Autumn may be the most photogenic time of the year in Canada’s capital, with colourful foliage contrasting deep blue skies throughout the city and in the countryside. From waterfalls to thousands of glowing pumpkins, take advantage of this vibrant season to explore some of the best places to photograph this fall in Ottawa.
Note: 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.
Hog’s Back Falls
Ottawa has its fair share of pretty waterfalls and among the most photogenic is Hog’s Back Falls. Located just south of downtown – a short walk from Mooney’s Bay Beach and Carleton University – this cascade is a beautiful place to explore in the fall. Enjoy different vantage points by walking along the paths on both sides of the falls, and make sure to head down the path on the west side to the rocky area at the bottom for a unique perspective.
TIP: If you love to bike, Hog’s Back Falls can be reached by both the Rideau Canal pathway and the multi-use pathway along the Rideau River.
Slip on your comfy shoes, pack your camera and head to the Dominion Arboretum – a jewel of nature near the city centre! Only a short walk from the Rideau Canal’s Dows Lake, the Arboretum is home to more than 2,000 varieties of trees and shrubs that make for some spectacular fall photos. Follow one of the many winding paths and spend an afternoon exploring this beautiful landscape.
TIP: To get a view of the Arboretum from the water, rent a canoe, kayak or other boat from Dows Lake Pavilion and paddle the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This tranquil experience is one of the many ways to enjoy flatwater fun in Ottawa.
Mer Bleue Bog
Instagram-worthy trails, unique wildlife and a picturesque landscape are only a few of the elements that draw people to the Mer Bleue Bog. A short 20-minute drive east of downtown Ottawa takes you to this unique 7,700-year-old bog which has an ecosystem more reminiscent of the Arctic than the Ottawa Valley. The northern boreal landscape is home to regionally rare plants and birds. The Mer Bleue Bog is one of several conservation areas in Ottawa’s Greenbelt that feature unique farms, forests and wetlands. Fall colours and activities are worth exploring at each location!
TIP: For the ultimate Mer Bleue experience, hike up the six-kilometre (3.7-mile) forest trail that leads up to a sandy escarpment overlooking the bog’s landscape. And visit during the week and at off-peak hours to avoid crowds.
The ByWard Market is a bustling place during harvest season and one of our favourite spots to photograph in the fall. From pumpkins and wheat bundles, to fresh apples and artisanal products, this historic indoor and outdoor market is a wonderful urban place to get into the fall spirit.
TIP: Some of the city’s best fall treats can be found in the ByWard Market neighbourhood, and they’re as photogenic as they are delicious! Look for fall-themed baked goods, beverages, frozen treats, and more.
Major’s Hill Park
The views from Major’s Hill Park are stunning throughout the year, but there’s nothing like seeing the park’s trees aglow with autumn colours. Stroll around the various lookout points and capture postcard-perfect views of the Ottawa River, Parliament Hill, the Fairmont Château Laurier and the National Gallery of Canada.
A top spot to visit all year long, Gatineau Park is at its most spectacular when the forest is a rainbow of colours during Fall Rhapsody. Only a 15-minute drive from downtown Ottawa, endless photo ops await in this 361 square kilometer park. Take a scenic drive, explore waterfalls deep in the forest or hike to scenic lookouts. Access to and within the park is limited during this popular period, so make sure to consult the Gatineau Park website to get the latest information.
TIP: Avoid the crowds by visiting stellar spots that are off the beaten path and easily accessible by car, such as lac Philippe and Meech Creek Valley, and visit during off-peak periods.
One of the most spectacular places to visit in the fall is Park Omega, located a 45-minute drive from downtown Ottawa in Montebello, Quebec. Head out on a Canadian style self-drive safari and explore diverse habitats while getting close to Canadian wildlife. Seeing moose, bison, bears and wolves with a multihued backdrop is a special fall experience you won’t forget. You can also take a self-guided trail walk to admire totem poles representing the 11 First Nations of Canada, take breaks at picnic areas, and feed trout in the lake.
TIP: For the full Park Omega experience, try one of their unique overnight accommodations in the forest, including a wi-tent (a heated tipi), a traditional log cabin and more. Overnight guests get exclusive access to a boardwalk overlooking both the wolf and bear habitats.
Eagles Nest Lookout
Hiking is always a great way to enjoy the fall season, especially when the reward is a spectacular lookout! Located in the Calabogie area, about an hour’s drive west of downtown Ottawa, Eagles Nest Lookout is an easy 1.5 kilometers hike that culminates with an incredible panoramic view atop a 120-metre cliff!
TIP: Head to nearby Calabogie Peaks Resort to refuel after your hike, or stay overnight to check out many other great hikes in the area, including Manitou Mountain and the Skywalk Trail.
In Morrisburg, Ontario, about an hour’s drive south of downtown Ottawa, Upper Canada Village puts on an incredible show every fall during Pumpkinferno. An Instagrammer’s dream, this 1-kilometer-long path through the historic site showcases over 7,000 hand-carved pumpkins that are lit and arranged in impressive displays. In 2021, Pumpkinferno is open to the public seven nights a week from September 245 to October 31, and tickets must be purchased online (not be available at the gate).
TIP: Warm up midway through the path at the Harvest Barn Restaurant for hot meals, cider and pumpkin pie (timing restrictions and reservations may be required). And stop at the Village Store near the exit for items produced on site.
Looking for other photogenic and fun autumn inspiration? See our suggestions on how you can fall for the perfect pumpkin patch and apple orchard in Ottawa.