a peek inside the fishbowl

13 Oct, 2015

Where’s the tallest tree in Ontario? It’s in Arnprior, but…

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Easy ways to make kids happy|travel talk

I’ve been finding it tough to find my creative mojo lately BUT I know myself, and I know how to fix it. I need to stay fueled up – both physically and mentally – by doing the following:

(a) Re-commit to my ten thousand steps. I’ve let it slide this past week because I’ve been stupidly busy.

(b) Eat less sugar. Thanksgiving, and the lead up to Thanksgiving, has included a lot of sweet treats. Are these things really a treat if they only make me feel like crap later? (Answer: no.)

(c) do more family outdoorsy stuff.

And so, with all of this in mind, we set out for Arnprior on Thanksgiving Monday.

Awhile back we visited the Macnamara Nature Trail awhile back, but our destination was a little different this time around. We set our sites upon Gillies Grove, which is one of the Arnprior Millennium Trails. So we printed out a little map (THANK GOD WE DID), packed up our water bottles and set out.

Gillies Grove is truly a unique place. It’s a truly magnificent forest set within city limits and is recognized as one of the last old-growth forests in the province. It is ALSO home of the tallest tree in Ontario. (!) There’s a CBC story about it here, which is very informative but doesn’t mention the location of it, in case someone wanted to see it for herself. But, whatever, we were fairly confident the trail would be marked. But I am getting ahead of myself.

We parked the car in downtown Arnprior right near the first stop on the map, Daniel McLachlin Park and Bell Tower, and went on our way.

Thanksgiving Monday in Arnprior

Along the way we encountered this awesome mini lending library, carved right into some tree trunks:

Thanksgiving Monday in Arnprior

It was a gorgeous day for a walkabout and the views were SPLENDID:

Thanksgiving Monday in Arnprior

Thanksgiving Monday in Arnprior

We passed by the marina, and Robert Simpson Park (which we visited before and really enjoyed!) and then found ourselves somewhere a little, er, different.

This photo doesn’t illustrate anything in particular, only that we were diligently following our printed map, which took us onto the private property of something called the Galilee Centre, a “holistic spiritual life centre.” Honestly, if I didn’t have the map I would have turned around, because walking up a private driveway in the countryside makes me slightly uncomfortable.

Thanksgiving Monday in Arnprior

What made it worse is that there were no signs. I’m the kind of traveller who Needs To Know Where She Is Going At All Times. So we just clutched the map, told the girls to HUSH UP BECAUSE WE ARE INTRUDING, and hustled our way to what we thought was the right way to go.

Pretty soon we reached the forest. It’s gorgeous. Tall! Green! With easy paths to follow:

Thanksgiving Monday in Arnprior

Alas, there were no directional signs, only pathways and the odd trail marker. The trail criss-crossed itself and we wandered aimlessly, hoping we’d come across Arnprior’s tallest tree at some point. Nada. It is pretty though. The trees are really huge! We did come across a bench in the middle of the woods and wondered if it had anything to do with it.

We gave up after awhile, and ended up on Ottawa Street at which point we simply went back to the car via Harrington and Madawaska. Ah well.

On the way home we had planned to stop at Wes’ Fries but we found out it was the last day and the resulting line up was too much to bear. So on the way back to Ottawa we stopped in Pakenham, near the old stone bridge:

Thanksgiving Monday in Pakenham

Pakenham stone bridge sign

Pakenham bridge

We hoped that the chip truck there would satisfy our french fry needs. Sadly, they were all chipped out. They offered us the last of their fries (storebought frozen fries at that) but we figured if you’re going to buy fries at a chip truck you don’t really want to spend seven bucks on the same ones you can make from home.

We did, however, take a moment to pick some wild apples by the old bridge and recreate a fave photo of mine from 2008:

Stone Bridge at Pakenham

Pakenham photo op

Reading back I suppose it seems like it was all a bit of a hit and miss, but I think this is something I actually like about short outings from Ottawa. Sometimes they don’t quite work out as planned, but there’s always something memorable and lovely.

Edited to add: I did a bit more digging and just realized THE BENCH was the tipoff. According to this article, there was a bench placed next to the tallest tree. So, to summarize, we were looking for the tree and walked right past it!

4 Responses to "Where’s the tallest tree in Ontario? It’s in Arnprior, but…"

1 | Brenda A

October 13th, 2015 at 5:26 pm


So fun. What a great read. That spot looks very pretty and we would enjoy the hunt for that tree! I love the pictures of your little one and then your BIG one! Fun to see the changes.

2 | maryatparenthood

October 13th, 2015 at 9:30 pm


That reminds me of the time that I first read about geocaching. Signed up for the official site, downloaded clues (it was one where you had to visit three locations to get the coordinates) and off we went. Found the locations relatively quickly, got our final destination and then spent a ridiculous amount of time pacing all over this one bridge. Could not find it. Guy who hid clue confirmed we had right coordinates and the place it was hidden sounded like where we were looking. I’m often reminded of this because the geocaching website emails me quite regularly to tell me someone new has found the cache. Oh well!

3 | binki

October 14th, 2015 at 1:00 pm


Hey Arnprior.
You have a tourist destination (the tallest tree in Ontario). You might want to add a few markers on how to get to find it. And maybe a little plaque beside the BIG tree.
You’re welcome.

4 | Capital Junk

October 15th, 2015 at 11:45 am


What a fun read! I’m all too familiar with getting somewhat lost during little adventures… I also have the whole “traveller who Needs To Know Where She Is Going At All Times” thing going on!

These photos look awesome. Especially that tree trunk library. Can’t wait to check that out for myself!

PS. Funny how that mysterious bench you guys found is significant to the big tree after all :)

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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