Best Places to See Fall Colours in Ottawa

Fall colours on parliament hill

I wrote a similar post last year but in light of travel restrictions, I thought I’d repost a COVID-19 friendly fall colours in Ottawa post. My last post included a few day trips to our neighbour’s down south and that’s just not possible right now!

I love this time of year. The cooler nights, fall fashion, pumpkin spice everything and most of all: fall foliage. Who doesn’t love the oranges and reds and yellows!? I recommend using the fall foliage maps available online (suggestion: Google “Place+Fall Foliage Map” or for Ontarians, see here) that show you the progress of colours. The best time to see fall colours in Ottawa is near the end of September/ beginning of October. Each area I’ve listed below will have varying colour changing degrees so I recommend the map above when planning your visit.

As a photographer, the best thing you can do is just go out and shoot! But here are some locations for those of you that need some ideas. I’m taking a week off work in October to chase the fall colours!

Ottawa City – Hog’s Back Falls

I recently discovered a loop from the Rideau River Pathway to Hog’s Back Falls – see here. This is such a fun waterfall in Ottawa, links to both the Rideau River Pathway and Rideau Canal Pathway and is a short walk from Mooney’s Bay and Vincent Massey Park. Stick around for the afternoon and enjoy the thundering sound of Hog’s Back Falls.
Getting there: park your car in the small lot or at Vincent Massey Park for a bit of a walk.
Photo Tips: Stand at one of the lookouts and capture the falls with fall foliage or take a sunburst through the trees.

Ottawa City – Rideau Canal

I love biking in the crisp fall weather but walking along the paths is also a great way to stop for some photos. If you’re up for it, take out your kayak on the river and check out the colours near the Arboretum or downtown.
Getting there: park your car on a side street, at City Hall (free on evenings and weekends) or hop on your bike and cycle the paths.
Photo Tips: On a still (not windy) day, you can get some amazing reflections on the Rideau Canal. Or, stand on one of the bridges that cross the canal and get the fall colours with the winding canal (the Bank Street Bridge is an excellent location for this).

Ottawa City – Major’s Hill Park

A park full of trees with iconic Ottawa landmarks to capture in photos? DONE.
Getting there: find somewhere to park your car in the Byward Market (or, if you’re up for a walk, at City Hall for free evenings and weekends) or hop on your bike and take the Rideau Canal Pathway to the hill.
Tips: Pick up a leaf of every colour, fan them out and take a shot (see below).

Changing leaves in Ottawa at Major's Hill park

Ottawa City – Parliament Hill

Parliament Hill itself is under construction but the stairs behind the hill are open until winter! Take a walk behind the Parliment Buildings for some stunning views across the Ottawa River.
Getting there: find somewhere to park your car in the Byward Market (or, if you’re up for a walk, at City Hall for free evenings and weekends) or hop on your bike and take the Trans Canada Trail/Ottawa River Trail along the Ottawa River.
Photo Tip: Walk to the top of the stairs and take a photo of the fall foliage.

Fall autumn colours on parliament hill in Ottawa Ontario

Ottawa City – Dominion Arboretum, Ornamental Gardens and Experimental Farm

There is a huge tree in the middle of the Ornamental Gardens that I can’t wait to check out periodically this fall for optimum fall colour. The Dominion Arboretum is also an excellent place to check out the changing leaves – there are over 1,000 species of trees.
Getting there: park your car at the Arboretum off Prince of Wales Drive and walk to the Ornamental Gardens or hop on your bike and take the Experimental Farm Pathway.
Photo Tip: Check out the row of trees along Morningside Lane during golden hour.

Ottawa Valley – Calabogie/Eagles Nest Lookout

A trip to the Calabogie Peaks Resort Fall Colours Chairlift and Eagles Nest Lookout during fall is a must. The Blackbird Cafe is an adorable cafe with excellent food and beer choices!
Getting there: About a 1.5 hour drive west of Ottawa, there is a small trailhead parking lot for the Eagles Nest Lookout. If you also stop at the Calabogie Peaks Resort, there is of parking at the offices where you buy your chairlift tickets.
Photo Tip: Make sure to capture both you on the rock and the fall foliage below for an epic photo. If you want a sunset fall photo, bring your headlamp!

Fall autumn colours at Eagles Nest Hiking Lookout

Gatineau – Museum of History

This is one of the best views of Parliament Hill in the city. You’re going to want to put this location at the top of your list!
Getting there: park your car at the Museum of History or along a side street.
Photo Tip: Frame Parliament Hill with two trees by the River or with the aesthetic Museum itself!

Ottawa/Gatineau Bridges: Alexandra, Portage or Macdonald-Cartier

Another amazing view of Parliament Hill is from the bridges crossing the Ottawa River. Any one of the bridges listed above will provide amazing views across the river.
Photo Tip: Head out in the early morning to try to catch a sunrise or get some moody foggy shots.

Gatineau Park

I suggest checking out the NCC website for a detailed list of how to enjoy the fall foliage in Gatineau Park. From what I can see, the free shuttle will run from September 26 to October 25 (on weekends) from Downtown Ottawa and will stop at three (3) places in Gatineau Park. The earlier you can get to the park, the better! I guarantee it will be busy.

Mont Ste. Marie

Mont Ste. Marie is a ski hill about an hour north of downtown Ottawa. You can buy a chairlift ticket and either ride the lift back down or hike or mountain bike down the hill.
Getting there: You’ll want a car to drive to the resort.
Photo Tip: You can rent a helicopter to take you around the resort.

Mont Tremblant

I’ve actually never been to Tremblant but have plans to go this year to check out the fall colours! You can also get a chairlift ticket for some spectacular views of the hill.
Getting there: You’ll want a car to drive to the resort.
Photo Tip: I’ll let you know when I get there!

Biplane Adventure or Helicopter Ride

I did the biplane adventure last year and would love to do a helicopter ride! There are various types of flights for each, so check out the website for the one you would be most interested in.

Ottawa biplane adventure aerial of Ottawa fall colours

If you want to avoid crowds and parking, why not see the fall foliage from above?

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