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Is The Rideau Canal Open? Here’s More Ottawa Winter Activities To Enjoy

Published: March 5, 2024
Last updated: March 6, 2024
A group of friends are playing and runing in the snow in Winter in Ottawa

Make the most of frosty mornings, rejuvenating fresh air, and the breathtaking natural beauty of ice and snowfall in Ottawa during winter. Despite the increasing number of days of closure of the ever-popular Rideau Canal Skateway due to warm weather and thinning ice, Ottawa has numerous exciting winter adventures this time of year! Explore our handpicked selection of thrilling winter activities in Ottawa that rely on something other than perfect weather conditions and offer a fantastic way to enjoy the season, whether the Rideau Canal is open or closed.

Fat Biking on the Ottawa Trails

Fat biking is an exhilarating way to explore Ottawa’s snowy landscape, offering a unique blend of adventure and exercise. The city’s numerous trails, such as those in Gatineau Park, become a playground for fat bike enthusiasts and newcomers to the sport during winter. With their wide, low-pressure tires, these specially designed bikes make it easier to pedal over snow-covered paths, providing access to scenic views and the tranquility of snow-covered nature. Both beginners and seasoned riders can join in the fun by renting a Fat Bike at a convenient downtown location and exploring the trails, or join a Fat Bike Tour with a fun and knowledgeable guide. Either way, local residents and visitors can explore the winter beauty of Ottawa on two wheels.

Group have joined Fat Bike Tour in winter in Ottawa with Escape Tours

Skating in Forested Areas

Venture off the beaten path into the enchanting woodlands of Ottawa for a unique skating experience. This activity is delightful for anyone seeking tranquility and the beauty of the Canadian wilderness while enjoying the crisp winter air. 

Icelynd Skating Trails 

Head southwest of downtown Ottawa to the neighborhood of Stittsville for Icelynd, for two kilometers of natural ice skating trails and an outdoor skating rink that winds through woodlands.

The trails are open at night for a magical skate illuminated by strings of lights. You’ll also find spaces to rest and relax and a bonfire pit to warm up during your visit. Strollers are allowed for a young family outing. Bring your own skates, as rentals are not available. 

RiverOak Estates 

The neighborhood of RiverOak Estates is located 30 minutes southeast of downtown Ottawa. It offers a lovely forested skating experience. Spanning 3 kilometers, the route meanders through picturesque apple orchards, verdant meadows, and enchanting forests. The cozy heritage barn offers respite from the cold, and rental services for skates and helmets are available on-site. Bring your dogs and strollers for a full family event!

Explore the Trails of Gatineau Park on Snowshoe

Strap on some snowshoes for a serene yet invigorating way to stay active on the snowy trails around Ottawa. Gatineau Park is located just 15 minutes from downtown Ottawa. The park offers a picturesque snowshoeing experience across its expansive network of trails stretching almost 80 kilometers. When blanketed in pristine snow, the park presents a peaceful escape to explore nature so close to the city. Visit Gatineau Park (or any Ottawa Public Library) for a seasonal or daily winter pass to snowshoe, fat bike, or cross-country ski.

Popular Snowshoe Trails in Gatineau Park

Closest to Ottawa 

Easy Snowshoeing Trails – Trail 29 or 68
Difficult Snowshoeing Trails – Trail 65, Trail 76
Park at P1 or P2 to start these trails. Snowshoe rentals are available in Gatineau Park at Lot 2. 

Chelsea Trails

Further into Gatineau Park, and 10 km from Ottawa, is the municipality of Chelsea, which offers some great Snowshoeing trails, including the easy Trail 63 (accessible from parking lot P6) or the more advanced Wolf Trail- Trail #62 (accessible from parking lot P13).  

Camp Fortune 

This downhill ski centre within Gatineau Park also includes a network of looped trails through forests. Here, you can rent snowshoes as well as visit the lodge to rest, warm up, and refuel! Camp Fortune is also great for downhill skiing and is just 24 minutes from Ottawa.

Get Out for An Invigorating Cross-Country Ski

Gatineau Park is known for the most cross-country trails in North America. These well-maintained and hilly trails span over 200 kilometers for beginners to advanced skiers. Visit Gatineau Park Cross Country for information on rentals, maps, and parking details. Alternatively, enjoy the scenic trails starting from Ottawa along the Ottawa and Rideau Rivers.

Thrill Your Senses with Downhill Skiing and Snowboarding

The Ottawa area is a haven for those eager to hit the slopes, boasting three ski resorts all within a short drive from Ottawa.

Drive times from Downtown Ottawa  

These venues cater to a wide range of abilities, offering runs that satisfy both the novice and the expert, from beginner slopes to challenging terrains. Each resort features unique landscapes and facilities ensure a fresh and exhilarating experience for all winter sports enthusiasts.

Winter is So Much More Fun on a Toboggan

Experience the thrill of winter in Ottawa by tobogganing on some of the city’s most popular hills. The thrill of racing down a snow-covered slope on a sled is a fun,easy-to-plan winter activity in Ottawa that is always for an afternoon of laughter and excitement for kids and adults of all ages! 

Here’s a guide to some of the top toboggan hills in the city. 

  • Walter Baker Park is located in the Kanata area of town and is known for the longest hill in Ottawa. 
  • Green’s Creek- This enjoyable toboggan hill allows for some good speeds, yet it’s safe, and with its large embankment, there is no risk of landing in the water! It is located off Bearbrook Road.  
  • Mooney’s Bay is one of the tallest hills in the city and has a nice payoff and lovely views.
  • Ski Hill Park -Known as the best toboggan hill in town, it’s long and large with the added fun of big drops to increase speed and excitement.

Head on a Snowy Owl Sighting or Winter Bird Watching

Ottawa has a rich history of bird sightings throughout the year, in particular, its breadth of winter birds during this peaceful season. For an extra unique opportunity, venture into Ottawa’s serene winter habitats to spot the mysterious and beautiful Snowy Owl often seen in the Ottawa area with the aid of this Snowy Owl  sightings map. Birding is a tranquil way to connect with the natural world during the colder months. Bring your binoculars and camera to capture the stunning scenery and the wildlife you encounter on this winter adventure.

Cozy Up in Ottawa’s Best Coffee Shops

Find refuge from the frosty outdoors and into the warmth of Ottawa’s eclectic coffee. shops. The city boasts a diverse array of cafes, each with its unique ambiance and specialty brews. Nestle into a cozy corner with a steaming cup of artisan coffee or a creamy hot chocolate, accompanied by a freshly baked pastry. This top list of welcoming coffee shops offers the perfect setting for thawing out, catching up on reading, or enjoying a quiet moment alone. Their inviting atmosphere and delicious offerings make them an essential stop during your Ottawa winter adventures.

Warm Up with Food With Cést Bon Ottawa

Indulge your senses and escape the cold by embarking on a culinary journey with C’est Bon Ottawa’s food tours. These guided tours take you through the city’s heart, allowing you to experience the rich flavors and diverse culinary scene Ottawa has to offer that’s as fun for visitors as it is for residents. Choose from a selection of highly rated daytime and evening food tours. Or contact us for a private bike and food tour! It’s an ideal way to spend time in the city and enjoy the winter season from the comfort of Ottawa’s best eateries.

Photo credit: Cést Bon Cooking

To find more tips, ideas, and things to do in Ottawa, visit our website

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