Ottawa’s Rideau River Park trail is a 13 km long winding path that follows this historic waterway through parklands, beside rapids, and past raging falls. It’s one of the best cycling pleasures in the city.
Located in the heart of town, this paved path offers a tranquil escape that at times is removed from the sights and sounds of the busy city. It’s a lovely mix of open, sunny parkland cycling interspersed with shady, treed woodlots.
The main route runs along the east banks of the Rideau River, with an optional west-bank ride in the middle section, a thin strip of greenway 5 km long. The pedestrian Adawe bridge gets you across to the western section on the north end and the Bank St. road bridge on the south end brings you back.
The highlights of this ride are three waterfalls. Just beyond where the pathway ends at Sussex Drive, the Rideau River spills over in two places into the Ottawa River. You are free to cycle across the dams spanning this impressive pair of falls – highly recommended.
On the south end of this trail are the spectacular Hog’s Back falls/rapids. Take a moment to admire them, ponder, and realize why a canal was dug centuries ago to bypass this torrent.
A short ride across Hog’s Back dam brings you to the Rideau Canal Pathway, an excellent return route to make this almost a loop. When you get back to the north end, you need to sort out when and how you will connect back to the Rideau River trail via side streets (try Somerset St. E.).
If in need, you are never far from amenities, especially on the south end of this ride, where you will find washrooms, picnic areas, food malls and even a beach at Mooney’s Bay.
For your kids, I saw numerous playgrounds on my trek that can break up the ride, the largest in Mooney’s Bay Park. And a little further south the trail officially ends at the Walkley Rd. street crossing.
It was nice to see my favourite path markers, a painted centre yellow line leading the way makes it easy to follow. But if you wish to wander off on the many other side trails, map boards and signage will sort that out for you.
I do recall one or two road crossings at the lights; all other crossings use road underpasses. The path does come up to street level a few times on its own raised sidewalk. But for the most part, your ride will be quiet, safe and away from traffic.
Whether you’re a tourist discovering the capital or a local headed out on an after-work outing, this trail offers a natural relaxing cruise through the centre of Ottawa. It’s an excellent ride in its own right and a great way to get to many interesting destinations beyond.