Ottawa has a strong connection to the outdoors. Full of green spaces and surrounded by incredible nature, visitors flock to this part of Canada to hike rugged woodlands, bike over rolling hills and fish in the pristine waters of the Ottawa Valley.
Whether you’re a city dweller looking for some fun or a thrillseeker in search of your next adrenaline rush, there’s no shortage of outdoor activities in Ottawa. Here are some of Culture Trip’s top recommendations.
For guaranteed sightings of Canada’s diverse wildlife, travel about an hour from Ottawa to Parc Omega, a unique family experience open year-round. Witness the likes of elk, bison, wolves and bears in the heart of nature, or feed the park’s five species of deer from the comfort of your vehicle. There’s also various trails to discover, including the First Nations Trail, where you can learn more about Canada’s culture and history, and a route leading to an old sugar shack, where you can purchase maple-themed goods.
The mighty Ottawa River, once crossed by First Nations tribes and fur traders, is a world-class destination for whitewater rafting. The difficulty and force of the river vary, with everything from gentle, family-friendly routes to extreme adrenaline-pumping waves, so you don’t need to be an experienced paddler to take on its rapids. OWL Rafting and Wilderness Tours come highly recommended, offering lessons and packages of differing lengths, including options for camping and overnight stays. All equipment is provided, and the season generally runs from May to September.
One of the great things about the Rideau Canal is that it can be used year-round. Multi-use pathways run on each side, weaving their way through Downtown Ottawa, extending from the city’s university to Mooney’s Bay Park. In May, colorful blooms surround the canal during the Canadian Tulip Festival, making it a beautiful spot to run, walk or cycle (bikes are available to rent from RentABike, opposite the Fairmont Château Laurier, or from Escape Bicycle Tours & Rentals on Sparks Street). In winter, the canal itself becomes the world’s longest ice-skating rink.
Located near the charming village of Wakefield, around 30 minutes from Ottawa, Éco-Odyssée is a fantastic place to immerse yourself in nature and discover more about the area’s marsh environment and ecosystems. Rent a boat and paddle down the river as you zigzag your way through water intersections, which are home to beavers, turtles, frogs and more. Alternatively, take part in the various activities, including a water maze and outdoor action game, Bows and Arrows, as well as canoeing and volleyball.
Often referred to as Ottawa’s Playground, Gatineau Park is a haven for outdoor lovers, complete with hilly woodland, lakes and a vast trail network that can be explored by foot, bicycle or cross-country skis or snowshoes during winter. This area of unspoiled natural beauty shelters diverse flora and fauna, including many rare and endangered species. Sightseeing attractions within the park include Lusk Cave, the Mackenzie King Estate and Harrington Lake (Lac Mousseau). For panoramic views, hike to the Champlain Lookout and King Mountain on the Eardley Escarpment.
For a more relaxed activity, reconnect to your inner calm while soaking up the city’s scenery in a free yoga class on Parliament Hill. Ideal for all levels, the classes, which have been run by athletic apparel company Lululemon since 2007, have quickly become one of Ottawa’s best-loved summertime rituals. The classes run between May and September from noon to 1pm and are dependent on the weather. You will need to bring a yoga mat and some water. Space is set aside for bikes.