9 Fun Activities You Can Do in Ottawa Valley

9 Fun Activities You Can Do in Ottawa Valley

The Ottawa Valley area is a big place, which is why it’s able to offer such diverse activities for everyone. From survivalists, nature lovers, adrenaline junkies, or those just looking to have a good time, there’s definitely something that’s right for you!

One of my favorite things about it is that, depending on the season, there are tons of new activities available for you to try out. Memories of paddling along the rivers in the summer or snowboarding in winter will always have a special place in my heart.

Whether you plan to take advantage of the spring breeze, the summer sun, the fall leaves, or the winter snow, you’ll find something for every season of the year!

1. Paddle along a river.

Paddle along a river

Whenever I’m asked about what sort of outdoor activities I enjoy, paddling always has to be one of the answers you’d hear from me. 

With so many beautiful bodies of water within the Ottawa Valley area, you’re more likely to get dizzy trying to choose where to go paddling. Here are some of the kinds of paddling activities you can try out in the region:

  • Canoeing – It’s a popular activity in the Ottawa Valley due to its numerous pristine lakes and rivers. You can take a leisurely paddle on calm waters or challenge yourself with whitewater canoeing on the Ottawa River.
  • Kayaking – Whether you prefer sea kayaking on the Ottawa River or exploring the smaller, winding rivers, the Ottawa Valley has options for all skill levels. Whitewater kayaking is particularly thrilling, perfect for adrenaline junkies.
  • Stand-Up Paddleboarding – SUP has gained popularity in recent years, and you can paddle on lakes or rivers and even try SUP yoga in some locations. Calabogie Lake and the Madawaska River are great spots for SUP.
  • Rafting – For an adrenaline-pumping experience, consider rafting on the Ottawa River. Several outfitters offer guided rafting trips with experienced guides to navigate the challenging rapids.
  • River Tubing – If you prefer a more relaxed water activity, river tubing is an excellent way to enjoy the slower sections of the river. You can rent an inflatable tube and float down the river, taking in the beautiful scenery.

Because the region is blessed with numerous rivers, each river or lake offers its own unique paddling experience. 

One of the best options is the Madawaska River, which winds through beautiful forests and provides opportunities for calm water paddling and thrilling whitewater adventures. This river’s diverse character makes it suitable for paddlers of varying skill levels.

For a more tranquil paddling experience, the Rideau Canal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offers a scenic route through Ottawa and its surroundings. 

Paddlers can leisurely explore this historic waterway, passing by charming lock stations and picturesque landscapes.

Another excellent choice is the Petawawa River, known for its mix of calm sections and challenging rapids. This river is an ideal destination for those seeking both relaxation and an adrenaline rush. 

It’s also surrounded by stunning wilderness areas, making it a perfect spot for nature enthusiasts looking for a tranquil oasis.

Additionally, there’s the Algonquin Provincial Park, though a bit farther from Ottawa, which has a vast network of lakes and rivers, making it a paddler’s paradise. 

The park offers well-maintained canoe routes with portages and campsites, facilitating multi-day paddling adventures in a pristine wilderness setting.

Wherever you choose to go in the Ottawa Valley, paddling allows you to connect with nature, enjoy the serene landscapes, and experience the region’s outdoor beauty!

2. Take a hike through nature.

Take a hike through nature

While the lakes and rivers in the Ottawa Valley region are nothing short of stunning, not everyone is fond of getting into the water for long periods of time. For those who prefer to stay on dry land while also getting some good exercise, hiking is the way to go!

The Ottawa Valley is renowned for its stunning natural landscapes, so hiking provides the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in the region’s breathtaking scenery. 

From lush forests and serene lakes to rolling hills and dramatic riverbanks, you’ll get an ache in your neck by the time you finish turning your head to take a look at everything. 

The diverse ecosystems and changing seasons also mean that there’s always something new to see and discover.

Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a beginner, the Ottawa Valley also offers a range of trails catering to various skill levels, from easy walks to challenging backcountry routes. Which makes it a rewarding outdoor adventure suitable for all ages and fitness levels. 

If getting more exercise was one of your New Year’s resolutions, then hiking is an excellent way to stay physically active and maintain a healthy lifestyle. The region’s hiking trails provide an opportunity for exercise while breathing in fresh, clean air. 

