The adventurous heart of the Ottawa Valley is just an hour’s drive from Parliament Hill, yet this exciting outdoor recreation destination feels worlds away from the hustle and bustle of Ottawa.

Stretching from the forest-cloaked highlands of Algonquin Park to the roaring rapids of the Ottawa River, this diverse and beautiful region encompasses some 900 lakes and four major river systems. Can you say paddling adventures? The Ottawa Valley is home to not only Canada’s finest whitewater rafting and paddling centers, but also serene canoe routes, paddleboarding and calm-water kayaking on crystal-clear lakes.

Whenever you choose to visit, each season offers something special in the Ottawa Valley. In spring, the Valley’s patchwork of fields and forests turns emerald green and hikers, mountain bikers and road cyclists will find a wealth of outstanding trails and quiet backroads. Summer is peak paddling, rafting and cottage season in the Ottawa Valley, while fall colors provide a spectacular backdrop to all your favorite outdoor activities. Winter brings a whole new host of outdoor adventures, from downhill and cross-country skiing in the highlands, to ice fishing and snowshoeing on frozen lakes.

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The Ottawa Valley is an outdoor adventurer’s dream destination. | Photo courtesy of: Destination Ontario

With a wonderful range of accommodations—including four-season cottage rentals, family resorts and rustic campgrounds—the Ottawa Valley is a perfect staycation destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

 


 

Things to do in Ottawa

Camping in Ottawa

Campgrounds near Ottawa provide a budget-friendly, back-to-nature way to extend your stay in the Ottawa Valley. Many campgrounds are family-focused, with fun kid-friendly amenities like swimming beaches, playgrounds and outdoor games areas.

Fitzroy Provincial Park Campgrounds

Situated along the Ottawa River, Fitzroy Provincial Park is just under an hour away from the Capital, but it’s quiet and secluded enough to make you feel like you’re in a whole new world. The park is a popular family camping destination, with large campsites, two beaches, picnic areas and canoe/kayak rentals. Fitzroy has over 200 campsites in two campgrounds—Pine Grove and Two Rivers. Waterfront campsites are available on the Carp and Ottawa rivers, which bisect the park.

Bonnechere Provincial Park Campground

Bonnechere Provincial Park is best known for its spectacular sand beach on clear and clean Round Lake. The park offers three campgrounds, all located within a five- to 10-minute walk from the swimming beach. Choose from campsites set among the splendour of towering white pines or private sites situated right on the Bonnechere River, providing direct access to paddling, fishing and wildlife viewing. The park is located near the charming village of Killaloe and the southern edge of Algonquin Park.

Golden Lake Park Campground

Golden Lake Park Campground is situated in the heart of Ottawa Valley cottage country, two hours west of Ottawa and halfway between Algonquin Park and the Ottawa River. This fun family campground boasts 4,200 feet of scenic beachfront on Golden Lake with picturesque swimming, paddling, hiking, fishing and more. Canoes, kayaks and paddleboards are available for rent. A wide variety of camping options include tent and RV sites, RV rentals and cozy housekeeping cottages. Choose from shady wooded sites or camp right next to the beach.

 

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Bon Echo Provincial Park Campgrounds

If you’ve never heard of Bon Echo Provincial Park, it is well worth the two-hour drive from Ottawa. The park is best known for Mazinaw Rock, a 1.5-km-long sheer rock face that rises 100 meters out of Mazinaw Lake and features over 260 Indigenous pictographs—the largest visible collection in Canada. Campers can join an interpretive boat tour to the cliffs and climb to a lookout atop the Rock, or rent canoes and kayaks for self-propelled explorations of Upper and Lower Mazinaw lakes. Families love the park’s three sandy beaches and two scenic campgrounds—Mazinaw Lake and Hardwood Hill.

White Lake Campgrounds

Nestled south of the Madawaska River near the historic hamlet of Burnstown, White Lake boasts clean, clear waters and an intricate labyrinth of inlets, arms, islands and narrows—perfect for paddling adventures. Even better, if you’re looking for camping in the Ottawa area, the lake is just a 45-minute drive from the west side of the city. The north end of White Lake is more developed, with a selection of campgrounds, RV parks and cottage rentals for overnight visitors. For a laidback family resort experience with loads of amenities, check out Cedar Cove Resort at the south end of White Lake.

