Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls… Actually Do ! Check out these beautiful, calming falls
Large or small, booming or gentle, there’s something about the sound, the sight and the power of waterfalls that captures our imagination. Here are five waterfalls that you can drive to, hike to, bike to, picnic beside and marvel at.
Luskville Falls — Gatineau Park, Luskville, Qué.
Combine a 4.5 km arduous, uphill, rocky and completely satisfying hike with spectacular views of the Eardley escarpment and you won’t be disappointed if, on a summer day, the otherwise gushing Luskville Falls have dwindled to a trickle. Spring is the best time to behold the grandeur of the falls when they are fed by melting snow and, as the NCC describes it, they “become a torrential cascade pouring down the mountain.” In the fall, autumn rains bring the “roaring mass of water” back to life and Gatineau Park’s already impressive landscape becomes even more spectacular with vivid yellow, red and orange leaves crying out for a photo.
Did you know: The falls are named after Joseph Lusk, an Irish immigrant who arrived in 1820
Directions: Cross the Champlain Bridge and turn left at the T intersection and continue through Aylmer. Follow signs to Hwy. 148. Turn right onto Chemin de l’Hôtel de Ville and left into parking lot. 40 km from west-end Ottawa.
Note: Outhouse bathrooms
Where to stop nearby: The village of Aylmer is both historic and charming. Explore the old city along the waterfront, check out the boats in the Aylmer marina or relax at one of the many restaurants and bars on Rue Principal.
Hogs Back Falls — Hogs Back Road and Riverside Drive, Ottawa
They may not be Niagara Falls, but the “grande dame” of Ottawa waterfalls is pretty awesome to behold, regardless of the season. Standing on the catwalk overlooking the top of the falls, and being gently sprayed by the rushing, rumbling water, is a sensual delight. You can also take in downstream views of the falls from viewing outcrops along the path or, for the more adventurous, across the river on the giant shoreline boulders. Surrounded by over 20 hectares of peaceful, shady walking and cycling paths, dotted with park benches and picnic tables, it is an ideal spot for a relaxing outing or energetic jaunt. Could this be in the middle of the city?
Did you know: The official name is Prince of Wales Falls. They are located where the Rideau River and the Rideau Canal split.
Directions: Accessible via Riverside, Prince of Wales or Colonel By Drive
Parking: Free. Entrance on Hogs Back Road, just east of Colonel By Drive
Note: Public washrooms
Where to stop nearby: An onsite gazebo restaurant sells ice cream, beer, wine, coolers, burgers and sandwiches. Check out the adjacent operational Hogs Back lock station, which marks the transition from the canal to the Rideau River.
Le Grand Brule — Mont Tremblant, Qué.
Don’t think of Mont Tremblant as just a ski hill. Hiking one of the 12 clearly marked trails on the highest peak in the Laurentians is one of most popular non-winter activities. At 5.8 km, Le Grand Brule is the longest and most difficult trail, taking you to the summit for a total climb of about 600 m. Almost immediately you encounter an impressive waterfall, at which point you can choose to keep climbing, take the gondola up, or hang in the village. But if you continue, you are rewarded with magnificent views — as well as the satisfaction of reaching the summit (and knowing that you can take the gondola down).
Did you know: A free cabriolet ride from the base parking lot takes you to the village.
Directions: Hwy. 50 east, exit at Montebello. Take Hwy. 323 and then follow signs to Tremblant. 180 km from west-end Ottawa.
Parking: Paid close to the village. Free at base.
Note: Trail maps are available in the village. Remember bug spray, sunscreen and water.
Where to stop nearby: Non-winter activities at Tremblant include zip lining, biking, luge rides, canoeing, kayaking, mini-golf, golf, tennis and a casino. There are several restaurants, bars and boutiques in the village.
Rideau Falls — 50 Sussex Drive, Ottawa
A hidden gem amid Ottawa’s many natural attractions, these superb twin waterfalls are outshone by their higher profile neighbours on Sussex Drive – the PM’s residence, Rideau Hall and the French Embassy. It’s a pity, because they are quite remarkable. Located where the Ottawa and Rideau Rivers meet, in the 1800s the falls powered an industrial area. Now they are part of the 3-hectare Rideau Falls Park, which runs along the waterfront. A catwalk allows you to walk the length of the falls and take in stunning views of the river and the Gatineau Hills. The park has three war memorials, as well as a huge bronze sculpture commemorating Lieut. Col John McCrae, the author of In Flanders Fields.
Did you know: The falls were named for their resemblance to a curtain, or rideau in French. The river was later named after the falls. The Rideau Canal was constructed to bypass these and the Hog’s Back Falls.
Directions: Beside the National Research Council, across from the old Ottawa City Hall (now the Diefenbaker Building).
Parking: Paid parking at the Diefenbaker Building. Street parking on Stanley Avenue
Note: No public washrooms
Where to stop nearby: Check out New Edinburgh Park across the street or stroll thought the charming New Edinburgh neighbourhood.
Chutes Coulonge — Mansfield, Qué.
Urban waterfalls are delightful, but there’s nothing like encountering a roaring avalanche of water in a natural setting. Spilling into a vast canyon, you have to yell to be heard over the rumble these imposing waterfalls. Log drivers had to guide timber down this treacherous route, and through photos, objects, buildings and interpretive panels, the non-profit organization that maintains the site recounts the history of the lumber industry in the Pontiac. Also an aerial park, there are two giant zip lines and an obstacle course in the trees, as well as picnic tables and activities for kids. Footbridges and lookouts along the 1.1 km path provide striking views not only of the scenery, but also of the climbers scaling the sheer canyon rock face.
Did you know: The first log drive on the Coulonge River began in the 1800s. The last one was in 1982.
Directions: Hwy. 148 west, follow signs to Fort-Coulonge. Two hours from west-end Ottawa.
Note: Dogs on leash. Indoor washrooms and outhouses. Admission is $8/adult, $6/child, $24/family.
Where to stop nearby: The longest covered bridge in Québec, built in 1898, is just outside the park entrance. Bike the 91.7 km PPJ Cycloparc, built on former train tracks, which goes from Wyman (Bristol) to Allumettes Island.
Article written by Benita Baker for the Ottawa Citizen