Studies also show that spending time in nature can reduce stress and improve mental well-being. So, for those who may be experiencing a little more stress than usual in their day-to-day lives, going on a hike through nature can help reduce stress!

The Ottawa Valley is rich in wildlife, making it a haven for nature enthusiasts, particularly those who are fond of animals. While hiking, you may encounter deer, foxes, various bird species, and other animals in their natural habitats. 

Another thing to note is that many hiking trails in the Ottawa Valley lead to spectacular viewpoints and overlooks. These vantage points allow hikers to capture memorable photographs and appreciate the region’s natural beauty from a unique perspective. 

For instance, trails in Gatineau Park offer panoramic views of the Ottawa Valley, so be sure to keep your camera or phone charged to take photos of the scenery!

What I love most about hiking in the Ottawa Valley is that it’s a year-round activity, so you can go regardless of the season. 

Additionally, families with young children can enjoy quality time together on family-friendly trails. These well-marked paths are often suitable for strollers and offer interpretive signs to engage children and teach them about the environment.

Several hiking trails in the Ottawa Valley can lead to mesmerizing waterfalls, which add another layer of beauty and adventure to any hiking adventure. Trails like the Bonnechere Caves Trail take you to these stunning water features.

When it comes to the best places to go hiking, the Algonquin Provincial Park is one of the most renowned destinations in the Ottawa Valley. The park boasts over 2,400 lakes and 1,200 kilometers of streams and rivers, with a vast network of hiking trails. 

The Algonquin Park Track and Tower Trail, for example, offers spectacular viewpoints and a unique fire tower to climb for panoramic views of the park.

We also can’t forget about Calabogie Peaks Resort, a popular skiing destination in winter, which also offers hiking trails that are fantastic trekking routes in the summer. The Eagles Nest Trail, for instance, provides picturesque views of Calabogie Lake.

Now, if you’re a bit nervous about going on a hike for the first time, the Ottawa Valley hosts hiking events and festivals, fostering a sense of community among outdoor enthusiasts. 

These events often include guided hikes, educational programs, and an opportunity to meet like-minded individuals who share a love for nature. 

3. Cycle along the paths.

Cycle along the paths

Another fun activity to do in the Ottawa Valley region is cycling, which is enhanced by the area’s natural beauty and well-maintained trails. Numerous cycling events in the area also make it an attractive destination for cyclists of all levels.

The Ottawa Valley’s diverse landscapes are a primary draw for cyclists, from the serene shores of the Ottawa River to the rugged terrain of Algonquin Park.

So whether you prefer leisurely rides along flat, riverside paths or more challenging climbs through forested hills, the region caters to all preferences. 

You also have the opportunity to traverse lush forests, encounter pristine lakes, and revel in picturesque countryside views during your journey.

Many communities in the region are bike-friendly, offering dedicated cycling lanes, well-marked bike routes, and amenities like bike racks and repair stations. 

This enhances the safety and convenience of cycling, ensuring that riders can navigate the region with ease.

Throughout the year, the Ottawa Valley hosts various cycling events and tours, which attract cycling enthusiasts from near and far. 

Whether you’re participating in a long-distance cycling challenge or a local charity ride, cyclists have the opportunity to explore the region’s picturesque landscapes.

Having dedicated cycling trails is a highlight of the Ottawa Valley, such as the Algonquin Trail, which is around 300km and connects multiple communities. 

This extensive network provides cyclists with traffic-free routes, taking them through serene natural settings and along historic rail corridors. These trails are ideal for families, casual riders, and long-distance cyclists alike.

For mountain biking enthusiasts, the Ottawa Valley offers thrilling opportunities, like Calabogie Peaks Resort, which features challenging downhill trails. 

Meanwhile, destinations like the Forest Lea Trails near Pembroke provide a mix of cross-country and downhill biking experiences. These mountain biking trails cater to riders seeking an adrenaline rush and adventure.

When you choose to cycle in the Ottawa Valley, you’re also provided cultural and historical immersion. 

Riders can explore museums, heritage sites, and charming villages along their routes, gaining insights into the region’s rich history and vibrant culture. It’s an opportunity to combine outdoor adventure with educational experiences.