Driftwood Provincial Park Campgrounds

If you don’t mind a bit of traveling, this provincial park 220 km northwest of Ottawa boasts road trip-worthy beaches, riverfront campsites, spectacular sunsets, gorgeous Canadian Shield shoreline and outstanding paddling on the Ottawa River. Enjoy the refreshingly cool, clear waters of the river from the sandy camper’s beach—which stretches the entire length of the park’s Ottawa Campground, adjacent to the many waterfront campsites. Canoe/kayak rentals are available for exploring Driftwood Provincial Park’s secluded shoreline.

Best hikes near Ottawa

When it comes to accessible outdoor activities in Ottawa, it doesn’t get any simpler than going for a hike. Hikes in the Ottawa Valley run the gamut from easy rambles for first-time hikers to challenging treks to remote summits. Whatever trail you choose, hiking is a great way to escape the rush and reconnect with nature. Don’t miss these top trails.

Barron Canyon Trail

Breathtaking doesn’t begin to describe the view from the top of the Barron Canyon. Located amid pine forests on the east side of Algonquin Park, this moderate, 1.5-km trail runs along the north rim of the spectacular 100-meter-deep Barron Canyon. Find the trailhead on Barron Canyon Road, one hour west of Pembroke.

 

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Eagle’s Nest Lookout Trail

Almost too easy for such a beautiful view, this popular 3-km (return) trail near Calabogie Peaks Resort climbs gradually along an old logging road to a lookout atop a 120-m-high cliff. The trailhead is located about 2 km past Calabogie Lake on Highway 508. If you’re looking for a longer hike, continue along the more challenging Manitou Mountain Trail (9 km) for more lofty lookouts.

Shaw Woods Trails

For a relaxing and educational ramble, the scenic walking trails at Shaw Woods Outdoor Education Centre explore old growth forest, bird-filled wetlands, interpretive exhibits and riverside ecology along the meandering Snake River. The centre is located 10 minutes north of Eganville on Bulger Road.

Egan Chutes Trail

This under-the-radar gem is found 15 km east of Bancroft off Highway 28. Egan Chutes is a non-operating provincial park, which means there are no visitor facilities. There’s a small parking area at the end of the unmaintained, narrow road that leads to the trailhead, but you may need to park on the highway if the lot is full or you drive a low-clearance vehicle. This short walk on the western side of the York River rewards with views of the first chute, and leads down to a picturesque pool of water. For a longer hike, take the trail on the east side of the river and keep an eye out for side trails to lookouts at all three of the chutes, for which the park is named.

Canoeing and kayaking in the Ottawa Valley

The Ottawa Valley is home to some of the most exciting whitewater rivers in the country—but did you know that the area also boasts more than 900 beautiful lakes? From the pristine, clear lakes of the Algonquin and Madawaska highlands to the gentle reaches and roaring rapids of the mighty Ottawa River, the Valley offers something for every paddler to enjoy.

Take the guesswork out of planning—discover the 12 Best Places To Go Kayaking & Canoeing In The Ottawa Valley.

Whitewater rafting the Ottawa Valley

World-renowned as a whitewater playground, the Ottawa River is famous for huge waves, thrilling rapids, pristine scenery and warm water—the perfect combination for exhilarating Ottawa River rafting.

 

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The action centers on a 10-km-long stretch of river known as Rocher Fendu (Split Rock), located in the Ottawa Valley just 90 minutes west of Ottawa. Plunge down the rollercoaster rapids of the Middle Channel, or dig deep in the challenging Main Channel—home to some of the largest commercially run, white-knuckle whitewater in North America!

The acclaimed whitewater resorts of the Ottawa Valley make it easy for first-time river rafters to experience everything this outstanding river has to offer. In addition to Ottawa River rafting day trips, most companies offer riverside accommodations, meal plans, multi-day packages and other adventure activities.

Find Everything You Need to Know About Ottawa River Rafting.

Best biking near Ottawa

Visit the Ottawa Valley for some of the region’s best adventures on two wheels. Recreational cyclists will enjoy relaxing rides on lightly traveled country roads or rail trails, while avid road riders can challenge themselves on some of Ontario’s toughest climbs (and thrilling descents!) in the hilly highlands. Many routes include interesting stops at heritage sites, charming communities or local swimming areas.

