Distance: Approximately 7.5 km (4.6 miles)
Time: Less than an hour at a leisurely pace; more if you stop at museums and sites along the way
Ottawa is a beautiful city that successfully blends urban vitality with relaxing green spaces – even in the compact downtown core! The Capital Pathway Network, which encompasses 600 kilometres (372 miles) of recreational pathways stretching from downtown in all directions, is a favourite with cyclists, runners and rollerbladers.
For an ideal introduction to Canada’s capital region, consider this 7.5-kilometre journey that winds by national sites, historic waterways and natural areas. Spring, summer or fall, this cycling route is a great way to experience Ottawa, and the relatively flat route is even great for families!
Note: All distances are approximate.
START: Rideau Canal Pathway
Head south on the pathway that lines the east side of the Rideau Canal – Ontario’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll pass by impressive buildings and underneath scenic bridges.
1 km (0.6 mile): Cross the Corktown Footbridge
Cross the canal at the Corktown Footbridge at Somerset Street. Then turn right onto the pathway that lines the opposite side (west) of the Rideau Canal. You’ll be pedaling back towards Parliament Hill, the Fairmont Château Laurier and the Ottawa River.
(To explore the canal pathway further, see our Rideau Canal Family-Friendly Bike Trail webpage.)
2 km (1.2 miles): Ottawa Locks, Bytown Museum, Ottawa River
Arrive at the Ottawa Locks. Secure your bike before admiring the flight of eight, manually-operated locks that have been in use since the 1830s.
Visit the Bytown Museum, which is housed in the city’s oldest stone building. Through an interesting artifact collection and multilingual audio-guides, you can learn about Ottawa from the early fur trade and lumber years, to the building of the Rideau Canal, and up to the present day.
Continue cycling west along the majestic Ottawa River. You’ll pass below Parliament Hill, the Supreme Court, and you’ll see Aboriginal Experiences on Victoria Island.
(To explore the Ottawa River pathway further, see our Ottawa River Family-Friendly Bike Trail webpage.)
3.6 km (2.2 miles): Bridge to Gatineau, Québec
Turn right onto the Portage Bridge (before the Canadian War Museum) into Gatineau, Que. Once on the north side of the Ottawa River, turn right on the Voyageurs Pathway and continue to the Canadian Museum of History.
5.3 km (3.3 miles): Canadian Museum of History
Arrive at the Canadian Museum of History. If you’re hungry, enjoy a meal at either Bistro Boréal or the Voyageur Cafeteria, which offers incredible views of the Ottawa River and the downtown Ottawa skyline.
A visit to Ottawa isn’t complete without experiencing the Canadian Museum of History – Canada’s most visited museum. This cultural gem is home to the Canada History Hall, the world’s largest indoor collection of totem poles, special exhibits, and it also houses the Canadian Children’s Museum.
After exploring the Museum, turn right (east) and cycle over the scenic Alexandra Bridge back into Ottawa. Tip: Stop half way across for a breathtaking view over the Ottawa River.
7 km (4.3 miles): National Gallery of Canada, Royal Canadian Mint
Once over the bridge you have two nearby options: Visit the National Gallery of Canada or the Royal Canadian Mint.
The National Gallery displays a huge collection of Canadian, Indigenous and international visual arts treasures. While there, don’t miss the Canadian Photography Institute house on-site. Tip: Visit Nepean Point behind the Gallery for a panoramic view.
Or, take a guided tour of the Royal Canadian Mint to see how money is made. Be sure to visit the boutique to view their variety of unique Canadian collector coins (they make great souvenirs).
These two museums are adjacent to the historic ByWard Market neighbourhood. Stop by now for a refreshing ice cream or pint of local craft beer, or return later for some shopping and a meal.
Cycle south through the scenic Major’s Hill Park (towards the Rideau Canal). Tip: If the Tavern on the Hill is open, stop in and enjoy one of the best patio views in town!
7.5 km (4.6 miles): Fairmont Château Laurier
End your sightseeing journey at the castle-like Fairmont Château Laurier. Built in 1912, this National Historic Site has beautiful public spaces inside, including a Heritage Gallery with historic photos of its storied past.
END: You’re now back in the downtown core and have completed a tiny portion of Ottawa’s extensive scenic pathway network!
For info on bike rentals, guided tours and more cycling route inspiration, consult our Cycling in Ottawa webpage.