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Be Your Own Explorer: Cycle Champlain’s Historic Routes Along the Rideau and Ottawa Rivers

Photo Credit: Discovery Routes. East End of Voyageur Cycling Route.

Pour la version française de cet article, cliquez ICI.

If you are looking to add a little history and culture to your ride day and learn something new along the way, be sure to check out these bilingual French and English cycling itineraries built around Ontario’s Route Champlain Tourism Route, in and near our capital city, Ottawa.

Often considered the ‘father of New France’, Samuel de Champlain was an adventurer and explorer spending much time in Quebec and Ontario in the early 17th century. He is widely regarded for his cartography skills and his relationships with First Nations people, balancing his commitment to colonization and conciliation. Now you can retrace his explorations along a historic route established on his 1615-1616 expedition in Ontario.

Photo Credit: Route Champlain

While the full 1,500km circuit is best done by car, and will take you to some of the most scenic spots in Ontario, there are four cycling itineraries suitable for a more leisurely cruise, family-friendly and trail focussed, ranging from 18km to 58km in length. Be sure to bring a bike along, no matter what amount of time you have, and plan some ride time as part of your day trip or a longer multi-day tour. Discover culture, canals, countryside, waterways and welcoming bicycle friendly, bilingual stops along the way.

Photo Credit: Ottawa Tourism

Rideau Canal Cruiser 
English Itinerary HERE, Itinéraire français ICI

The best way to see the most sights and experience the city of Ottawa is by bike. Following a route that is entirely off-road on paved pathways alongside the river and canals will lead you to the most amazing discoveries. Whether you do the full 39km or get waylaid at the lock stations, Hog’s Back Falls, Dows Lake, Experimental Farm, Parliament Hill and many museums, an easy start can be made from many any attraction. (Reopening in 2023, a fitting place to start or simply make a stop is the National Gallery of Canada, to see the majestic Samuel de Champlain statue that towers over the river, at Nepean Point.)

Cross the Ottawa River from either the bicycle friendly Alexandra or MacDonald-Cartier bridges, and get a bird’s eye view of the river route once paddled by Champlain’s canoes. Dip into Gatineau, Quebec for more historical references at the Jacques Cartier Park and a loop around Leamy Lake on trails that stretch into our neighbouring province.

Back in downtown Ottawa, and after making the most of the sightseeing opportunities, visit the shops and cafes that line the streets of Byward Market. Stop at one of the many bicycle friendly locations to eat and enjoy some outdoor patio time, visiting Ottawa’s Bike Cafe, the waterside Mill Street Brew Pub or one of the Royal Oak Pubs. Find an array of accommodations from larger hotel chains to small B&B’s, and definitely plan to stay longer than a single day, made all the more enticing by Ottawa Tourism’s offer (EN HERE, FR ICI), that extends into October, to pay for the third night stay.

Ottawa Valley Rail Trail Adventure
(English Itinerary HERE, Itinéraire français ICI)

The perfect place to start this rail trail bike ride following the Route Champlain, is from the Champlain Trail Museum in Pembroke. Get to what is known as ‘the heart of Ottawa Valley,’ the small city of Pembroke, passing through pretty countryside north of Ottawa, or via bridge crossings that straddle Allumette Island, part of the Outaouais region in Quebec. Follow the Ottawa Valley Recreation Trail north, a quiet inland unpaved trail just over 20km to its terminus in Petawawa.

Photo Credit: SÉO

In Petawawa stop at Centennial Park for a picnic and dip in the water or extend the ride another three kilometres north to visit the large Canadian Forces Base, Garrison Petawawa and its renowned military museum before turning around. Be sure to stop at award winning bicycle friendly businesses on or near the trail, Yantha Cycle and Hugli’s Blueberry Farm, for a warm welcome. To experience the rapids like Champlain did, there are a number of outfitters situated along the Ottawa River that offer rafting and kayak experiences.

Photo Credit: Martin Lortz

If you are keen on cycling longer distances, the trail extends south from Pembroke to Renfrew, Arnprior, Almonte and Carlton Place, a wonderful way to explore the historic towns that are a perfect distance apart for an easy ride. North of Pembroke experienced road cyclists can join the Voyageur Cycling Route to Mattawa and onwards to North Bay and Sudbury. This growing 645km route, connects 29 northern and rural communities following the path of the Voyageurs along the great waterways that Champlain traversed and have been used for transportation and trade for thousands of years.

Pour la version française de cet article, cliquez ICI.

Photo Credit: SÉO

More to Explore

If these suggested Route Champlain cycling itineraries in the Ottawa and Ottawa Valley area have not satisfied your historical and cultural curiosity, be sure to explore more on one of these additional routes, with itineraries available in both English and French:

  • Ride Among the Hurons, Simcoe County and Georgian Bay – Short tour, 30km; Full tour, 44km (EN / FR)
  • Trent River Ride, in Kawarthas Northumberland – Short tour, 31km; Full tour, 58km (EN / FR)
  • Prince Edward County Trail & Vineyard Tour – Short tour, 18km; Full tour, 56km (EN / FR)

For Additional Information Visit:


Sponsored Content Partner: Route Champlain and Société Économique de l’Ontario (SÉO)

Published On: September 1, 2022Categories: News

About the Author: Ontario By Bike