With more than 800 kilometres (497 miles) of beautiful recreational pathways, Canada’s capital is a cycling enthusiast’s dream destination. Biking within the city and in the nearby countryside is a great way to be active and easily access attractions, parks, historic sites, breweries and wineries. Here’s how you can explore Ottawa on two wheels.
Note: Due to COVID-19, some of the mentions below may not reflect current offerings. Please confirm details with direct sources and stay informed on the current COVID-19 situation in Ottawa.
Bike rentals and tours
If you weren’t able to travel to Ottawa with your bicycle, there’s no need to worry! Locally-owned companies RentABike and Escape Bicycle Tours and Rentals are conveniently located a few steps from most downtown hotels. Choose from a large selection of new bikes for all ages and skill levels – including tandem and electric bikes, as well as trailers – that come with a helmet and bike lock. Rent for an hour, a day or over a week to fully take advantage of Ottawa’s extensive pathway network!
If you’d prefer to follow a knowledgeable guide around town, you can join RentABike or Escape on one of their popular bike tours. Choose whether you want the route to highlight main attractions and scenery, or culinary, tulip or indigenous points of interest. Private tours and packages are also available. For more tour options, see our suggestions of the best walking and cycling tours in Ottawa.
Ottawa’s vast Capital Pathway Network has options for all cycling skill levels and ages including families, beginners and experts. It’s easy to be an environmentally-friendly tourist in Ottawa – just travel between attractions by bike and soak up the scenery along the way!
To ride by numerous iconic sites, follow the Sightseeing Cycling Route which takes you on a relatively flat and leisurely ride of approximately 7.5 km (4.6 miles) in and around downtown Ottawa. You’ll see the Rideau Canal (Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site), the Bytown Museum, Parliament Hill, the Canadian War Museum, the Canadian Museum of History, the National Gallery of Canada and more.
Another option is to head west on the Ottawa River pathway which stretches for more than 31 kilometres (19.3 miles) along the water, past attractions such as the Ottawa Locks, Parliament Hill and the Canadian War Museum. Keep going and you’ll be rewarded by balanced rock sculptures as well as sandy beaches and parks beyond.
If you head south on the Rideau Canal pathway instead, you’ll have the option to stop in the lively Glebe neighbourhood and the Lansdowne area, followed by picturesque residential properties and gardens near Dows Lake and Little Italy. Continue just beyond to reach other treasures like the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum and Hog’s Back Falls.
If you prefer rolling through pretty countryside and stopping at quaint businesses like bakeries, wineries and breweries, go cycling in rural Ottawa.
During the warmer months, from roughly May to October, you can enjoy additional traffic-free recreation space in the Ottawa-Gatineau region. In 2021, the annual NOKIA Sunday Bikedays program has been expanded to NOKIA Weekend Bikedays, providing even more access to safe and distanced outdoor activity. On Saturdays and Sundays (plus select weekdays depending on location) several parkways are opened to cyclists, in-line skaters, runners and walkers looking for a worry-free and spacious outing. Follow the National Capital Commission for ongoing updates on temporary, short-term or event-related access and closures.
The Ottawa area offers easy access to fun mountain biking options. Gatineau Park, located about a 10-minute drive or 15-minute bike ride from downtown Ottawa, is a mountain biker’s paradise! From May to November, visitors can take advantage of about 90 kilometres (56 miles) of shared hiking trails that make their way over hilly, rugged terrain. Gatineau Park’s trails are not recommended for the beginner mountain biker.
For those looking for more of an adrenaline rush, Camp Fortune—a downhill ski centre in Gatineau Park—opens its slopes to experienced mountain bikers for the summer.
Other off-road cycling spots can be found outside of the city centre, including South March Highlands and Kanata Lakes to the west, and Green’s Creek to the east.