The Rideau Trail

For years now, my partner-in-crime and I have wanted to hike the Rideau Trail.  It’s a 387-km network of hiking trails that starts in downtown Ottawa and finishes at Kingston City Hall.  Or the other way around.

Our plans were sidelined several years ago when Soldier Boy broke his foot.  A nightmare.  He broke the talus bone (yeah, we didn’t know what it was either but it’s really frikin’ important to your foot) and no medical staff found the break until an MRI was scheduled seven months later.  By that time, the bones and ligaments had deteriorated to the point where he had to have his ankle completely taken apart and then put back together again.  Twice.  So he’s been out of any sort of physical activity for the better part of three years now.

He’s finally on the mend and walking more.  He still doesn’t have great balance but he’s doing the best he can through the snowy streets of our city.

So yesterday, after a weekend filled with paperwork, I popped the question.  “Wanna go on an adventure???”

OF COURSE HE DID!  We drove downtown, walked to the Bytown Museum and we started on our way to hike the Rideau Trail.

Rideau Trail KM 0! Here we go!

The Rideau trail follows many of the NCC paths in Ottawa and so is in various states of maintenance.  The more touristy areas have been relatively cleared at some point in the recent past but the parts of the trail that go off the sidewalk or main path are snow-covered.   There are signs that say the path is closed but clearly trail has been broken by others so we followed the trail.  As we followed the trail, we discovered that the trail was not the most direct path to take if one were just walking from one destination to the other so it must mean that there are other intrepid adventurers out there walking the Rideau Trail as well.

Not quite breaking trail. But almost!

The Rideau Trail is marked by orange triangles that point the way.  These can be found on trees or on lamp standards and are placed fairly closely to each other (I compare a lot of my hiking to the Adirondacks, where the trail markers are sometimes not visible for an eerily long distance).

Orange triangular trail marker pointing the direction of travel.

Apparently, the Rideau Trail can be hiked in its entirety in between 9 days and two weeks.  But it doesn’t have to be.  We will be hiking it in manageable sections.  This being our first outing and the trail covered with freshly-covered snow, we thought we’d keep it short to save Soldier Boy’s recovering ankle from any undue stress.  There are badges for completing the whole trail as well as sections of it.  And if you are really adventurous, you can even get the coveted End-to-End winter badge by snowshoeing or skiing the Trail in January and February.

I would highly recommend taking advantage of the buildings, monuments and restaurants that you pass to add to the adventure if you have the time and money.  Because, really, what’s the point of walking this trail if not to see what the trail has to offer?  Eventually, you will be spending a great deal of time walking in the woods so it might be nice to see a bit of civilization.  It’s actually a really cool idea that this trail travels through the city but not actually THROUGH the city.

The scenery along the trail is beautiful, even in the dead of winter.  It follows the Ottawa River for the first 12km and then crosses Carling Avenue, heading south.  Here are some photos from just the first 2.5 km.  (It might seem like they are black and white but that’s just because it was a black and white day.)


But there are other things to enjoy as well.  At approximately 1.5 km, you will pass The Mill Street Brew Pub.  This lovely stone restaurant is right on the water and has a lovely view and lots of seating.  So what if you’ve only walked for about 20 minutes?  Warm up with a glass of wine or cool off with a local craft beer.

Mill Street Brew Pub.

At approximately 2.5 km , you will pass the Canadian War Museum.  It is also worth checking out.  The building itself is a story.  From its morse code windows to the bunker-like walls to the use of river water in the plumbing, it was designed to be an environmentally-respectful military history museum.

This is where we stopped our first outing on the Rideau Trail.  We bussed back to the car and drove home.  The next time we get a chance to wander, we will begin at the War Museum and head west.

We stopped at the War Museum (behind us). The orange arrow points the direction our path will take next time.

My plan for writing about the Rideau Trail in the future will be by mapped section.  There are 19 detailed topographical maps that can be downloaded from their website.  Map 19 is from the Ottawa Locks to Carling Avenue so my next post will be the remaining trail from the War Museum to Carling Avenue, which we will attempt in two or three more hikes, weather and ankle dependent.

Happy hiking!

3 thoughts on “The Rideau Trail

  1. So many historical hiking trails in our area and so much history to learn. So much more understanding of our ancestors struggle settling this area.


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