Ottawa Cycling Maps

I created this page for visitors who are less or not familiar with cycling in Ottawa Gatineau. You can find popular bike tours here. I created colour maps with some extra notes such as viewpoints and greenspace. You can download the GPX file for each route for free from a Google Drive now. I’d appreciate if you buy me a coffee if you enjoyed the routes and maps.

Over the last decades the Ottawa-Gatineau region has created a pretty decent bike touring network for short distances. Enough pathways are connected directly or connected with each other via quiet residential roads to do 20, 30, 40 km loops without having to deal with much car traffic. Casual cyclists will most certainly enjoy our network.

Can I see Ottawa by bike?

The network makes our region a great destination for a few days of cycling and sightseeing by bike. In fact, many interesting places can easily be reached by bike. But where to start? From cycling in other places I have found that it is often quite hard to find some good recommendations on where to bike. Therefore I created several maps for locals and visitors alike.

A regional stylised map to start

Let’s start with an impression, subway map style, of our Ottawa-Gatineau network. The network is not complete yet, but it does give you many options to bike away from motorised traffic. There are gaps in the network, and I have attempted to fill those in with quiet residential streets. As we have hardly any wayfinding on the ground, I decided to give the important intersections names, for reference. This, of course, is a fun map and should be used with other maps to have a real world impression of bike infrastructure.

A map showing the cycling network in Ottawa-  Gatineau
This map show the Ottawa Gatineau cycling and walking multi use pathways (known as MUPs) as a connected network. Not all pathways are on here and there are some short sections of residential streets to connect the MUPs.

This map gives you a good overview of the network of multi use pathways because I only drew the MUPs that are connected to each other. Use the map to design your own routes as I am doing to create the routes below. Note I am not showing on-road bike lanes, just pathways away from roads including the odd raised bike track, but that is rare.

Download the PDF version here.

We have more pathways then I show on the map above, but they tend to be pathways that are not connected to anything else, which doesn’t help you if you want to go for a nice loop. I choose to base the map on nodes, like in the Netherlands (but we don’t have a numbered node system on the ground). As I mentioned, there are hardly any way finding signs in Ottawa, so I used nearby landmarks to name the nodes much like metros and subways systems do. If you want to do some serious multi day gravel ride exploration, check out my post on the 796 km Log Driver’s Waltz gravel loop outside Ottawa.

Mostly cycling on pathways

The routes are designed for maximum cycling on pathways, while taking in our nature and sights: greenspace, rivers, museums, monuments, bridges, neighbourhoods. Several routes stick to the central part of Ottawa and some are a bit further out. I only create loops so that you can start from anywhere and always get back to the same station, car park etc.

You can find a sketch of each route I created with the approximate length, where the relevant light rail stations are, the sights, viewpoints, some shopping places (they usually includes food and drink places) and some major roads for your orientation.

Restaurants and coffee shops

At this point, I am not recommending many restaurants and coffee shops because everyone’s taste is different and because places come and go. It is also a matter of available time to check out the choices as well as making sure they can be found if they are off the routes.

Light Rail Stations

You could consider taking the light rail to a station mentioned on the maps. You can take your bike on the train at any time in the front or the back of the train. You don’t pay extra for your bike, but avoid rush hours as the trains might be packed. Several LRT stations are still being built or renovated (until at least 2026), but there is a replacement bus service. Every bus has a bike rack at the front for two bikes. Look into family day passes for weekends for transit if you plan to use it. Check the several fares (weekend, senior, children) here: OC Transpo fares

Local cycling routes in Ottawa

Most people who visit Ottawa will bike along the Ottawa River and the Rideau canal, but our network is much bigger than that. So big in fact, that you need several days to cover them all if you are an average cyclist like I am. Below are the first route maps I recently created to give you an idea where those routes are. Bear with me while I improve my map skills.

If you rarely cycle, you may want to start with a 20 km loop and see how it goes. I know from my tour guide experience that, especially with kids, you won’t go much faster than 10 km per hour if you include stops here and there for views etc. If you rent bikes, rent them for half a day and take your time enjoying the capital region.

GPX conversion tools

If you use Google Maps, you will need to convert the downloaded GPX files to KML files. You can do that here. I usually do a route clockwise so you have to cross less intersections, because you have more right turns, but if you want to reverse the riding direction of your route, you can do that here.

