Did you know that cortisol (the stress hormone) is found to be the highest in the first hour of waking for people with increased stress in their lives? I can guarantee that watching the sunrise is such a calming and peaceful experience, those cortisol levels will go right back down.
How to Plan to Watch the Sunrise
The sun rises to the east, but it still varies through the year so I recommend checking out sun-direction.com and picking your sunrise location. You’re going to want to find somewhere with a high elevation or a large body of water (like the Ottawa River) to get the best experience. Staying in the urban area has a lot of obstructions close to the horizon (like trees and buildings) that don’t give the *best* experience.
If you’re not a morning person, it’s hard to get yourself out of bed when it’s still dark to hopefully see a magical sunrise. So, make sure you look at Accuweather‘s hourly weather forecast the night before. You’re going to want a medium cloud ceiling, 25-70% cloud coverage and high humidity to predict a wicked sunrise; however, sometimes the sunrise is still magical outside those values! If the cloud ceiling is too low or the cloud coverage is too high, the sun won’t be able to shine through at peak colour time. If the cloud coverage is too low, it will still be a good sunrise but clouds reflect the light back to the ground which gives that perfect colourful sky. High humidity also helps with making the colours shine in the morning.
Finally, plan to get to your location 30 minutes before the sunrise. The colours will pop best as the sun is still below the horizon. Trust me!
Sunrise Locations in Ottawa
Portage Bridge/Victoria Island/Richmond Landing
Victoria Island is currently closed, but Richmond Landing is right beside it and offers absolutely fantastic views along the Ottawa River of Parliament Hill and the Ottawa skyline. Portage Bridge is in the same location, but you’re a bit higher from the ground which is nice for seeing the sunrise. Getting there: find somewhere to park your car along a side street and walk about 10 minutes to the Portage Bridge. Head down the stairs on the Ottawa side to go down to Richmond Landing. Hop on your bike and take the Ottawa River Pathway to Richmond Landing.
Shirley’s Bay in the west end of Ottawa has a fantastic viewpoint for a sunrise, as it is right on the Ottawa River and does not have a lot of obstructions on the horizon. Getting there: Parking is free year-round at the P1, P2 and P3 parking lots.
Hog’s Back Falls
Hog’s Back Falls is a great place to take photos of the sunrise, because as you face the falls you’re also facing east! It’s the perfect location to put your camera on a tripod and take a long exposure photo. Getting there: park your car in the small lot or hop on your bike and take the Rideau River Pathway.
Bank Street Bridge over Rideau Canal
The Bank Street Bridge is a great place for both sunrises and sunsets, because it’s elevated over the Rideau Canal and is high enough that you can see the sun rise over the trees. It also has a fantastic bend in the canal to offer great leading lines. Getting there: park your car on a side street or at Lansdowne ($) or hop on your bike and take the Rideau Canal Pathway.
The arboretum is an absolutely fantastic place for a sunrise, especially in the spring with the Cherry Blossoms. There is a great lookout above the trees to view Dow’s Lake, or you can head down to the pathway and be right by the water. Note: the arboretum is locked overnight so you’ll have to park at the parking lot near Prince of Wales drive and walk to the lookout. Add about an extra 10 minutes to get to this location on time. Getting there: park your car at the Arboretum and walk to the upper lookout or walk along the pathway by Dow’s Lake.
Nepean Sailing Club
Sunrises at the Nepean Sailing Club are great because there’s not a lot of walking to get to the water. You can walk to the docks or there is a lovely path right by the water with some benches to sit at and enjoy the colours in the sky. Getting there: Park in the parking lot in designated areas (i.e. there are some parking spots specifically for vehicles with boat launchers, don’t park there) or you can bike from the Ottawa River Pathway.
Eagles Nest Lookout
This one is about an hour and a half drive west of Ottawa so it would be a really early morning in the summer or a bit of a later morning in the winter. Eagles Nest lookout is becoming an extremely popular lookout destination, which makes this another perfect place to watch a sunrise without people. Bring a headlamp to safely to the lookout. Getting there: park your car at the trailhead.