The Ottawa Valley’s clean air and pristine natural surroundings also create an ideal environment for cycling. It allows individuals to engage in outdoor exercise, improve physical fitness, and enjoy the mental health benefits of being surrounded by nature. 

The Old Railway Bike Trail, located at Algonquin Provincial Park, follows a historic railway line, providing a relatively flat and well-maintained path for cyclists. 

The ride takes you through dense forests, across wooden bridges, and alongside pristine lakes. It’s an excellent choice for cyclists of all skill levels, from beginners to experienced riders, who want to immerse themselves in the region’s natural beauty.

Another awesome trail is the Arnprior to Renfrew Trail, which extends for about 20km and connects the towns of Arnprior and Renfrew. It’s part of the larger Ottawa Valley Rail Trail system, offering scenic views of the River and its surrounding countryside. 

Cyclists can enjoy a mix of paved and gravel sections, making it suitable for both road and mountain bikes. This trail also passes through several charming villages, providing opportunities to explore local history and culture along the way.

4. Ride an ATV.

Ride an ATV

ATVing in the Ottawa Valley region is an exhilarating experience everyone has to try at least once in their lives. 

The Ottawa Valley is renowned for its extensive network of ATV trails, which offers riders an array of options. This variety allows riders to explore diverse landscapes, from dense forests to open meadows, ensuring there’s always something new to discover.

The region also boasts lush forests, rolling hills, pristine lakes, and breathtaking vistas. So, riding through this picturesque landscape provides a unique perspective on the region’s remarkable scenery, making every trail ride a memorable experience.

It’s also super helpful that the Ottawa Valley’s ATV trails are well-maintained and easily accessible. Many of these trails are interconnected, providing riders with the opportunity to embark on extensive journeys through the region’s wilderness. 

Whether you’re planning a day trip or a multi-day adventure, the trails’ accessibility ensures a smooth and enjoyable ride.

While riding ATVs along the trails, you may have the chance to spot different animals in their natural habitat. It’s a thrilling experience for nature enthusiasts and photographers alike, offering a unique way to connect with the region’s local fauna.

The Ottawa Valley also helps foster a sense of community with its active ATV clubs and associations that organize events, rallies, and group rides. 

These gatherings provide opportunities to meet fellow riders, share experiences, and explore new trails together.

Throughout the Ottawa Valley, you’ll find a lot of ATV-friendly towns and communities that offer services such as accommodations, dining, and fuel stations for riders. This makes it easy to plan ATV excursions, whether for a day trip or an extended journey.

And even if you don’t have your own ATV, many businesses in the Ottawa Valley offer ATV rentals. This option allows visitors and newcomers to experience the thrill of off-roading without needing your own!

5. Go fishing.

Go fishing

The Ottawa Valley region is known for its excellent fishing opportunities, with numerous lakes, rivers, and streams offering diverse fishing experiences. We suggest you decide on the kind of fish you want to catch to help you make your decision on where to fish.

The Ottawa River, for example, is home to a variety of fish species, including walleye, northern pike, muskie, bass, and catfish. The river’s diverse ecosystems provide ample opportunities for both shore and boat fishing.

Then there’s the Madawaska River, especially in the upper reaches near Calabogie, which offers excellent fishing for smallmouth and largemouth bass. This picturesque river is known for its scenic beauty and fishing potential.

The Bonnechere River is another popular angling spot, particularly if you’re fond of trout and bass. It flows through Bonnechere Provincial Park and offers peaceful surroundings and exciting fishing opportunities.

White Lake, located near Arnprior, is famous for its trophy-sized muskie, but anglers can also target largemouth and smallmouth bass, pike, and walleye. It’s a picturesque lake with clear waters and numerous bays and inlets to explore.

The Petawawa River is known for its excellent trout fishing, including brook, rainbow, and brown trout. It’s a popular spot for fly fishing and offers a scenic backdrop with forested banks.

Lake Clear, near Eganville, is a popular destination for anglers seeking largemouth and smallmouth bass, as well as northern pike. It’s a relatively shallow lake with many weedy areas, making it an ideal habitat for these species.

