What makes Ottawa distinctively unique from its big-city counterparts, Montreal and Toronto, is its closeness to nature. With Gatineau Park just literally across the river, an Ottawan can get from the downtown core to a solitary lake in nearly half the time it takes from a Torontonian to get home in traffic.
In Ottawa-Gatineau, there's a vast network of well-paved roads that immerse you into the heart of the city's surrounding forestry. We rounded up a list of eight of our favourite scenic routes in and around Ottawa, and linked their maps in their titles:
Sights: Champlain Lookout, Mackenzie King Estate
Description: A fun, uphill route that branches off from the much larger Gatineau Parkway. The route takes you alongside the Gatineau Hills and leads you up to one of the most scenic lookouts in the park -- Champlain Lookout.
Sights: Pink Lake, Camp Fortune, Gatineau Park
Description: The definitive drive through Gatineau Park. The Gatineau Parkway, built sometime in the late 1950s, is well-paved and winds through the greenery and rolling hills of Gatineau Park. The drive notably passes by Pink Lake, arguably the most scenic body of water in the whole park.
Sights: 24 Sussex, Rideau Hall, the Ottawa River, the Aviation Museum.
Description: A well-paved, winding route that follows along the Ottawa River through the most luxurious neighbourhood of Ottawa, Rockcliffe Park. The downhill road gives you views of the Ottawa River from up above and spectacular imagery of the Gatineau Hills adjacent to the Ottawa side of the river. For solitude and the best time to drive the parkway, avoid Sundays and rush hour (a lot of people use the Parkway as an alternative to get to and from Orleans).
Distance: 32.9km (From Macdonald-Cartier Bridge on the Ottawa side).
Sights: Wakefield Covered Bridge, Vorlage Ski Resort, Morrison's Quarry.
Description: A relatively exposed and green route that follows alongside the Gatineau River. Less hilly than Highway 307 on the other side of the river and a relaxing drive overall. Wakefield, might I add, is just a terrific end destination. You could spend a good couple hours relaxing there and taking photographs around the covered bridge.
Sights: Luskville Falls, Gatineau Hills
Description: An unsung, flat route on the Gatineau side of the Ottawa River that takes you up close and personal to the beautiful slopes of Gatineau Hills. Once at Luskville, I recommend parking your car and taking a hike up to the falls to get some terrific views of the Ottawa valley from Quebec.
Distance: 6.3km (From the Chateau Laurier to Dow's Lake)
Sights: The Rideau Canal, Dow's Lake.
Description: A gentle cruise through the downtown core that literally follows the historic, UNESCO World Heritage Rideau Canal. If you have the time, don't stop at Dow's Lake and continue along Colonel By Drive to the Watson's Mill south of Ottawa.
Sights: Lac Phillipe.
Description: A quick circuit in and out of Gatineau Park that follows along the western side of Lac Phillipe.
Sights: Old Chelsea, Lac Meech.
Description: A personal favourite (but not too fun to drive in the wintertime) that takes you from beautiful Old Chelsea along the slopes of Camp Fortune to one of the largest lakes in Gatineau Park. It's not necessarily the most well-kept road, but Chemin du Lac Meech takes you through the glories of Gatineau Park -- the hills and the lakes.
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