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. Take advantage of this vibrant season to explore some of the best places to photograph this fall in Ottawa.
Note: Sites and businesses may modify their hours, access and offerings; contact them individually to confirm before visiting. To visit Ottawa safely, please follow the most recent COVID-19 regulations as stated by Ottawa Public Health, as well as those stated by the specific establishments.
Hog’s Back Falls
Ottawa has its fair share of pretty waterfalls and among the prettiest 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.
A top spot to visit all year-long, Gatineau Park is at its most spectacular in the fall 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, like the Luskville Falls Trail and Meech Creek Valley.
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 water craft from Dows Lake Pavilion. Paddle the Rideau Canal – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and enjoy this tranquil experience and a different vantage point.
Mer Bleue Bog
An Instagram-worthy boardwalk, 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 that can be easily spotted along the scenic and universally accessible 1.2 kilometer boardwalk trail. 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.
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 picked apples and artisanal products, this historic indoor and outdoor market is definitely the place to get into the fall spirit.
TIP: Stop by the Moulin de Provence bakery for delicious fall-themed cookies, specialty coffees, or decadent French pastries.
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. Grab one of Ottawa’s best fall treats to enjoy as you stroll around the various lookout points and capture the postcard-perfect views of the Ottawa River and Parliament Hill.
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 up close and personal with Canadian wildlife. Seeing moose, bison, bears and wolves with a multihued backdrop is a special fall experience you don’t want to miss.
TIP: To fully immerse yourself in the Park Omega experience, try one of their cool overnight accommodations in the forest, including a wi-tent (a heated tipi), or stay in a traditional log cabin. 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 lookout like this! Located in Calabogie, 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 resort to refuel after your hike, or stay overnight to check out many other great hikes in the area, like 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. Charge your camera batteries and empty your memory cards – this event is truly one of a kind! In 2020, Pumpkinferno is open to the public seven nights a week from September 25 to October 31, and tickets must be purchased online (not be available on-site).
TIP: Warm up midway through the path at the Harvest Barn Restaurant. Hot meals, cider and pumpkin pie are all available for a much-awaited snack. Reservations may be required.
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.