Prefer fat-tire adventures? Ottawa’s enthusiastic grassroots mountain bike community has created a wealth of fantastic trail networks, with something for every off-road rider.

Don’t miss these top bike rides near Ottawa:

 

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Burnstown Madawaska River Ride

Beginning at Burnstown Park on the Madawaska River, this 21-km route loops down to Stewartville, taking in both sides of the river between these two towns. This moderate ride travels on paved and gravel roads and offers everything from the quaint cafés and artists’ studios of Burnstown to the farmland of McNab Township. Top off your tour with a dip at Burnstown Park’s popular swimming beach.

K&P Rail Trail

This 23-km section of multi-use trail between Renfrew and Calabogie is mostly flat and follows a scenic abandoned railway bed built in the mid-1800s. Combine it with the 4-km Millennium Trail through the heart of historic Renfrew for a great day trip that includes lunch and a swim at Calabogie Lake.

Bonnechere Valley Road Ride

For an easy and scenic ride on paved roads that is suitable for all types of cyclists, try this pretty 32-km (return) tour from Eganville through the Bonnechere Valley. The route provides many views of the Bonnechere River, visits the staircase falls and gorge at Fourth Chute and passes by the Bonnechere Caves before reaching the village of Douglas. This ride departs from Eganville’s visitor information booth on Highway 60.

Quadeville Quadbuster

Experienced road riders love this supremely hilly tour in the Madawaska Highlands. The 47-km loop follows quiet, paved roads between the communities of Quadeville, Letterkenny and Brudenell, taking in some truly spectacular views. Not for the faint of heart (or weak of legs), this route may have you pushing your bike up some of the steepest climbs.

Beachburg Off Road Cycling Association Trails

BORCA creates purpose-built single-track for all levels of mountain bikers, with detailed maps available to members ($25/year). Trails are located adjacent to the Ottawa River on a mix of crown land, county forest and private land in the vicinity of Beachburg and Foresters Falls. Find more info on these awesome trails here.

Forest Lea Trails

Embedded in 600 acres of crown land west of Pembroke, the Forest Lea Trails offer 30 km of volunteer-built, rocky and root-strewn single-track in a stacked loop system. Visit their blog for trail map and updates.

Discover more Ottawa Valley cycling routes at Ontario By Bike.

Swimming in the Ottawa Valley

Summer days are made for the beach. Fortunately, it’s easy for Ottawa beachgoers to escape the city and find a tranquil stretch of sand for sunbathing, swimming and launching canoes, kayaks or SUPs. Ottawa Valley beaches are also perfect for sandcastle building or simply relaxing with a good book. Even better, these beaches are just an hour or two drive from the Capital.

Discover 15 Stunning Beaches Near Ottawa You Can Day Trip To.

 

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Fishing near Ottawa

Four major river systems—the Ottawa, Madawaska, Bonnechere and Petawawa—provide outstanding fishing opportunities, with countless smaller streams and lakes offering plenty of under-the-radar rewards for anglers. Prime big lake fishing is found on Kamaniskeg and Bark lakes near the town of Barry’s Bay, Round and Golden lakes near Killaloe, and Calabogie and White lakes near Renfrew.

Common catches include: lake trout, whitefish, pickerel/walleye, large- and smallmouth bass, rock bass, northern pike, catfish and perch. Lucky Ottawa River anglers may even haul up an armor-plated sturgeon—a living dinosaur that makes its home in the river’s depths.

Check out 12 Best Places To Go Kayaking & Canoeing In The Ottawa Valley to learn more about where to catch each species.

Winter activities near Ottawa

Winter is a special time of year for Ottawa travel, when frosty temperatures and sparkling snows create spectacular winter vistas. This is the perfect time to visit Ottawa if you enjoy classic winter activities like ice skating, cross-country skiing, downhill skiing/snowboarding and snowshoeing—or if you want to try something new and exciting like winter fat biking. Four-season resorts and cottage rentals make it easy to plan a winter vacation in the Ottawa Valley.

Ice skating

Skating on frozen lakes is an Ottawa Valley specialty—when the conditions are just right, you can enjoy a game of pond hockey with friends, or a longer skating tour along the lakeshore. The town of Pembroke creates its own outdoor ice skating trail—the Laurentian Valley Skating Trail winds over 1.5 km through a scenic wooded area. After dark, the ice trail is lit with thousands of twinkling lights for an absolutely magical experience.

