Hit the road, trail or water in a community made for outdoor recreation: Smiths Falls

There are some communities that are just made for outdoor recreation, inviting you to get outside and explore the area from a more engaging vantage point. One of my favourite communities to explore is the town of Smiths Falls, and with every visit I discover something new to help keep me on my toes. Located only 40 minutes from west-Ottawa, there is no better place to put your foot, pedal, or paddle to the test than in this close-knit Eastern Ontario community.

 

One look at Smiths Falls and it’s easy to understand why outdoor activity is so popular. Here, visitors will find a stunningly beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site just begging to be explored, along with a network of trails that wind through greenery, waterfront paradise and quaint rural streets. Whether it’s paddling on the Rideau Canal, hiking or cycling on waterside trails or between area communities, hitting the green for a quick nine, or competing in an obstacle challenge that will leave you covered in mud, Smiths Falls has it all.

Plan your next outdoor adventure in Smiths Falls, and get moving in one of Eastern Ontario’s most active communities.

  1. Explore Canada’s Longest Aquatic Playground
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I left my kayak and canoe at home and rented a boat from Niknak’s Paddle Shack during a recent visit to Smiths Falls.

Dip your paddle in the clear waters of the Rideau waterway that runs through the centre of Smiths Falls, and experience the beauty of one of Canada’s largest recreational playgrounds, the Rideau Canal! It’s no wonder the Rideau Canal was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site; this stunning piece of aquatic architecture is a recreation hot spot for boaters from around the world.

There is no end to the options available when paddling on the Rideau Canal – plan your journey in advance and use the town of Smiths Falls as a stepping stone for your exploration of the Rideau waterway, or stay right in town and explore the area at a more sedate pace. Popular waterway trips include  paddling to Poonamalie Locks, roughly two hours round-trip, or setting off into the Swale for great bird-watching and close-up views of this exceptional natural wetland. You can also plan a longer trip to one of Smiths Falls’ neighbouring communities, or travel all the way to Kingston or Ottawa for a multi-day adventure.

In the heart of Smiths Falls, Lower Reach Park, Centennial Park, and Victoria Park all border the waterway, and are a great place to stop and spend a few hours, or to relax with a picnic lunch and watch boaters lock through. You can moor your canoe or kayak in Centennial Park, only a short walk to the downtown core where local eateries can slake your appetite, or at the docks at Victoria Park Campground & Marina, for a nominal fee.  Only steps from Lower Reach Park is Heritage House Museum, where you can combine outdoor activity with some educational fun, to round out your day!

If you don’t own a boat, don’t worry, you can rent a kayak, canoe, paddle boat or stand-up paddle board from Niknaks Paddle Shack, located near the water tower in Centennial Park. Niknaks offers rentals for day, weekend, or week-long adventures on the Rideau waterway. Or bring your own – you can put in at Centennial Park, Lower Reach Park, or any number of spots in town along the waterway.

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This is Nicola, owner of Niknaks Paddle Shack. She’ll get out outfitted with everything you need for a paddle on the canal.

If staying aboard a houseboat is more your style, rent from locally-owned companies in the Smiths Falls area, or book now for 2018 when European canal boat company Le Boat sets up their North American headquarters in Smiths Falls with a fleet of 16 state-of-the-art self-navigating boats and travel all the way to Kingston or Ottawa!

  1. Hit the Green – Henderson style

Nothing can compete with a good game of golf for outdoor recreation, and where else are you able to play on the same golf course that fostered LPGA Major Champions, Brooke and Brittany Henderson? The Smiths Falls Golf & Country Club has produced many top golfers like the Hendersons, including more than a dozen players who went on to become PGA of Canada Golf Professionals.

Located only a few kilometres from Smiths Falls, the Smiths Falls Golf & Country Club offers a professionally designed course that is a strong test for any golfer’s skills. The course winds its way through wooded areas, with challenging greens scattered amidst scenery like Otter Creek, sparkling streams and sedate ponds.

You can play a quick 9-hole game, or do the full 18-holes on this challenging course, and spend the day enjoying the sun, fresh air and natural beauty of the Smiths Falls region’s topography! Be sure to take a minute to browse the pro shop, or relax in the restaurant and lounge after your day on the green and enjoy a hearty meal and a cold refreshment (or two!). And you can combine your game with some local genealogy! Located on an original Irish homestead, the Club has played host to events for descendants of Irish emigrants, including a Gala event kicked off by the Irish Ambassador as part of the Town’s Irish Legacy Project.

Make the short drive south of Smiths Falls to Lombard Glen Golf Club, another exceptional course situated on 160 picturesque acres. Founded more than 50 years ago, Lombard Glen offers a choice between playing a quick nine, or full 18-holes, with a beverage cart that will quench your thirst while out on the fairway.

This semi-private professionally designed golf course will be of interest to both novice and experienced golfers, with challenging water hazards found on nine different holes, and scenic fairways. A 280-yard driving range, practice bunkers, chipping green and putting area will make sure you’re at the top of your game before heading out on the green!

  1. Cycling Smiths Falls

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With such spectacular natural surroundings, Smiths Falls is the ideal place for cycling. Waterside trails, quiet rural streets, and stunning natural environments make Smiths Falls a picturesque place to pedal on two wheels. While the Smiths Falls scenery may be an incentive for outdoor play, from a cycling perspective the series of trails that run through the town of Smiths Falls are only one small piece of the bigger picture.