Just near Barry’s Bay is Kamaniskeg Lake, which is known for its diverse fish population, including lake trout, smallmouth bass, and walleye. The lake’s clear waters and scenic surroundings make it a favorite among local and visiting anglers.

Round Lake, near Pembroke, offers excellent fishing opportunities for muskie, bass, walleye, and panfish. It’s a large, scenic lake with various fishing spots to explore.

Near Carleton Place is Mississippi Lake, which is known for its bass fishing and is a relatively shallow lake with plenty of submerged structures. This makes it an excellent habitat for bass.

The Rideau River, part of the historic Rideau Canal system, offers fishing for various species, including bass, pike, and panfish. It’s also a serene waterway with opportunities for shore and boat fishing.

Before heading out to fish in the Ottawa Valley, it’s crucial to check local regulations, obtain the necessary fishing licenses, and be aware of any specific rules or restrictions. 

Additionally, the best time to fish may vary depending on the species you’re targeting, so it’s advisable to research seasonal fishing patterns.

6. Play some golf.

Play some golf

If you prefer to stay on dry land but also don’t like anything too tiring, golfing in the Ottawa Valley area is another fun thing to do. 

Because of the region’s location, its golf courses are nestled amidst some of the most breathtaking natural landscapes, featuring lush forests, rolling hills, and serene lakes. 

The changing seasons in the Ottawa Valley also add a dynamic element to the golfing experience. From the vibrant colors of fall to the lush greenery of spring, each season brings a unique charm to the game.

7. Go camping.

Go camping

If you don’t want to cut your outdoor excursion too short, going camping is the best way to make the most of your weekend in the Ottawa Valley region. You can go hiking, fishing, or paddling in the day and retreat back to your campsite by nightfall.

Murphy’s Point Provincial Park, located near Perth, offers a range of camping experiences. Campers can choose from car camping sites, walk-in sites, or even paddle-in sites on Big Rideau Lake. 

The park is known for its historical attractions and hiking trails that you can explore throughout your stay. 

Just west of Ottawa is Fitzroy Provincial Park, a convenient choice for campers looking for a quick escape from the city. It features wooded campsites, a sandy beach on the Ottawa River, and excellent fishing opportunities!

Near Pembroke, you’ll find Silver Lake Provincial Park, which offers scenic camping by the lake. It’s an excellent spot for swimming, boating, and picnicking and features campsites suitable for both tents and RVs.

8. Try bird-watching.

Try bird-watching

Bird-watching in the Ottawa Valley can be especially rewarding due to its diverse ecosystems, including forests, wetlands, and lakeshores. 

To make the most of your bird-watching experience, consider visiting birding hotspots such as Algonquin Provincial Park or Mud Lake Conservation Area. 

The various lakes and rivers in the region are also great spots for bird-watching, so don’t forget your binoculars and field guide to help with bird identification!

The Ottawa Valley is known for its healthy population of bald eagles, and you can spot these majestic birds soaring over lakes and rivers. 

Ospreys, also known as fish hawks, are also commonly seen in the region, so if you’re planning on fishing, keep an eye out for them on your trip.

Another beautiful bird to watch out for is the Great Blue Heron, and these tall wading birds are often spotted in wetlands and along the shores of rivers and lakes.

9. Snowboard down the slopes.

Snowboard down the slopes

As soon as the cold season hits, you can’t leave out snowboarding when it comes to a list of the best activities to do in the Ottawa Valley region. This adrenaline-pumping activity reminds many locals of their childhoods but is just as fun even as an adult!

If you have kids who don’t have any prior experience with snowboarding, there are tons of available snowboarding classes you can enroll them in. There are even classes for adults, and if you don’t have snowboards, most lodges offer rentals for guests.

Mount Pakenham is situated about 45 minutes from Ottawa and is a family-friendly ski and snowboard destination. It features a variety of trails and terrain parks, making it ideal for all skill levels, and offers both lessons and rentals.

Just a short drive from downtown Ottawa, Camp Fortune is a popular ski and snowboard destination. It boasts diverse terrain, including challenging runs and terrain parks, and being close to the city makes it a convenient choice.

Across the river in the Gatineau Hills, Mont Cascades offers a range of snowboarding options. It features several trails and terrain parks designed for various skill levels. 

The resort is about a 30-minute drive from downtown Ottawa.