Cross-country skiing

Nordic skiers are spoiled for choice in Ottawa. Some of our favorite cross-country ski destinations include the 20 km of classic and skate-set trails at Opeongo Hills Nordic Ski Club in Brudenell (bonus: warm up après ski in their cozy yurt); Pembroke’s excellent Forest Lea Trails; and the Madawaska Nordic ski trails, located across from Calabogie Peaks Resort.

Snowshoeing

Snowshoeing enthusiasts can explore virtually any hiking or multi-use trail. Try one of the Ottawa Valley’s many short and scenic lookout trails, like Calabogie’s Eagle’s Nest or Combermere’s Gun Mountain.

Fat biking

Don’t stop riding just because it’s winter—join the Ottawa Valley’s passionate fat biking community for some serious snow-season, fat-tire fun. Mountain biking hotspots like Petawawa and the BORCA Trails at Beachburg offer groomed winter single-track for fat ‘n’ frosty riding!

Downhill skiing & snowboarding

If you’re looking for the best ski resort in Ottawa, then look no further than Calabogie Peaks, located just one hour from the city. Calabogie boasts a 780-ft vertical drop, making it the tallest ski area in Eastern Ontario. Enjoy breathtaking views of Calabogie Lake and the surrounding hills from the Peaks’ 24 trails and two quad chairlifts. With the longest beginner run in the province, diverse intermediate terrain and slopes for expert skiers and riders, Calabogie has something for everyone.

 


 

Places to visit in the Ottawa Valley

Bonnechere Caves

Looking for an unusual and exciting Ottawa travel experience? The Bonnechere Caves are not to be missed. This natural underground wonder is located in Eganville beside the impressive Fourth Chute of the Bonnechere River. Join a one-hour guided tour through the caves’ limestone passages to explore subterranean chambers filled with fossils, stalactites and—in late September and October—bats. Don’t say we didn’t warn you! Boardwalks and electric lighting make these caverns accessible to first-time spelunkers.

Pakenham Five Span Stone Bridge

There’s no shortage of Pinterest-worthy places to visit in Ottawa, but this historic landmark is deserving of the drive. Located in the cute little village of Pakenham, 45 minutes from Ottawa, the bridge crosses a scenic set of cascades on the Mississippi River. Built in 1903 by Scottish stone masons and restored in 1984, the breathtaking five-arch stone bridge is unique in North America and is believed to be the only one of its kind in the world outside Russia. Pick up picnic supplies in Pakenham and enjoy the view from Five Span Bridge Park.

North Frontenac Dark Sky Preserve

Located two hours away from the bright lights of Ottawa, the Dark Sky Preserve in North Frontenac is one of the best places for stargazing in Southern Ontario. Astronomers and amateur stargazers alike marvel at the countless stars, constellations and Milky Way visible to the naked eye on a cloudless and moonless night. Bring along binoculars to reveal even more wonders of the universe. The viewing area is found on County Road 506, south of Plevna.

 

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Where to stay in the Ottawa Valley

Hotels near Ottawa

Larger towns in the Ottawa Valley offer a selection of comfortable and affordable hotels with convenient access to amenities and outdoor activities. The towns of Pembroke, Petawawa, Renfrew and Arnprior are your best bets if you are looking for a familiar hotel chain like Best Western, Holiday Inn or Quality Inn & Suites.

Boutique inns offer a more upscale stay, often with some fascinating history or unique luxury to enhance your stay. In Pembroke, the opulent Grey Gables Inn and Spa offers seven refined rooms in a stunning 1911 mansion, plus a genteel tearoom and massages.

Located in a heritage building perched on the edge of the Bonnechere River in downtown Eganville, the Fifth Chute Inn offers four unique rooms above a coffee shop and bakery. Awake to the murmur of the river and the tantalizing aromas of freshly brewed espresso and fresh-baked sourdough.

Ottawa cottage & cabin rentals

Rent a cozy lakeside cabin or waterfront beach house for a family staycation in Ottawa that everyone will love. Whether you’re after an off-grid escape, deluxe lakefront retreat or pet-friendly cottage rental, these amazing properties make inviting and convenient bases for exploring the Ottawa Valley’s breathtaking natural beauty.

