Off the beaten path – exploring the trails and parks of Waterloo Region

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by Alex Kinsella

Fresh air is great for the body, mind, and spirit. Whether you’re walking with a friend, out with the family, or just looking to spend some time with your thoughts, Waterloo Region’s parks and trails offer something for everyone.

Snyder’s Flats, Woolwich Township

view of the lilypads floating on the pond at Snyder's Flats in Bloomingdale in Woolwich Township
Pond at Snyder’s Flats (Photo: spaceamoeba)

Located in the town of Bloomingdale in Woolwich Township, you’ll find Snyder’s Flats. The 100-hectare conservation area is open to the public year-round. The reformed gravel pit is now a natural area with a large pond and a 4.5-kilometer trail. Snyder’s Flats is home to fantastic wildlife, including large brown and white raptors and beavers. You can access parking and the trails off of Snyder’s Flats Road and Sawmill Road.

FWR Dickson Wilderness Area, Cambridge

Birders can find an amazing selection of feathered friends at FWR Dickson Wilderness Area in Ayr. The natural area includes great hills, two ponds, and a 4.8-kilometer walking trail. The trail is a figure-eight loop great for hikers of all skill levels. There’s also a wetlands area with a boardwalk to get you even closer to nature. Trail and natural area access can be found at 690 Brant-Waterloo Rd in Ayr. While you’re out there, you can also make a side trip to the family-owned Willibald Farm Distillery & Brewery at 1271 Reidsville Rd to pick up locally-crafted gin and beer. 

Health Valley Trail, St. Jacobs

St. Jacobs isn’t just for shopping and dining–although those are two great reasons to visit! The Health Valley Trail can be found behind the Block 3 Brewery and runs along the Conestoga River to University Avenue in Waterloo. It’s an unpaved trail great for cross country skiing in the winter and mountain biking in the summer. 

Bechtel Park, Waterloo

Situated between Bridge Street West and University Avenue East in Waterloo is Bechtel Park. The 100-acre park is a local favourite for cross country skiing and hiking. The Manulife Soccer and Sports Complex is available for rentals with COVID-19 restrictions in place. It’s also home to a dog park so you and your four-legged family members can enjoy the outdoors together. Parking and trail entrances are accessible from Bridge Street West.

Riverside Park, Cambridge

One park that often slips under the radar in Waterloo Region is Riverside Park in Cambridge. The park covers 252 acres with trails, boardwalks, sports fields, a splash pad, and BMX and skateboard parks. 

Urban exploring on the Iron Horse and Spurline Trails

Two great mixed-use trails connect Kitchener and Waterloo. The Iron Horse Trail runs from Erb Street West in Uptown Waterloo to Ottawa Street South in Kitchener. The trail is undergoing significant improvements along its route, including widening, repaving, and lighting for nighttime trail use. In Uptown Waterloo, the Iron Horse Trail runs along Caroline Street and provides access to shopping and dining–including Waterloo’s best sandwiches at Vincenzo’s. As the trail moves into Kitchener, you can stop in Belmont Village to visit their shops or pick up a growler of craft beer from the Arabella Park Beer Bar. In Kitchener, the Iron Horse Trail runs through Victoria Park and is a quick walk to Downtown Kitchener.

The Spurline Trail is a relatively new addition to the trail scene in Kitchener-Waterloo. Paving began in 2016 with additional improvements since then, including a pedestrian island on Union Blvd. to provide safer crossings for pedestrians. The trail runs 2.4 kilometers along the CN Waterloo Spur rail line and connects to the Laurel Trail between Uptown Waterloo and the Spurline Crossing shopping area.

Huron Natural Area, Kitchener

The Huron Natural Area is Kitchener’s largest nature space with six trails through woodlands and wetlands. Open year-round, the space is used for exploration and education. With the City of Kitchener’s support, there is an Indigenous-led project to present the art and culture of past and present Indigenous communities that call the space home. 

Walter Bean Trail, Waterloo Region

The Region’s longest trail is the Walter Bean Trail that runs through Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo, and Woolwich Township. The 76 kilometer-long trail is open year-round and is enjoyed by hikers, cyclists, snowshoers, and more. In Waterloo, you can access the trail from the Grey Silo Golf Course next to RIM Park and walk along the Grand River on a paved trail. The Walter Bean Trail connects to the last nature area on our list–the rare Charitable Research Reserve in Cambridge.

rare Charitable Research Reserve, Cambridge

two people walking along a path, surrounded by trees in the fall, at rare Charitable Research Reserve
rare Charitable Research Reserve (Photo: Alex Kinsella)

Located in Cambridge, the rare Charitable Research Reserve covers over 1,000 protected acres of natural area. The lands are used for relaxation and by researchers from across Canada. You can access the reserve from the Walter Bean Trail or a parking lot next to Langdon Hall and enjoy over eight kilometers of trails and nature. 

Whether you’re hiking, skiing, or just out for a stroll, Waterloo Region’s trails and parks are here for you to enjoy!


Alex Kinsella is a freelance writer and marketer based in Waterloo Region. He’s the guy behind TL;WR â€“ Waterloo Region’s weekly events newsletter. He’s worked with some of Canada’s most well-known tech companies in roles including customer success, development, product management, PR, social media and marketing.

Alex has contributed to publications including BetaKit, Grand Magazine, Community Edition and more. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.


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