It may seem a bit strange to thank a meteorite, but if you’re ever at Foley Mountain Conservation Area in the winter, you just might. About 500 million years ago, a bus-sized piece of space rock hit nearby, creating a fault line and a drop in elevation of about 65 metres here. The result: spectacular views of Upper Rideau Lake and Westport all year long and one of the region’s best kept secrets in the winter.
Stop by this season, especially after the snow blankets the area, to see what I mean. For starters, all seven of the conservation area’s trails are open, and although they aren’t groomed for cross-country skiing, they’re perfect for snowshoeing.
“Our trails offer experiences for all skill levels,” says Rebecca Whitman, the Foley Mountain Area Supervisor (aka “the most enviable position in The Great Waterway”). “If you’re just trying out snowshoes, there are shorter and flatter trails such as the Beaver Pond Trail (1.3km) or Blue Trail (3 km). If you’re looking for more of a workout, try some of the more challenging trails such as the White Pine Trail, Rideau Trail or Orange Maple Trail.”
The 800-acre conservation area is also great for just enjoying the cold, crisp air and the natural winter wonderland all around you. Keep your eye out for signs of white tailed deer, foxes, rabbits and winter birds ranging from blue jays to woodpeckers to owls to ruffed grouse. The forests are packed with towering white pines, oaks and maples, as well as white and yellow birch, beech, red cedar, ash and poplar trees.
And, of course, don’t miss Spy Rock Lookout, where, in my opinion, you’ll find the best views in the region. “It’s beautiful in the winter,” says Whitman, “and gives a different seasonal view of Westport. Visitors can also see the famous Westport Christmas Tree, a red cedar that is decorated with lights at the lookout.”
For a more structured Foley Mountain experience this winter, you can always sign your school or community group up for one of the conservation area’s winter programs. Topics include snowshoeing, outdoor survival skills, winter ecology, GPS and geocaching, and orienteering. Call 613-273-3255 for details.
Foley Mountain is also hosting a Winter Adventure Day Camp on January 30th from 9am to 4pm for kids aged 6 to 12. Hosted by knowledgeable conservation area interpreters, the camp will teach young people how to snowshoe, put up a shelter, build a campfire and cook outdoors. The cost is $40/child and $35 for additional children in the same family. Pre-registration is required by calling 613-273-3255.
Whether you sign up for one of these special winter programs or not, however, Foley Mountain won’t disappoint this winter or, hopefully, for 500 million more. “It’s an inviting place to try an outdoor adventure and get outside and active during the winter months,” says Whitman. “I hope people will just have a great experience in the forest and be inspired to get out more.”
Entry to the park is $6/vehicle or $45 for an annual pass; both can be purchased onsite at the automated pay machine using a credit card or coins.