Go take a hike, but do it safely

Given the summery weather forecast, it's bound to be a busy weekend on local hiking trails.

And while many trails and pathways are now open, there are still restrictions in place to keep the spread of COVID-19 in check.

So as you grab that walking stick and lace up those boots, here's what you should know.

Gatineau Park

The National Capital Commission has entered the second phase of its plan to reopen its public assets, meaning the sprawling 361-square-kilometre Gatineau Park is no longer accessible to locals only.

In fact, there's now plenty of space to ramble: On Thursday, the NCC announced three parkways — Gatineau, Champlain and Fortune Lake — would be blocked off to motor vehicles until June 28.

Parking lots that aren't on those closed parkways reopened Friday morning.

The NCC is still urging people to observe physical distancing rules, which means staying two metres away from other hikers. Day shelters, beaches and picnic areas remain closed.

Trails and paths in Ottawa

Municipally run trails and nature areas are also open to walkers, cyclists and people using mobility devices, as long as they're not supposed to be self-isolating.

The rules around keeping two metres' distance and not congregating in groups of more than five still apply, and the City of Ottawa is urging people to visit trails that can be reached on foot or by bike rather than by driving long distances.

If you need a rest, benches and tables are among the park amenities that reopened this week, although the city warns they're not cleaned frequently.

Trails in the nation's capital overseen by the NCC, including the popular Mer Bleue Bog, are also open — although their benches and picnic tables are not, and neither are their outhouses.

Dogs must be kept on-leash on both city-run and NCC trails, unless otherwise marked.

Trevor Pritchard/CBC

Outside Ottawa

The town of Calabogie, Ont,. in the Township of Greater Madawaska serves as the trailhead for a number of popular, moderately challenging hikes through the pine forest, including the well-known Eagle's Nest Lookout, and is a common day trip from Ottawa.

On Friday, the township announced all of its trails and parking lots have now reopened.

Hikers should still avoid congregating in large groups, and the two-metre physical distancing rules remain in effect.

Another frequently visited hiking spot, the Larose Forest near Limoges, Ont., has most of its trails open. Some remain closed, but for weather-related reasons, not COVID-19.

The trails opened May 16, according to the United Counties of Prescott and Russell.

Provincial parks

Provincial parks in Ontario have been open for limited day use since earlier this month, and that includes hiking trails.

However, all buildings and washrooms, water taps, back country campsites and roofed accommodations are closed. That means anyone planning a hike should come prepared.

Ontario Parks is also urging people to only visit provincial parks if they live in the area.