Your winter getaway is a lot closer than you may think
Who says you can only enjoy nature when the snow has melted? There’s nothing like breathing in the crisp, fresh air on a winter nature hike as you take in the sights and sounds of wildlife around you while braving the cold. I love hearing the distant chirp of a chickadee high above in an oak tree — its visibility heightened by the bareness of the tree — or the surprise of seeing fresh animal tracks in the snow below.
The good news is that you don’t have to wait until winter has run its course to enjoy the outdoors. Across Canada, there are Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) Nature Destinations open year-round, just waiting to be explored.
Find your next adventure below:
Ancient Cottonwood Trail, British Columbia
Give your neck muscles a good stretch as you stroll along a trail that winds past trees as high as an eight-storey building. With the most ancient dating back 400 years, these black cottonwood trees provide habitat for many species, including dens for black bears, holes for small cavity-dwelling creatures and habitat for many songbirds and insects.
Take a trip back in time. The Nodwell property at Horseshoe Canyon is an isolated pocket of badlands amidst the Alberta prairies. The geological features of the property, made visible through erosion, represent 70 million years of our planet’s history, and contain information about past plant and animal life as well as human history.
Old Man on His Back Prairie and Heritage Conservation Area, Saskatchewan
This property attracts both novice and seasoned stargazers and naturalists, who visit the ranch to experience the vast natural prairie and dark night skies. Stick around at night, as Old Man on His Back is a designated nocturnal preserve and offers spectacular views of the Milky Way.
The Forks Prairie Garden, Manitoba
The Forks Prairie Garden, located in downtown Winnipeg at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine rivers, has been a meeting place for thousands of years. Lace up your skates and glide along the skating trails that meander down both rivers, throughout The Forks and even through the garden.
Hazel Bird Nature Reserve, Ontario
Exploration awaits you at this property, which is part of the Rice Lake Plains. Don your walking shoes — or snowshoes — and wander your way along the main loop trail that passes through tall grass prairie, sand barren, oak woodland and black oak savannah.
Signage along the trail helps tell the story of the natural and cultural history of the Rice Lake Plains, including the Indigenous history deeply entwined with the tall grass ecosystems in the area.
Green Mountains, Quebec
Nestled in the heart of an important tourist region in Quebec, the Green Mountains Nature Reserve offers visitors a vast 200-plus-kilometre trail system.
NCC has been working with local community members since 1993 to conserve the Green Mountains Nature Reserve. Since then, we have conserved 19,724 acres (7,982 hectares) here.
Five Fathom Hole Trail, Musquash Estuary, New Brunswick
The spectacular Musquash Estuary Nature Reserve, NCC’s largest conservation area in New Brunswick, is one of the last remaining, fully functioning river estuaries on the Bay of Fundy.
Lace up your boots and hike the Five Fathom Hole Trail, which is sure to deliver beautiful views of the craggy coastline.
Pugwash Estuary, Nova Scotia
As a focal region for NCC in Nova Scotia, the Pugwash River Estuary is a mixture of forest and salt marsh, bordering some of the most sought-after oceanfront property in the province.
Wind along the trail through mature and regenerating Acadian forest and skirt the edge of the salt marsh, where vistas across the estuary await. Interpretive panels along the trail provide information on the trail itself, the forest, the salt marsh ecosystems and the eel-grass and waterfowl that rely on it.
Grand Codroy Estuary, Newfoundland and Labrador
If birding is in your DNA, then you'll definitely want to visit the Grand Codroy Estuary, located on the southwest coast of the Island of Newfoundland.
Start your trek through lush wetland habitat that transitions into a peaceful forest. Branch off from the main trail to see what species may be soaring overhead, swimming in the protected estuary or looking for lunch in the shallows.
Disclaimer: Visitors to Nature Conservancy of Canada properties do so at their own risk.