can be found with signs telling you to keep on the main path, basically. You do have to be aware of giant hog weed and less unkept paths but there's something so charming about these off shoots! Everything feels more peaceful and there's lots of overgrown foliage that make you feel like you're in an ethereal land.



Columbia Forest in Waterloo, Ontario

2. Columbia Forest

Columbia Forest is maybe my favourite spot on this entire list. It's tucked away behind Laurel Heights Secondary School and has a few access points from the neighbourhoods surrounding the forest.


Columbia Forest is relatively vast, considering the area. On a foggy day (as seen here) it really gives off the dreary vibes my gloomy little heart desires and during the summer its lush and filled with foliage. I consider this trail easy for the most part as it's relatively flat, however there is one hill that may prove difficult depending on your activity level. For the most part, you can rest assured that you'll just be wandering around care free through a variety of plant life.


This trail is well kept and allows you to feel like you've escaped society event though you're quite literally surrounded by (really nice) houses. Bonus tip: bring bug spray. Seriously. This may be my favourite spot but it's also filled with mosquitos and deer flies.


The Wise Old Oak Tree by Dustin Quill on the Health Valley Trail
Health Valley Trail, Waterloo/St.Jacobs Ontario

3. Health Valley Trail

Okay I know I just finished saying that Columbia Forest is my favourite but it's heavily tied with Health Valley. Okay maybe Health Valley actually wins the 'favourite' award.


Health Valley Trail is about 2.5 KM in length and does not really loop so plan accordingly if you want to do the whole trail. There are a few different access points to this trail but I recommend parking at the free lot in St. Jacobs so you can stop at Block 3 for a beer when you're done exploring!


To me, there are 3 distinct different sections of this trail. Assuming you start from the St.Jacobs lot, you'll start in a pretty populated part of the trail. This section is mostly gravel and there are a couple of options to branch off and head down to the river to take in the sights or bird watch or whatever. There is also a dog park not too far down this section of trail!


Health Valley Trail, Waterloo/St.Jacobs Ontario

Once you continue under the highway (trust me, you'll know when you're there) you enter the second section of the trail which is a more traditional dirt path (and boy oh boy does she get muddy after the rain!). This part of the trail often has a lot of slugs on it. Like BIG slugs. Watch out for them. They're orange and cute and there so many at times that you basically spend your time making sure you're keeping the safe. This slaggy path will eventually lead you to a gate and a large field. Now, it's gunna feel like you're trespassing here, but don't turn around because you're totally allowed to be here! Just make sure the gate shuts behind you so the cows don't escape. Yes, the cows. They aren't always out in this area but they are there sometimes. They may or may not approach you and they may or may not head butt and lick you. You may or may not become obsessed with them.


After cow city, you'll enter the 'fairy' forest part of the trail. I refer to it as this because there's a lot of foliage and flowers and it's cute as hell. If you continue, you'll eventually stumble upon the Wise Old Oak which is a very impressive piece of art created by Dustin Quill. If you continue even further than that, you'll end up heading out between some farmer's fields to University Ave. If you do the entire trail, start to finish and finish to start, you'll definitely feel it. I still consider this an easy hike and you can turn around whenever you feel like.


Grey Silo Perimeter Trail, Waterloo Ontario

4. Grey Silo Perimeter

Grey Silo Perimeter is a great paved trail surrounding Grey Silo Golf Course.


We love to come to this trail either first thing in the morning or later close to sunset. Why those times specifically? Because you're basically guaranteed to see deer! Seriously, I don't think I've been here a single time without seeing at least one deer.


The trail is multi-use so you do have to share with bicycles, rollerblades, and yes, golf carts. I wouldn't call this the most 'relaxing' trail due to dodging golf carts but it's usually not too busy and it's a good easy trail when you feel like going for a walk with nice scenery.


The trail runs along the grand river and we like to take a few minutes to stop and just take in the views while we're here.


Homer Watson Park, Kitchener Ontario

5. Homer Watson Park

Homer Watson Park is tucked away at the end of Wilson Rd. behind an industrial area close to Fairview Mall.


This trail is paved the entire way, unless you go off exploring one of the side paths. Personally, I love to go to Homer Watson when it's either actively raining or has just finished. I can't quite describe why but I just dig the atmosphere.


My favourite part of Homer Watson Park is definitely a section (the one pictured here) that gives me BC vibes. The trees feel taller and more similar to what you expect from the West Coast. Admittedly, this chunk of trail doesn't last super long but it feels really good while you're in it!



Laurel Creek Conservation Area, Waterloo Ontario

6. Laurel Creek Conservation Area

Last, but not least because this list wasn't in order of faves, is Laurel Creek Conservation Area.

I considered scrapping this one from my list simply because you do have to pay to enter the conservation area which doesn't make it quite as accessible as the other spots but it really is such a nice place to explore if you can make the justification.


We went camping here in September 2022 and spent most of our time exploring the trails! Laurel Creek is a great spot to go if you're looking for a longer day trip or an overnight/weekend get away without leaving the city. If you can swing it, I recommend camping here on a weeknight after school is back in. We were one of 2 people camping in our area (area 2 on their site map) and we weren't any where near each other so it truly felt like we had the place to ourselves!


 

Well, there you have it! 6 of my favourite easy hikes in KW!


Next time I feel like yapping about local trails, I'll post some of my faves within a close driving distance for those of you that are able to get out of the city a little bit!


Happy hiking <3



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