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7 March 2022

Scenic Campgrounds Near Ottawa

Charleston Lake PP. Photo c/o Ontario Parks

Ottawa residents are surrounded by many beautiful parks within a two-hour drive of the city. If you live in the city and are looking for a camping adventure nearby, or if you are planning to visit the nation’s capital and are looking for scenic spots within an easy drive of Ottawa, this guide is for you!

Below we’ve listed five beautiful park that offer a relaxing getaway in nature while still being relatively close to the city. There are many other private campgrounds that will allow you to be much closer to Ottawa, but we wanted to highlight places that offer an abundance of nature activities, such as swimming, paddling and hiking.

Shoreline of Ottawa River at Fitzroy PP. Photo by Rosemary Minns

Fitzroy Provincial Park

Stretching along the scenic Ottawa River, Fitzroy Provincial Park is an excellent pick for family retreats. It’s less than an hour outside of Ottawa and thus fits the bill for short weekend outings — or even a day trip. For those wanting to stay the night, the park offers more than 200 campsites in two campgrounds: Pine Grove and Two Rivers, each with a mix of electrical and non-electical sites. Families with young children will especially enjoy the Two Rivers Campground as it has a campers beach that is great for small kids. The park also has a larger main beach in the day-use area with lots of parking and a comfort station.

What’s there to do at Fitzroy?

Located at the junction of the meandering Carp River and the mighty Ottawa River, the park offers good spots for fishing, paddling and boating (there is a small boat launch into the Ottawa River). The park store has canoes and kayaks for rent.

If you love hiking, Fitzroy offers several trails on which you can see century-old White Pine forests and a stand of 200-year old Bur Oak. As the nation’s capital is only an hour away, the park makes a reasonable homebase for exploring Ottawa.

Murphys Point guided hike

Murphys Point Provincial Park

Offering a great mix of wildlife habitat — forest, wetland, fields and lakes — Murphys Point is an ideal park for campers who like to explore. The park is located on Big Rideau Lake, part of the historic Rideau Waterway, and is about an hour and a half away from Ottawa by car. The park is suitable for all types of campers and has pull-through sites with electrical hook-up for those with large trailers. One of the parks great features, however, is the beginner- and family-friendly backcountry camping sites. For those who may not know, backcountry camping is sites that require you to leave your car and either hike or paddle to the site (as opposed to frontcountry camping, which refers to sites that can be accessed by car). Many of the backcountry sites at Murphys Point are located just a short paddle from the main campground — so beginners can ease into the experience while still being within a close paddle of the park’s facilities.

What’s there to do at Murphys Point?

Located as it is on the Rideau Waterway, water activities are very popular at the park. Power boats are allowed on Big Rideau Lake and there are many interesting places to explore: boats can go through the Narrows locks into Upper Rideau lake and take a day trip to one of Landsby’s favourite small towns, Westport, or through Beveridges Locks for a longer trip into pretty Perth.

There are also many interesting sites within the park for canoeing or kayaking, including the Canoe Loop, which is a 6 km loop that starts at the main beach on Hogg Bay and heads around the point on Big Rideau Lake into Loon Lake and back to Hogg Bay. This route requires two short portages and makes for a wonderful introduction to those interested in more involved canoe trips.

During the summer and fall, the park offers guided hikes (hard hat included) through the Silver Queen Mine! The park also has numerous hiking trails, swimming, bike trails and is a hot spot for bird watching.

Charleston Lake. Photo by Rob Stimpson

Charleston Lake Provincial Park

Enjoy the incredible forests and rocky shores of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere on a camping trip to Charleston Lake Provincial Park. This park offers lots of different options for campers, including a cabin and yurts. Frontcountry campers have a choice of three campgrounds within the park, two in a mature wood setting and one (Meadowlands) in a younger forest. The park also has a few easy-to-access backcountry sites that are within 10 mintues to two-hours away by hike, boat or paddle.

What’s there to do at Charleston Lake?

Located just an hour and a half from Ottawa, this park is a favourite of families as it offers excellent swimming, boating, fishing and wildlife viewing. Charleston Lake has two beaches, one in the day use area and one in the Shady Ridge campground, both of which are great for swimming. Hikers of all levels will find a challenge at this park. Easy hiking is available at the Beech Woods Trail and the Quiddity Trail, while the 10-km Tallow Rock Bay Trail is more difficult as it rises along rock ridges on the shores of Charleston Lake. Another challenging but worthwhile hike is the Blue Mountain Trail, which leads to scenic vistas from the highest point in Leeds County. On a clear day, you can see the Adirondack Mountains in New York State.

Mazinaw Lake at Bon Echo PP. Photo by Whitney Arnott

Bon Echo Provincial Park

The centrepiece of Bon Echo Provincial Park is the imposing 100-metre high Mazinaw Rock, which features more than 260 Indigenous pictographs. The park runs an interpretive boat tour on Mazinaw Lake that allows visitors to see the pictographs. Alternatively, you can paddle out to see them. Camping at Bon Echo is available both front and backcountry, as well as a good number of roofed accommodations. While the park is a bit further from Ottawa (just over two-hours), it is a beautiful place well worth visiting.

What’s there to do at Bon Echo?

For those looking to head into the park’s interior, Bon Echo offers lots of family friendly canoe routes and rugged backcountry hiking. The Abes and Essens Lake Trail consists of three interconnecting looped trails so hikers can choose their own length: do the Clutes loop only for a 3.5 km hike, continue to the Essens Lake loop for a 9.6 km hike or do the entire Abes route for a moderate to difficult 17 km hike. Views along this route are spectacular, especially in the fall. The park has many other hikes as well, including the Cliff Top Trail along the top of Mazinaw Rock (this trail is water access only so you either have to paddle to get there or take the ferry service).

The scenic park also has three beaches available — the main beach is a family favourite with big stretches of sand, while the North Beach at Sawmill Bay campground offers unobstructed views of Mazinaw Rock.

Canoeing at Bonnechere PP. Photo by James Smedley

Bonnechere Provincial Park

With a huge sandy beach on the shores of Round Lake, Bonnechere Provincial Park is a much-loved family camping spot just two hours from Ottawa. The park offers frontcountry camping at three campgrounds: Tall Pines is close to the beach, with both hydro and non-hydro sites that can accommodate any type of camper; the River Loop campground sits along the banks of the Bonnechere River and many of the sites have river access for easy paddling; and the Sandy Flats campground which is located a little further away but still within a 10-minute walk of the beautiful beach. The park also has one cottage and several cabins for rent, these all come with an included canoe rental.

What’s there to do at Bonnechere?

Paddling a canoe or kayak along the Bonnechere River is a favourite activity at this park. You can paddle about 3 km along the winding river to Jack Chutes Rapids, passing many oxbows along the way. Look out for wildlife such as deer on the banks and turtles in the water. Round Lake is open to motorized boats.

The beach at Bonnechere is large and sandy with plenty of spots for sunseekers to spread out all summer long. The beach is surrounded by plenty of mature trees for shade and a place to put a hammock. A playground right by the beach makes this a fun spot to spend the day with kids. The park store is also located beachside, selling ice cream and other treats. Kids and adults will love the book tree, where books can be borrowed for cozy reading.

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