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Enjoying the Winter Months Outdoors

The days are slowly becoming longer but the weather is not growing any warmer. These mid-winter months can be the gloomiest of the year. This week’s blog is all about making the most of these winter days so that they don’t feel quite so gloomy!

Hiking, Snowshoeing, and Cross-Country Skiing

Most of us can agree that spending time outside in the summer is far superior to the chilly days of winter. But there are so many activities that are reserved for winter days! You definitely can’t ski or snowshoe without… well… snow. And I personally prefer hiking in the wintertime – there are zero bugs to swat and the summer heat doesn’t have you panting after the first incline. Here are some of my favourite spots around town to get outside and enjoy the winter days.

Kingston Waterfront Trail

While this trail does extend much farther, the portion from the Portsmouth Olympic Harbour to Lake Ontario Park offers a 6-foot-wide accessible path. It is well maintained through the winter months, but, as can be expected this time of year, some lumps of snow and ice can be present. Dogs on leash, like my Barbadian beach dog, are welcome and frequently observed along this path, though most aren’t wearing fancy snowsuits like Maggie.

Lemoine Point Conservation Area

This conservation area has two entrances, both with large parking areas and free entry. It is a busier area, so you can expect to see lots of people and dogs, no matter what day or time you choose to visit. I recommend exploring along the waterfront. I do caution everyone on this trail – while it is an easy trail, it is heavily used which can make it really icy in the wintertime. 

Little Cataraqui Creek Conservation Area

The trails at “Little Cat” are great year-round and offer again a fairly moderate hiking option. There is a large parking area and a small fee for visiting this conservation area. If you venture into the office, you can rent skis and snowshoes for an additional price. There are designated trails for both snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. If you’re interested in snowshoeing, it’s always better to try this activity after a good snowfall. For all winter hikers, please respect the designated ski trails so as not to ruin them for the skiers. Dogs on leash are welcome here.

Parrot’s Bay Conservation Area

I highly recommend heading west of Kingston to try the trails at Parrot’s Bay. They can become really icy in the wintertime, especially after the snow begins to melt then freeze, so please be cautious of the weather conditions preceding your hike. I wasn’t as cautious on one last winter to find out the trails were slick, completely ice-covered, and I spent large portions of my hike scooting and sliding on my bum. It is a less popular spot than the other local trails and offers slightly greater difficulty. Dogs on leash are welcome! It’s a great spot to snowshoe after a good snowfall if you own your own snowshoes. There is no facility to rent equipment and while there are multiple parking areas, each one can only fit about 3 vehicles. 


Outdoor Rinks (ODRs)

While Kingston does have ODRs in many neighbourhoods, these aren’t always very well maintained. It takes community volunteers to ensure access to good skating surfaces. Consider rounding up some friends to give your local ODR some TLC (tender loving care). Often all it takes is a good shoveling, but if the ice is really uneven, you can contact the city to give it a good hose-down.

If you are thinking of playing shinny but don’t know how to get it organized, there are often folks using one of the rinks at Victoria Park for this purpose. I encourage you to join in and meet some new people!

Looking for more options? Wolfe Island has a great ODR in their community centre that is sheltered and fully lit at night. It’s walking distance from the ferry, so you can just hop on as a pedestrian and enjoy a short walk to the facility. The community centre offers a full-sized rink and there are *heated* change rooms for getting ready. You can round up some friends and bring full hockey gear for a great game outdoors, or just journey over with some skates, stick, and puck.

Springer Market Square

If you’re looking for a more maintained ODR, Springer Market Square has a beautiful outdoor rink set up with a cooling system under the ice surface. The Zamboni makes its rounds to keep the ice in great shape all winter long! If you’re wanting to try it out but don’t have skates, there is a skate rental facility conveniently located on site.

Have you tried any of these winter activities? Do you have a favourite spot that’s not on my list? Share it with me and other grad students by commenting below!

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