For those of you who have never been, summer is a wonderful time to visit my home town of Ottawa, Canada. Not only is Ottawa the capital city of Canada, home to Parliament and the world’s longest skating rink, it’s also surrounded by an amazing array of outdoor adventure activities only minutes from downtown.
I always like to say that Ottawa is a big-small city: big enough to keep you busy when your craving city life but small enough that you can get away and be surrounded by nature within minutes. Since growing up here has allowed me to explore the area, I’ve compiled a list of the top 7 outdoor adventures to try while visiting Ottawa.
Gatineau Park in Quebec is a conservation park located just 15 minutes from downtown Ottawa and is a wonderful place to immerse yourself in nature, year round. There are many hiking trails , through the mature forest, varying in length and difficulty so you can pick one that’s right for you. One of my personal favourites is the Wolf Trail, which takes you up to the highest point in the park offering incredible views of the Ottawa River set back in the huge Ottawa Valley. Another great trail, though more difficult, is the Luskville Falls Trail, which takes you straight up a rocky escarpment beside a stream that ends in a 20 foot high falls.
Watching the sunset across the lake while listening to the call of the loons as you stare into a crackling camp fire, you can’t get much more Canadian than this! Camping is one of my favorite summer activities and usually takes over my weekends all summer long.
The wonderful Gatineau Park is close by and has many options for camping depending on your preference. From yurts and cabins to wilderness camping, its a great way to spend time in the great outdoors.
If you’re interested in a canoe camping trip, I highly recommend heading north into Quebec (approx 1 hr drive) to Lac Poisson Blanc. There’s a regional park that manages some campsites on this large lake that you can reserve ahead of time, or you can seek out one of the many free sites situated around the lake.
If your more of a car camping person, try out Fitzroy Provincial Park which has a beautiful beach and is RV friendly. And of course there’s always the stunning Algonquin Provincial Park just over 2 hrs drive away from the city where you can car camp and wilderness camp via hiking or canoeing. All of these locations are perfect for enjoying the sights, sounds and company of local wildlife while camping on the Canadian Shield. For more information visit Ontario Parks web site. For canoe rentals, check out MEC and Trailhead located in Westboro.
3. Zip Lines
Taking on the challenges of an aerial course high up in the trees and zipping through the forest is a great way to spend time outdoors! For this you have 2 options, both within easy driving from Ottawa. The first is Lafleche Park, located about 30 min just north of Ottawa in Quebec (open year round). The aerial course starts out low to the ground and gradually increases in height as the you move on (and so do the zip lines!). After traversing the tree tops, you can also do a bit of exploring under ground. As an added bonus, this park is home to the Canadian Shield’s largest visited cavern. The second option is Camp Fortune Zip Lines and Aerial Park located just 15 min north of Ottawa near Chelsea, Quebec. Camp Fortune is a local ski hill but for 3 seasons of the year they open up their aerial course for some tree top action.
4. Sky Diving
Take the leap over the beautiful Gatineau hills! Go Skydive is located on the Quebec side just 15 min from downtown Ottawa and is the company I used when I took the plunge for my 30th birthday. Since my birthday is in the fall I got to enjoy incredible views of the Gatineau’s while they were full of fall colour. The views are equally spectacular in the summer with the rolling hills and the Ottawa River.
5. White Water Rafting
Did you know that the Ottawa Valley is the white water capital of Canada? With over a dozen rivers boasting white water, this region is a mecca for rafters and paddlers alike. Located just over an hour from Ottawa, there are multiple rafting companies along the Ottawa River that can take you out for an amazing day on the river. There are also a number of canoe and kayaking centers that can teach you how to navigate the rapids on your own if you’re up for the challenge.
6. City Biking
I had to include at least one activity that you can do right in the city and Ottawa was made for biking! I’m always impressed with the extent of bikes paths throughout the city and you should be too, with over 600 km of trails to explore. These paths wind around many of the city’s landmarks so you can not only get a work out, but do some city exploration as well.
One path runs along the beautiful, picturesque Rideau Canal from downtown to Dow’s Lake and through the gorgeous arboretum and experimental farm. One of my favourites is along the Sir John A MacDonald Parkway (formerly known as the Ottawa River Parkway) that runs along the Ottawa River from the west end, past downtown behind parliament and then continues along the Rockcliffe Parkway towards the east end. Cover two provinces at once by taking any of the inter provincial bridges over to the Quebec side to ride the paths along the other side of the river and through the grounds of the beautiful Canadian Museum of History. If you need to rent a bike, try Rent A Bike or Cyco’s, both located downtown.
7. Mountain Biking
You might not think it but there are lots of mountain biking trails in and around the city to tackle. There’s a wonderful trail system right in the west end of the city called Kanata Lakes (more technical but flat), which is great if your short on time or don’t want to venture too far. Outside the city, Gatineau Park has a great trail system (be prepared to work hard as there are lots of big hills!) or you can head to one of the local ski hills. The Ottawa Mountain Bike Association is a great resource to look at with a list of trails in the region, including maps. See above for bike rental options.
With so many green spaces all over the city and a healthy outdoor living attitude, Ottawa is a wonderful place to spend time outside in the warm summer months. Easy access to so many activities is what has made me fall in love with this urban area. There aren’t many cities that allow you to bike on paths through beautiful parks for 2-3 hrs, or allow you to be hiking in the wilderness within 15 min of leaving a downtown area. Outdoor enthusiasts, Welcome!
*If your planning a trip to Ottawa soon and would like more information about outdoor activities, send me a message and I’ll see what I can do for you!