Situated at the confluence of three major rivers – Ottawa, Gatineau and Rideau – and surrounded by forested hills, undulating farmland and sparkling lakes, Canada’s capital is a magnet for outdoorsy activities.
Bike it: Ottawa’s National Capital Greenbelt features 20,000 hectares of protected parks, featuring 180 km (112 miles) of networked pathways. You can either bike the city or connect to even more trails in the National Capital Region, which includes parts of neighbouring Outaouais (pronounced Ooo-tah-ways – aka west Québec). For example, cycle along the Ottawa River or alongside Ontario’s first and only UNESCO World Heritage Site – the Rideau Canal. And yes, just as you’d anticipate, Ottawa is linked to the Trans-Canada Trail, so if cycling across the nation’s your goal, Ottawa’s on the map.
Families with youngsters can enjoy safe, fun cycling during free Sunday Bikedays (late May through Labour Day), when Ottawa’s scenic driveways are closed to traffic. Need a bike? Check Bixi Bikes, excellent for in-city, point-to-point destinations, or try RentaBike.
Hike it: Want to discover an 8,000-year-old fragile ecosystem inside the city? Hike interpreted boardwalk trails through Mer Bleue, a RAMSAR-certified 3,500-hectare (8,650-acre) wetland. Or visit nearby Gatineau Park, 20 minutes north of Ottawa in the Outaouais, where 165 km (102 miles) of trails await. Pack a tent, rent a yurt or cabin to prolong your discovery of Gatineau Park’s forests, lakes, lookouts and wildlife denizens. Gatineau Park Visitor’s Centre features an excellent museum, guidebooks and maps.
Paddle it: Whitewater kayakers ride “the wall” – thrilling standing waves at Bate Island on the Ottawa River. Or kayak “The Pumphouse” route, a Class 2 whitewater site near Canada’s War Museum. Canoeists and kayakers thrill to Gatineau Park’s lakes (try Lac Lapeche) where sightings of beaver, deer, loons and herons are commonplace. Want a special thrill? Paddle the Rideau Canal’s 202 km (125 miles) to Kingston on Lake Ontario.
Ride it: Why not saddle up and explore. South of Ottawa, the Equestrian Trail allows riders to enjoy the scenery while bonding with their horse. In Gatineau Park, a 10-km trail beckons, while north of the park at Captiva Farms, 20 km (12 miles) of trails wend through forests and fields.
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