To begin with, Smiths Falls sits at the head of the Cataraqui Trail, a year-round shared-use recreation trail that begins in Smiths Falls  and runs to Strathcona. For day trips, Smiths Falls is centrally located in the Ottawa Valley, less than a 30-kilometre ride from a number of other urban areas, making it an easy day-trip adventure destination.

The town can also be used as a launch pad for longer journeys through the surrounding countryside. There are a number of online websites that identify the many trails and cycling routes heading out of Smiths Falls, as well as their length, time for travel, and nearby amenities.

The waterside network of trails, tree-lined streets and rural environment are only a few of the reasons why Smiths Falls has been a popular cycling destination for decades. Smiths Falls is home to Canada’s longest running triathlon, held each year in June, an event that draws hundreds of competitors to the community . annually.

Smiths Falls is also home to Sport X, the largest cycling store in the Ottawa Valley, where the owners and staff are passionate about everything cycling-related. Sport X offers a full line of bikes, accessories, along with an on-site repair shop. If you’re in need of a bike to use for your explorations, Niknaks Paddle Shack rents by the day (or longer). Pick up a map from the Smiths Falls & District Chamber of Commerce to keep you on track!

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  1. Activities Afoot!

Picture the rural beauty of winding, waterfront paths, picturesque tree-lined streets and peaceful country roads…if you haven’t been out of doors during the summer or fall in Smiths Falls, you are missing out, and there’s literally no better way to explore this community than on two feet. Whether you’re looking for a sedate walking experience, or a challenging running route, Smiths Falls has everything you need to get around.

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For walking or running, Smiths Falls is part of the multi-use Cataraqui Trail as well as the Rideau Trail, a 387-kilometre network of trails between Kingston and Ottawa. There are also a number of walking paths throughout the town of Smiths Falls that can take you from the downtown core to the Rideau Canal at Centennial Park, and on to Lower Reach Park and the adjacent splash pad, ball diamonds, and dog park.

If you enjoy running with company, there are a number of running groups in the area, and several fundraising runs that take place throughout the year. Besides the Smiths Falls Triathlon (the longest running triathalon in Canada), there’s also the Spring Fling Running Thing that takes place on the Cataraqui Trail every April, and if you have little ones, there’s the companion Little Thing Running Thing that takes place during the Healthy Living Festival, the third Saturday in June.

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The Little Thing Running Thing event at the Healthy Living Festival is a great way to get kids started running.

Whether you’re walking or running, make a detour through Downtown Smiths Falls and sit back for a refreshing break at one of the local cafés or eateries found there. You can spend some time strolling the scenic downtown, or wander the waterfront area, local museums or galleries for some intellectual stimulation at the end of an active day. New for 2018: Heritage Walking Tours will be offered to visitors inclined to explore the Town’s unique architectural heritage over the course of a two-hour walk in the downtown core.

  1. Get Dirty for a Good Cause
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Happy customers following the Urban Jungle Obstacle Run. Note the wide, muddy smiles! Photo Credit: Chris Cummings

Looking for an excuse to get dirty? You’ve found it in Smiths Falls!  What better excuse can there be to get dirty than by participating in one of Smiths Falls’ local obstacle challenges and mud runs! For a small community, hosting two of these competitions is an accomplishment, and an indication of how dedicated the community is to both outdoor recreation and a worthy cause.

The Urban Jungle Obstacle Challenge is a great way to spend a hot summer day, while competing in a five-kilometre or ten-kilometre obstacle course of trains, walls, stairs, rails, and (of course) lots and lots of mud! Join the crowds of competitors for this fun annual event that takes place in August, is suitable for all fitness levels, and is a fundraiser for community projects. In 2017, the Urban Jungle raised nearly $10,000 for local community projects!

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Looks like getting muddy is fun at the Urban Jungle Obstacle Challenge! Photo Credit: Jason Code Photography.

If you just can’t get enough mud, the Rise Above the Mud Obstacle Challenge is another event where you can get your hands – or all of you – dirty in Smiths Falls! Held at the end of September each year, Rise Above the Mud offers a 10-kilometer five-kilometer course and is a fundraiser for the Smiths Falls Hospital Foundation. This event welcomes hundreds of participants each year, and is a challenging competition that is perfect for those just dipping their toes in the mud (pun intended), or experienced competitors looking for a challenge.

Whether you try the Urban Jungle Obstacle Challenge or the Rise Above the Mud Obstacle Challenge – or both! – you’ll be supporting a good cause.

  1. Four Season Recreation

In Smiths Falls you can enjoy recreation in all four seasons! The Smiths Falls Memorial Community Centre is one location where you can hit the rink, take in a Junior A hockey game, or walk or run indoors in the winter months. A new indoor walking track inside the arena is a popular way to stay active on rainy or snowy days.

Right next to the community centre sits the Gerry Lowe Memorial Rink of Dreams, an outdoor multi-purpose complex that is open year-round for ball hockey, basketball, and in the winter months ice hockey and public skating. Take part in a pick-up hockey game, or try out your best figure skating moves – the Rink of Dreams offers outdoor fun for all ages!

If snowmobiling is more your thing, you’re in the right place in Smiths Falls, where snowmobiling is a favourite wintry activity. The topography in the Smiths Falls area is perfect for snowmobiles, with snow-covered trees lining pristine trails, untouched woodlands, and waterside treasures creating a winter wonderland for snowmobilers.

The Cataraqui Trail is a trunk snowmobile route, part of the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs’ (OFSC) network of trails, and there are a number of snowmobile clubs in the area. Join a club and find out why good company makes everything more enjoyable!

 

 

 

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