Discover the Top 20 Cottage Rentals Near Ottawa To Escape To This Summer, and start planning your getaway today.

Lodges & resorts near Ottawa

Staying at a lodge or resort in the Ottawa Valley offers flexibility for couples, friends, families and solo travellers. Book an all-inclusive package where every detail of your experience is carefully crafted. Or go independent—exploring the scores of trails, lakes and attractions just a short drive from your doorstep, and then returning to your peaceful refuge to recharge for the next adventure.

If you want to participate in the thrilling outdoor activities that have made the Ottawa Valley a world-renowned adventure destination, base yourself in the Whitewater Region at Wilderness Tours Raft & Kayak Resort or OWL Rafting Resort.

Just 50 minutes from Ottawa, the Calabogie Highlands are a hotspot for four-season fun. Calabogie Peaks Resort offers a blend of country warmth and luxury with limitless mountain or lake adventures right out your door.

Just about everywhere you travel in the Ottawa Valley, you’ll find cozy cottage resorts that are perfect for an affordable, laidback family vacation. Most offer lakeside accommodation and beautiful beaches with onsite games and activities for kids and adults. Find out which cottage resorts made our Top 20 Cottage Rentals Near Ottawa.

 


 

Ottawa weather

Weather in the Ottawa Valley varies greatly depending on which season you are planning to visit. During peak summer season (late June through early September), Ottawa enjoys warm days, pleasant nights and plenty of sunshine. The average daily high is 20–30°C along the Ottawa River corridor, with temperatures often a few degrees cooler in the Highlands.

Spring (May through June) is generally cooler and wetter, while fall (mid-September through October) offers a mix of bright sunshine, chilly rains and crisp nights. These shoulder seasons can be a great time to visit the Valley as attractions will be less crowded and many places offer discounted rates during these months.

If you are planning to swim, paddle or whitewater raft during your visit, water temperature is just as important a consideration as air temperature. In summer, the Ottawa River and area lakes warm up to 20°C or more, making for a comfortable swimming temperature. In spring, water temperature hovers around a bone-chilling 5°C—enticing only the bravest (and most warmly dressed) whitewater rafters and paddlers.

Winter (December through March) can be a magical time to visit the Ottawa Valley—for those equipped for frigid weather. In January, the coldest month in the region, the average daily high is just -10°C and overnight temperatures can drop to -20°C. Snowfall in the Ottawa Valley often arrives in the form of major winter storms, with Highland locations like Calabogie accumulating over 200 cm (80 in) of annual snowfall.

Ottawa 14-day, 7-day and hourly weather forecast

Get hourly, weekend, seven-day and 14-day weather forecasts for locations throughout the Ottawa Valley at The Weather Network.

Environment Canada offers seven-day and hourly forecasts for Ottawa, Renfrew, Pembroke, Barry’s Bay and other locations in the Ottawa Valley. You can also look up historical weather and climate.

 


 

Wildlife in the Ottawa Valley

Abundant natural areas, intact forests and wetlands and light population density mean the Ottawa Valley is home to a wonderful diversity of wildlife. Deer, beaver, fox and porcupine are a common sight while hiking, paddling or driving on country roads. If you’re really fortunate, you may even catch sight of the Valley’s more elusive residents, including moose, wolf and bear.

 

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Bears in the Ottawa Valley

Although black bears are reasonably common in the Ottawa Valley, bears are normally shy of humans and you will have to be very lucky to see one. However, careless food storage or improper disposal of garbage may attract bears looking for an easy meal, leading to “problem” bears that can become persistent and destructive nuisances. As a visitor to bear country, you have a responsibility to follow black bear safety rules and to know what to do if you encounter a bear.

Birding in the Ottawa Valley

The diverse habitats of the Ottawa Valley—from hardwood and mixed coniferous forest to open fields, lakes, rivers and wetlands—make this region a haven for birding near Ottawa. Over 300 bird species have been recorded in the Ottawa Valley, with some 160 species breeding here. For those wishing to learn more, the Ottawa Field-Naturalists’ Club is a great starting point. Field-naturalist and birding enthusiast John Sankey maintains a fabulously detailed web resource for Ottawa Valley birders complete with popular locations and species checklists.


The Ottawa Valley is an outdoor adventurer’s dream destination. | Photo courtesy of: Destination Ontario

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