KITCHENER -- During the last year of rolling lockdowns, more people have picked up hiking as an outdoor pastime.

“For the past year we've been trying to get outside a lot more and we've pretty much hiked every trail there possibly is to hike in Baden,” Kristen Davidson told CTV News as she and her children were out hiking in West Kitchener. 

“We thought we'd take a little bit of a drive down here and kind of explore the Grand River and see if we can find a new trail.”

The Grand Valley Trails Association, a charitable organization run by volunteers, is responsible for 250 kilometres of trails throughout the area of Waterloo Region.

“We build the trail, we maintain it, we make sure it's safe, make sure it's well marked,” GVTA President Annie Cote-Kennedy said.

The GVTA typically hosts guided hikes led by certified leaders, but since the start of the pandemic that service has been on hold.  Despite not being able to host walks, the association has noticed increased traffic on trails. They are reminding all users to respect the environment they are enjoying. 

“Pick up your litter after. If you're walking with a dog make sure that it's leashed," Cote-Kennedy said while enjoying the view over Homer Watson Park at the end of Wilson Avenue.

She added that even though trails are natural areas they are no place for waste, even of the natural kind, asking that dog owners always clean up after their four legged friends. 

GVTA Hike Director Petra Suffling is typically busy guiding hikes and says if you’re looking to hike beyond Kitchener-Waterloo, her favourite spots include Elora and Fergus.

“Those are fabulous places for views. Our trail actually goes right through the center of Fergus and you have lovely views down into the gorge,” Suffling said.

The GVTA website also allows you to track your trail and plan ahead for different terrains. The association also has an app available for use and mapping while hiking.

Many photo-worthy trails across the region include water views, waterfalls, and historical buildings.

Kitchener resident Jane Malleck says she used to walk through neighbourhoods, but wanted to switch views after the pandemic started. “Trails have kind of become my new little thing and I am loving it."

“I used to walk on the other side of the river, but I discovered this earlier this week. I've been walking this every day since. It’s just nice to get a different perspective."

Lori Maclean was walking the same trail with her niece when they stopped to take a photo with the Waterloo Pioneer Memorial Tower, a Federal Heritage Building along the trail. 

“I've just never been in a city that has such beautiful trails,” she said.

The GVTA  advises all hikers to dress properly  for the weather and to keep a safe distance from others, adding that if you notice any spots in need of maintenance along their trails, it can be reported on their website.

Here are some the GVTA's favourite hike spots:

  • Homer Watson Park at the end of Wilson Avenue  (Map 10, Km 23) Well known river view from high up in the woods. Short walk on a track. GPS 43.405240, -80.436834
  • Woolner Trail (Map 10, km 35) Beside the river, with good views from a hill above it within a 200m walk on paved trail. GPS 43.444091, -80.401844
  • Kolb Park:  230 Centennial Ct., Kitchener N2B 3X2   (Map 11, km 42.5) Flat, ponds, tall grasses, side trail with a 200m track to the river and main trail. GPS  43.475943, -80.427532