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Biking In Ottawa: What You Can See In Just 2 Hours

Biking in Ottawa: What You Can See in Just 2 Hours

Have you ever wondered what you could do if you could go biking in Ottawa but you only had two hours? I don’t know how many times I’ve rolled into a city with time to kill but no plan on how to make the most of it. Convention goers and business people in particular can probably relate.

In Ottawa, it’s an easy problem to solve, especially since biking in Ottawa is a popular activity. Located in what feels like the bowels of the city, but is really an adapted railway tunnel under Rideau Street is RentaBikeIt’s only about a three minute walk from both the Fairmont Chateau Laurier and the Westin Hotel. Here you can rent a wide range of bikes as well as helmets, bike locks, panniers, water, maps and more. It’s open from 9 AM to 5 PM.

Renting a bike in Ottawa is convenient - with rentabike.com right beside the Rideau Canal downtown
Renting a bike in Ottawa is convenient – with rentabike.com right beside the Rideau Canal downtown

Bike along the Rideau Canal

Although it’s possible to join a tour, it’s extremely easy to do the ride along the Rideau Canal on your own. Bike paths run along both sides of the canal  and are meant to be shared with walkers. Beware, it can get very busy, especially on weekends.

The Rideau Canal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Rideau Canal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site

As you ride along the canal you are treated to the sight of kayakers, stand-up paddleboarders and of course magnificent swaths of tulips in May, especially around Dow’s Lake.

Stand-up paddle boarding on the Rideau Canal anyone?
Stand-up paddle boarding on the Rideau Canal anyone?
The tulips are near their peak in Ottawa in mid-May
The tulips are near their peak in Ottawa in mid-May

Continue past Dow’s Lake

Once you get past Dow’s Lake, it feels as though the crowds have dispersed. The next stop is Hartwell Locks – the turnaround point for many.

From the bike rental location across from the National Arts Centre to the locks it’s 13 kilometres return. You can cycle the route comfortably in an hour, but there are so many photographic opportunities, it will probably take you longer.

The trails are quieter once past Dow's Lake
The trails are quieter once past Dow’s Lake
You can walk your bike across the Hartwell Locks to bike along the other side of the Rideau Canal
You can walk your bike across the Hartwell Locks to bike along the other side of the Rideau Canal

Biking in Ottawa – don’t miss Hogsback Falls 

From the locks it’s only another kilometre to reach Hogsback Falls. They’re a beautiful sight and for the slight bit of extra effort, well worth visiting.

Hogsback Falls
Hogsback Falls
The trail along the Rideau Canal is well used by commuters and Carleton University students
The trail along the Rideau Canal is well used by commuters and Carleton University students

On the return I couldn’t help but get off my bike and walk among the beds of tulips. Can you imagine having these gardens in your backyard?

It's hard to get a picture of tulips without people in it during the Tulip Festival
It’s hard to get a picture of tulips without people in it during the Tulip Festival
Swaths of tulip beds across from Dow's Lake - a great stop to make while biking in Ottawa
Swaths of tulip beds across from Dow’s Lake – a great stop to make while biking in Ottawa

I wanted to get back to the bike lane after visiting the tulip beds. That was a problem. There wasn’t a pedestrian crossing that I could find and traffic was busy. I saw other people in my situation where we went part way across to a median before continuing. A temporary crosswalk during the Tulip Festival would be helpful.

Biking in Ottawa back to the downtown

It’s truly a lovely ride back towards the downtown core. To return to the rental location without having to cycle on any streets, you need (at least as far as I can tell) to cross over the Somerset Street pedestrian bridge. This is where you’ll find Ottawa’s version of ‘love locks’.

Ottawa's version of 'Love Locks' seen while biking in Ottawa
Ottawa’s version of ‘Love Locks’ seen while biking in Ottawa

All told I cycled a whopping 15-17 kilometres, something I can usually do in about 45 minutes. It took me two hours with all the stops I made.

This bike ride is ideal for families as well.

There are loads of bike trails around the city of Ottawa and this is but one of the options available – and what a scenic option it is!

Biking in Ottawa beside the canal
Biking in Ottawa beside the canal
Cycle on either side of the canal
Cycle on either side of the canal

This post includes some affiliate links. If you make a qualifying purchase through one of these links, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support.

Where to stay in Ottawa

I’d suggest a stay in downtown Ottawa so you’re a short walk or bike ride away from the major sights. 

The following hotels are all places I’ve stayed that I’d recommend.

Hotel Andaz – great location in the Byward Market, lovely roof-top bar, well-appointed rooms

Fairmont Chateau Laurier – a splurge but one of Canada’s grand old hotels right on the Rideau Canal. Catch the summer fireworks from some of the rooms.

The Westin Ottawa has a great location, especially for biking and nice views from the hotel.

Further reading on things to do in the Ottawa area

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.Biking in Ottawa - what you can see in 2 hours

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 5 Comments
  1. What a great way to spend a couple of hours in Ottawa! I love your tulip photos! We visited for the Tulip Festival a couple of years ago on the May long weekend and the flowers had bloomed early and were nearly finished. I need to go back during Tulip Festival one year to try again!!

    1. @Lisa I was told that the last of the snow and ice had just disappeared a few weeks ago. Then the temperature soared – 31C when I was there – so the tulips went into overdrive. I definitely got them near their peak.

  2. Well this is a perfectly timely post since I may be passing through Ottawa for a few hours in August. I love ideas for getting the most out of a short amount of time!

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