Where should I cycle in Ottawa?

I have created maps for 8 routes so far:

Cycling Along the Waterways in the National Capital Region – 31 km

A Visit to Rideau Hall and the Aviation Museum – 20 km

Experimental Farm, Rideau Canal and Ottawa River – 32 km

Gatineau’s Nature – 44 km

West End Trees and ‘Cottage Country’ – 18 km

Off the Beaten Track in Orleans – 34 km

Allotment Gardens and the Rideau River – 20 km

Old Nepean’s Leafy Neighbourhoods – 19 km

Joint Ottawa/Gatineau/NCC map

The City of Ottawa, together with the NCC and the Ville de Gatineau prints a map covering the entire region. In spring, they appear along the pathways in a special stand (if they have not fallen victim to the search of efficiencies by city council), where you can also find a map behind Plexiglas to orient yourself. An electronic version can be found here. (Attention: large 24 MB file on Amazon servers, might freeze an older computer). The NCC has named their pathways and placed several signs at strategic locations. But of course, as a visitor you have no idea who owns which pathways.

Detailed cycling map of Ottawa
2018-19 City of Ottawa/Gatineau/NCC map (Ignore the open in Acrobat message). The Greenbelt around Ottawa is clearly visible.

More Ottawa Cycling maps

Bike Ottawa, Ottawa’s local bicycle advocacy group (disclaimer: I was the president between 2009-2015), has a number of very useful maps available if you are looking for a level of stress. The interactive maps allow you to choose easy and quiet roads, or more challenging ones traffic wise etc. Choose level 2 if you want to play it safe. Go to the Bike Ottawa Maps site here. There is also a route planner, a winter cycling map and even a ‘desire line’ map.

Some tips for Cycling in Ottawa – Gatineau

If you are unfamiliar with Ottawa-Gatineau, here are a few tips:

Except Gatineau Park in Quebec, the area is fairly flat, except the odd ascent and descent towards a bridge. If you are on an ebike, make sure you keep some momentum, stopping and then starting an ebike on an ascent is harder because your bike is heavier. If you have limited strength, you might fall. Trust me , I have seen it happening.

There are not too many public washrooms, but museums, art galleries and city halls always have them. Some parks have them too, but that is rare.

Bring water. The summers can be hot and the sun can be tough on you. Wear sunscreen and cover your head. There are fountains along the way, but they are few and far between.

Despite being a “city with 16 months of winter” as people point out jokingly on social media, you could cycle year round, but that is a bit of a challenge. From the end of February, the sun is warmer and the roads are dry, however, most pathways are not maintained in winter. The roads are usually fine, even a few days after a late snowstorm. From April on, most paths are clear, there might be some patches left in the shade. You can then increasingly cycling into November/December and even into the new year sometimes.

I highly recommend you use transit if you are staying further away from your chosen route. You can only park a car for three hours in Ottawa’s streets, or less when the sign says so. To make it easy for you, I have added nearly always a light rail LRT stop (or more) on the map. You can take your bike for free on bus and LRT (on LRT only in the front and back, but that shouldn’t be a problem outside rush hour). Buses require you to place the bike on the outside at the front of the bus. While it looks intimidating, it is easy to do, but you have to be able to lift your bike. Note that several stretches of the LRT are still being built.

There might be detours once in a while. Bike Ottawa, our local cycling advocacy group, lobbies hard to have proper detours in place, but unfortunately the city or the contractors sometimes ignore designing a safe detour or don’t want to create any inconvenience for drivers. Your GPS is probably smart enough to get you back on track though.

Remember, I try to create the safest route possible, but in the end you are riding your vehicle, which means you are part of traffic. I choose pathways, raised bike lanes alongside roads and quiet neighbourhood streets as much as possible but ultimately I am not sitting on your luggage carrier to navigate you through traffic. These are routes I bike myself and I feel comfortable on; I comfortably took my 85 year old mother on an e-bike on several pathways. But always watch out at intersections, slip lanes, pedestrian crossings, parking lots for vehicles much larger and heavier than yours. Drivers can turn right through red, and they will cross your path when you are going straight.

If you pass people on the multi use pathways, use your bell or gong, it is required.

The national emergency number in Canada is 911.