Hiking and walking are favourite past-times in and around Canada’s capital. From urban, paved pathways to more rugged terrain in the countryside, there are scenic routes and trails to satisfy the beginner to the expert hiker. Discover the Ottawa region’s vibrant natural beauty while you explore some of its best hiking sites!
For rugged terrain and beautiful natural trails, look no further than Gatineau Park. Located in Gatineau, Quebec, just a 10-minute drive from downtown Ottawa, the park covers 361-square kilometres (90,000 acres) of wilderness and offers about 165 kilometres (103 miles) of picturesque hiking trails that vary in distance from one kilometre (0.6 mile) to 4.5 kilometres (2.8 miles). Among the most popular trails, you’ll find:
- Pink Lake: Make your way around a beautiful, crystal clear “meromictic” lake (meaning its layers of water don’t mix). This 2.5-kilometre (1.6 mile) 60-minute hike circles around the shimmering turquoise lake surrounded by dense forest and majestic rock cliffs!
- King Mountain:This 1.9-kilometre (1.2 mile) trail features 10 lookouts with spectacular scenery, culminating with a view from 300 metres (984 feet) above the Ottawa Valley.
Gatineau Park is open year-round and general admission is free, though fees may apply for certain access and programming. In autumn, the park becomes a dreamland of colours during Fall Rhapsody and in winter, trails are groomed for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and fat-biking.
One of the most ecologically diverse areas in Eastern Ontario is the National Capital Greenbelt, a 20,000-hectare protected natural area surrounding the city of the Ottawa. More than 150 kilometres (93 miles) of hiking trails take you through unexpected landscapes and ecological sites, including:
- Mer Bleue Bog: Located just east of downtown Ottawa, Mer Bleue is one of the largest bogs in southern Ontario, and a rare example of a northern boreal landscape within an urban area. The site offers more than 20 kilometres (12.4 miles) of trails for hiking or cross-country skiing, as well as 1.2 kilometres (0.7 miles) of scenic interpretive boardwalks which lead into the heart of the bog. If you continue hiking on the six-kilometre (3.7-mile) forest trail, you’ll discover a sandy escarpment and an amazing view of the unique landscape.
- Pine Grove:Located just south of downtown Ottawa, the Pine Grove Trail is the largest forest area in the Greenbelt. Explore more than 18.4 kilometres (11.4 miles) of hiking and cross-country ski trails, as well as trails for horseback riding, a popular off-leash dog park, and in the winter, a toboggan hill that is lit at night!
- Pinhey Forest: Ottawa’s only inland sand dune complex is located a short drive southwest of downtown Ottawa. The forest is established on sand dunes that date all the way back to the last ice age! You can hike, cross-country ski and snowshoe through its 6.4 kilometres (4 miles) of trails.
Explore as little or as much as you want of the 800 kilometres (497 miles) of scenic multi-use pathways that wind throughout the Ottawa area! Share the paths with other walkers, cyclists, runners and rollerbladers as you explore the cityscape and countryside. Among the urban highlights:
- Ottawa River pathway: Take a walk along the 31-kilometre (19.3 mile) route which follows the river from the historic Ottawa Locks of the Rideau Canal, to Parliament Hill and westward to the Canadian War Museum. This pathway also provides great views of the Canadian Museum of History, located just across the river.
- Rideau Canal western pathway: Head south along the Rideau Canal – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – to Dows Lake and Commissioners Park. In May, the park is home to the Canadian Tulip Festival and more than 300,000 tulips in bloom! Stop at Lansdowne in the Glebe neighbourhood along the way, do some paddling at Dows Lake, or visit nearby Little Italy.
- Dominion Arboretum and Ornamental Gardens: Adjacent to Dows Lake is an expansive protected area called the Central Experimental Farm. Stroll over rolling hills and admire a variety of established trees, shrubs and gardens in the Dominion Arboretum. Visit the Ornamental Gardens to see themed collections of roses, hostas and perennials, as well as many heritage buildings dating back to the 1880s.
If you prefer to get around on two wheels, check out amazing options for Cycling in Ottawa!