You can bike, run, walk or blade along cleared parkways in Ottawa this summer. The National Capital Commission’s (NCC) active use program, including NCC Weekend Bikedays, are back every weekend – and some holiday Mondays – from May 13 to October 9, 2023. Each year since the 1970s, the NCC clears select roads of vehicle traffic so you can get active and experience the beauty of the National Capital Region.
There are nearly 50 kilometres of smooth trails to explore on both sides of the river, including sections of the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway, Sir George-Étienne Cartier Parkway, Queen Elizabeth Driveway and Gatineau Park. While the Gatineau Park parkways follow a more specific schedule of closures throughout the week, the three Ontario-side sections will be reserved for active use on weekends starting each morning.
Admire the scenery that makes Ottawa unique, from expansive greenspace and the iconic Rideau Canal to historic structures and downtown skylines. Here are eight beautiful spots to rest along NCC’s active use pathways.
Continuous blue waters
You’ll enjoy endless views of the Ottawa River while breaking a sweat on Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir George-Étienne Cartier parkways. Switch up the glistening water scene by getting active on Queen Elizabeth Driveway that runs along the Rideau Canal.
The westbound lanes of Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway will be closed to vehicle traffic between Vimy Place and Carling Avenue. Due to ongoing work on the Champlain Bridge, the schedule will differ this year, with the parkway closed on weekends from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Both lanes of the Sir George-Étienne Cartier Parkway will be reserved for active use, between the Aviation Parkway and St. Joseph Boulevard in Orléans. You can glide or strut safely from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and holiday Mondays.
The active use section of Queen Elizabeth Driveway is open from Somerset Street to Fifth Avenue. It is open between 8 a.m. from 8 p.m. on each participating day; weekends from May 13 to June 25 as well as September 9 to October 9, and seven days a week from July 1 until September 4.
Rock sculptures next to rapids
Take a break next to a backdrop of balanced rock sculptures on the Ottawa River. Local artist John Felice Ceprano creates handmade art each year using rocks found along the shore in Remic Rapids Park. If you peer down the river, you can also spot the Parliament Building in the distance.
If you need some fuel, Remic Rapids Park is home to one of the NCC Bistros serving up a variety of sandwiches, desserts and drinks. Hours may change depending on the weather, but it’s typically open from Friday to Sunday, from 10 a.m. until sunset. This stop also has public washrooms.
Games and refreshments at CAA’s Pop-Up Tent
When cruising down Queen Elizabeth Driveway, you’ll find CAA’s pop-up tent near the Flora Footbridge, just north of the Canal Ritz Restaurant.
CAA North & East Ontario is proud to be an official partner of the NCC Active Use Program, and the tent next to the Rideau Canal will be serving up refreshments, games and contests. Take your turn at playing corn hole, Plinko or axe throwing to win some prizes and enjoy a frozen treat from the Icicle Tricycle. You’ll also find a pet watering station so that your furry friends can stay cool.
Lush green forests
It’s easy to pop over the river and immerse yourself in a forest full of trails so you can cycle, roll or race throughout Gatineau Park. Take advantage of road sections reserved for active use, daily from May 6 to September 22. Active use hours differ each day, and the program runs all day on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, until 8 a.m. on Wednesday and until 12 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
The NCC’s free shuttle service will return, and the schedule has been extended to run an additional five weekends this summer. You can ride the Ottawa and Gatineau Park shuttle bus from May 20 to August 27 between 9:10 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. The buses also each have a bike rack.
Kayakers on Dow’s Lake
Keep your eyes peeled for paddlers of all kinds as you pass Dow’s Lake along the Rideau Canal. From the blossoming spring tulips to the first glimpse of fall rhapsody, the park around Dow’s Lake is bursting with colour, including the bright boats floating on the water.
Summer boat rentals from the marina include kayaks, canoes and paddle boards, but you can also rent adult bikes.
Ottawa’s castle from the love lock bridge
Ottawa’s love lock bridge – officially called the Corktown Footbridge –is found just off of Somerset Street. This pedestrian bridge is at the top end of an active use pathway.
Lined with a variety of locks, the bridge was named for shanties housing Irish workers who built the canal. It overlooks the Rideau Canal featuring The Fairmont Chateau Laurier, Ottawa’s castle, in the distance. Take a moment to soak in the downtown scene above glistening water to start or end your route.
Near one end of the active use pathway along Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway, you’ll find an island park called the Chaudières Falls Park. This waterfront gem has an accessible network of trails leading to gorgeous views of the Ottawa River and Chaudières Falls.
Outdoor seating allows you to relax on viewing platforms and soak in the beauty of the urban waterfall. Don’t miss the stone mill ruins and the National Holocaust Monument on your way to the island.
Rockcliffe waterfall and pond
Not far from the Aviation Museum, along the Sir George-Étienne Cartier Parkway, there is a small network of trails that leads to a pond and waterfall.
Keep on the lookout for the pond surrounded by grass and nearby trees, as well as a hidden rock escarpment where the waterfall cascades. The Ottawa River stretches out along the other side of the pathway, which you can admire throughout your East Ottawa ride.
If you want to ride along the pathways but don’t have a bike of your own — or want to ride tandem with a friend — Members save 10% on rentals from Escape Bicycle Tours and Rentals.