If you’re hiking the Rideau Trail end-to-end (as a thru-hike or a section hike), you’ll encounter a number of wilderness areas but just like any other long trail, you’ll also hike through some towns – many founded as part of the construction of the Rideau Canal and related industries. Whether you’re thru-hiking the RT or just out for the day, these communities are great spots to resupply, meet friends, enjoy a cooked meal, visit a library or even take a shower.
While many people hiking the RT start from Ottawa, the prevailing winds and elevation may make Kingston a slightly more popular starting point. The RT’s southern terminus is right outside City Hall where you’re within walking distance to outdoor shops like Trailhead and Smith Army Surplus as well as grocery stores where you can stock up on last minute supplies.
Once you reach Sydenham, you’re 40km into the RT. Thru-hikers will be pleased with the amount of services available here. A hardware store, supermarket and a chip truck all pretty much right on the trail (there’s even an LCBO down the street). Really, Sydenham is about as close to a proper trail town as it gets on the RT. Also, if you’re thru-hiking, be sure that you have everything you need because you’re about 100km from the next little village.
Located on a blue trail loop, you’ll find a few seasonal services at Chaffeys Lock on the Rideau Canal. During the summer months (May to October or so), the historic Opinicon Lodge offers hot meals, ice cream and roofed accommodation and Brown’s Marina’s General Store has offers most things you’d expect to find in a convenience store. There’s even a small museum and a graveyard where you can learn some history about the area.
This bustling summer destination is centered around boating and cottaging but hikers can enjoy the services too! Get a meal or a clean bed to sleep inn at The Cove Inn, resupply at Kudrinko’s Supermarket, visit the public library and take a dip at the Lion’s Club Beach. Westport is small but there’s lots to do here! Get it all in because you’re 50km from the next town.
If you’re thru-hiking, getting to Perth will probably be a milestone for you and there will be so much for you to do here that it’s hard to list them all. Restaurants, gift shops, supermarkets, and more… You might even want to play a round of golf or paddle down the Tay Canal. Fun fact: the Rideau Trail Association’s board of directors meets in Perth four times a year and in 2016, the RTA hosted the Hike Ontario Summit.
Like Perth, Smiths Falls has a lot to offer hikers. The Eastern Ontario Railway Museum is worth a visit (you can even sleep in a caboose!). Hikers might also find a useful piece of outdoor clothing at Sport X or in one of the town’s many thrift stores. In the summer, showers are also available at the Victoria Park campground beside the Rideau Canal. Take note that Smiths Falls has the last grocery store before entering Ottawa’s city limits about 73km down the trail so if you’re thru-hiking, be sure to get what you need!
Originally built around some mills and later the Rideau Canal, Merrickville today has a got a bit of everything – especially if you’re shopping for gifts. St. Lawrence and Main are the main streets in Merrickville where you can get everything from a pub meal to ice cream to home made mustard. But, don’t forget to walk down the side streets where you’ll find a drug store and even a psychic parlour! Need Wifi? Get it at the Lions Campground.
Getting to Richmond requires a bit of a detour (check out our map for a suggested blue route) but thru-hikers especially might find that it’s worth it after a few days of walking. Get coffee and a snack at CC’s and resupply at the large grocery store before hiking the final distance to Ottawa Locks!
At last, the nation’s capital! Of course, hikers will find many things to do here and many places to stock up on any last minute supplies. Outdoor stores like Trailhead, MEC, Bushtukah and Great Escape Outfitters aren’t too far from the trail. After your hike, you can celebrate your amazing accomplishment at one of the many restaurants near the trail.
We hope you enjoy your time in towns as much as you do your time in the woods. What’s your favourite part of visiting any of these places?