History and cycling come together when you pedal through the Outaouais region, right across the Ottawa River from Canada’s capital. There are also so many things to do in the area that you’ll have a good time off the bike, that will match the time spent in the saddle. Here are five of the Outaouais’ best routes to help you plan out your next cycling vacation.
Route 1: Cycling on the Capital’s shores
Ride: With 600 km of paved trails running along the rivers and canals of the National Capital Region, Gatineau offers ride options for cyclists of all abilities and interests. Plan a route that spans two provinces as you explore the shores of the area’s three distinct rivers, each with its own beach areas to relax on for a mid-ride reprieves. Along your ride, you’ll pass museums, a casino and Canada’s Parliament Buildings. Whether you plan to stop and visit or prefer to keep a steady tempo, these attractions make for an exciting day of urban exploration in the Outaouais.
Eat: The National Capital Region is home to a number of renowned restaurants that will restore your energy after a day’s riding. Try Rustiek, Piz’za-za, or CoqLicorne.
Sleep: Ramada Plaza Manoir du Casino provides a place to sleep along with a steady supply of evening entertainment, and is a Bienvenue cyclists! accommodation.
Explore: Follow up your ride with an evening stroll along downtown Gatineau’s Culture Trail. This winding pedestrian path is inspired by Boston’s “Freedom Trail,” and connects restaurants, bars and historical points of interest. For a more in-depth experience with our country’s past, visit the Canadian Museum of History.
Plan your Capital Region cycling starting here.
Route 2: Ride the railway west on The Pontiac
Ride: For the more adventurous cyclists, The Pontiac is your chance to explore along the path of a historic railway that has been reshaped into a cycling path. The railway traces a path through Outaouais’ valleys and forests, mixing the region’s natural beauty and rich heritage.
Eat: Dine at Café 349 for a healthy meal made using locally sourced ingredients. It’s not just the main course that earned Café 349 a spot on Ottawa Citizen’s list of “5 Worth the Drive” restaurant profile, its decadent desserts made in-house are the perfect reward after a long day in the saddle. Depending when you visit, make time for Bryson’s Bistro du Bucheron at Fort Coulonge. The bistro’s rustic ambiance is a unique setting for any meal. But call ahead: it is only open for certain meals and days.
Sleep: Make your home for the night in the Spruceholm Inn. This heritage home is a well-preserved building that speaks to the traditions of the area. It’s one thing to walk among history; it’s another to dream within it.
Explore: Save some energy for after your ride, as the route along the Pontiac offers exciting options for the adventurous. At Capital Cable Park you can try cable wakeboarding, flyboarding, powered by water jets and, for the thrill seeker, hit speeds up to 60 km/h jet surfing on a motorized surfboard. There’s also a floating Tiki Bar, if you’d rather just watch. From the water to the air, Chutes Coulonge Adventure Park lets you cross canyons on a thrilling eight-line zip-line course. It also has two aerial obstacle courses. Or, scale the via ferrata along an extended cliff face high above the Coulonge River. Don’t be intimidated, though, there are activity options for beginner to experienced adventure seekers.
Plan your route on The Pontiac by visiting CyclingQuébec’s website here.
Route 3: Climb to Champlain Lookout in Gatineau Park
Ride: Challenge yourself with a climb up to the highest point you can ride to in Gatineau Park, Champlain Lookout. Once you conquer the 335-m ascent to the lookout, you’re not only rewarded with a thrilling ride down, but also the gourmet meal options in Chelsea and Wakefield to refuel from your effort.
Eat: There’s no shortage of quality dining options surrounding Gatineau Park. Top of our list are Biscotti et cie, Chelsea Pub, L’Orée du Bois or Les Fougères.
Sleep: Stay at one of Outaouais’ many nearby B&B options for a quiet night after a challenging ride. Auberge Old Chelsea, Mon Petit Chum and Les Trois érables are all excellent choices, or the four-star Wakefield Mill Hotel & Spa.
Explore: If you have energy after your ride, visit the historic Mackenzie King Estate. Or try something more relaxing, there are several spa options nearby. Nordik Spa-Nature is the largest spa in North America. The Wakefield Mill Hotel & Spa, first build in 1838, is a boutique hotel in the charming town of Wakefield featuring a full-treatment spa with an outdoor massage tent, two outdoor hot tubs and a swimming pool. Stay for a fine-dining experience at the Heron Room Bistro restaurant, specializing in cuisine québécoise.
Scout out your ascent to Champlain Lookout here.
Route 4: Follow in Papineau’s footsteps
Ride: For an immersive ride through history, follow Papineau’s route along the Ottawa River through Québec and Ontario. As you roll through the diverse landscape of the Petite-Nation, you’ll see valleys forests, farms and a growing agri-tourism experience. The area is home to many of the Outaouais region’s craftspeople and makers of local goods, many of whom are happy to open their doors to passing tourists.
Eat: The local dining is excellent in the area, including Café du Bistrot, Bistro Montebello and Snack et Délices.
Sleep: For a truly unique lodging experience, stay at the Fairmont Le Château Montebello. Built in the 1930’s and holding the record for being the worlds largest log castle, Château Montebello continues to defy expectations for what is possible in a log structure. Relax with a snack and drink from Bar le Foyer in the warmth of the Château’s towering, six-sided stone fire place or enjoy a dip on of the indoor or outdoor pools. When you’re feeling recovered from your day’s ride, take a meal at the award winning Aux Chantignoles in the grand dining hall. Stick around for the Château’s famous Sunday brunch. With a menu that changes with the seasons, it is a brunch worth delaying your ride start time for.
Explore: Stop by the Manoir Papineau National Historic Site for more of the area’s history. The dedicated nature lover explore the Parc national de Plaisance. It’s renowned for its bird watching opportunities, with more than 230 different species that can be spotted throughout the year.
Plot out your path following Papineau with more information here.
Route 5: Route of the northern log drivers
Ride: Get into the spirit of adventure by following the Northern Log Drivers Route, taking the path of an old railroad through the area’s ever-changing landscape. Anyone who grew up watching the NFB’s “Log Driver’s Waltz” has a soft spot for this traditional Canadian profession. This is your chance to live that childhood dream, in a way, and dance on the pedals to the tune of the waltz. A full 21 km of the route has been paved to ease your ride as you pass through meadows, forests and along the area’s many waterways.
Eat: You’ll want all the food you can find for your explorations and Resto Pub Le Rabaska and Boucherie Gauthier will keep you well-fed and fit to continue your ride.
Sleep: In the spirit of getting closer to nature: stay at Solisterra, where solar powered eco-cottages are made entirely of straw. For a more traditional overnight option, try Auberge du Draveur.
Explore: Let someone else do the heavy lifting when it comes to planning your vacation by taking advantage of CarpeDiem. The company specializes in custom outdoor experience packages on land, in water or creative combinations of the two. They have everything you need for your exploration, with quality bike, kayak, canoe and paddleboard rentals. There’s even a shuttle service for land and sea to open up more of the region to you for adventuring. CarpeDiem’s getaway packages are a fantastic way to let someone who knows the area direct you to the best of Vallée-de-la-Gatineau.
For a more history-centred trip , visit the Forest Fire Prevention History Interpretive Centre at Château Logue to learn about the people and practices dedicated to protecting the area’s beautiful forests. Or visit Kitigan Zibi, and the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg Cultural Centre. Experience a unique window into the culture and history of the Algonquin First Nation the Centre’ arts and guided tours.
Get started on your cycling tour of the Outaouais region’s five best cycling routes by visiting the CyclingQuébec website