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Gillies Trail

Gillies trail takes you along the Madawaska River, through Robert Simpson Park and one of the oldest growth forest in Canada, Gillies Grove.
The total distance for the main route of this trail is 2.7 km.

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Gillies Trail, The trail starts on the west side of the madawaska bridge. It then goes north along the river past the Arnprior Marina to Robert Simpsonn Park. You then head South down John Street and make a right onto the driveway leading to Galilee retreat center. Then you follow a path through the Gillies Grove old growth forest and end on Ottawa Street.

1. Daniel McLachlin Park and Bell Tower

2&3. Town of Arnprior Public Marina & Boat Launch

4. Robert Simpson Park

5.  Galilee/The Hill

6. Gillies Grove


1. Daniel McLachlin Park and Bell TowerPhoto of Town Hall with the three floor and bell tower still on top

The park was established in 1987 to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the incorporation of Arnprior as a village in 1863. The bell in the monument came from the original town hall, constructed in 1888. The stone came from the grist mill (Baird’s Mill) which stood on this site. Constructed by Daniel McLachlin in the 1850’s, the mill was lost to fire in the early 1970’s.


2./3. Town of Arnprior Public Marina and Boat Launch

 Boats parked at the Arnprior Public Marina

4. Robert Simpson Park

Robert Simpson Park is on the site of Edgewood, the residence of Jack Usborne a member of a Ottawa Valley Lumber family, who married Jessie McLachlin, daughter of Daniel McLachlin. The land was given to the town and named after a former mayor of Arnprior who served from 1949—1962 and 1964—1965.RobertSimpson park


5. Galilee/The Hill


After following up the road from Robert Simpson Park, turn onto 398 John Street North. Please Galilee Center Sign in winternote that this is private property, so treat with respect and peace. The stone mansion called “The Hill” was built by Daniel McLachlin (1809-1872) in 1853, and was occupied by the McLachlin families until 1933. It severed as the venue at which Edward Albert, Prince of Wales, eldest son of Queen Victoria was entertained in 1860. It is now owned by the Galilee Mission Center of Arnprior. The mansion along with other surrounding buildings – known as the “Galilee Community” – is used as a catholic renewal and retreat center.


The original gate and coachman’s house separates the two roads around the Galilee buildings. The right road can be followed past the Galilee building to meet the left fork , or one can take the lower, more energetic route down the stairs, along the embankment.

6. Gillies Grove

Trees in Gillies Grove

The Grove was originally used as a picnic ground by the Gillies and McLachlin families. The land came into David A. Gillies possession as the McLachlin family lost much of its land following the company’s bankruptcy. Following his death in 1967 and that of his wife Jessie, in 1980, it came into the possession of the Oblates. The Nature Conservancy of Canada purchased the Gillies Grove in 2001, with significant support of local fundraising from the Oblates to preserve this old-growth forest.

Uniquely situated within the town limits of Arnprior, Gillies Grove is a rare remnant of the magnificent forest that once covered this region. Gillies Grove is recognized as one of the last old-growth forests in the province.

The size and the age of many of the trees is extraordinary. Trees in the forest include Sugar Maple, Yellow Birch, American Beech, Eastern Hemlock and Basswood. Most impressive is the stand of the towering ancient White Pines. Birds that inhabit the Grove include Scarlet Tangers, Pileated Woodpeckers, Red Shouldered Hawks, Barred Owls, Cooper’s Hawks and Eastern Screech Owls.

Vegetation in the Grove include Hepaticas, Spring Beauties, Violets, Red and White Trilliums, White Baneberry and Indian Pipe—not to mention Poison Ivy.