Best time to go to Ottawa

Northern Lights 2024-2025

Southern Ontario has a few good spots to watch aurora borealis

Dates: October–March

The capital of Canada is located in Southern Ontario and therefore doesn't boast as good aurora borealis visibility as the northernmost regions of the country. However, it can be still seen here on some nights under the right conditions and in the right time. The season to chase northern lights in Canada usually runs between October and March. Northern lights are caused by a so-called solar storm or high geomagnetical activity, which is measured in Kp-Index on a scale from 0 to 9. The Kp has to be at least 4 for you to be able to see even a faint glow in the Ottawa area. The forecast for aurora borealis is provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and various websites specializing in geomagnetic phenomena. As you need complete darkness, to be able to see the aurora, it's best to get away from the big city and light pollution. Southern Ontario features a few places that suit perfectly for an aurora hunt.

Algonquin Provincial Park

Algonquin Provincial Park, the oldest in Canada, is located in about 2.5 hours drive (149 mi or 240 km) from Ottawa. The park, which is open year-round, is one of the best spots for stargazing in Southern Ontario. It features a few beautiful lakes that can provide stunning reflections for your aurora photos. During the day, you can try cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, dog sledding, skating, ice fishing, and winter backcountry camping throughout the park. Algonquin also offers lots of hotels and lodging options.

Torrance Barrens Dark Sky Preserve

Torrance Barrens Night Sky Reserve is located farther away from Ottawa. The distance of 250 mi or 400 km can be covered in about 4.5 hours. However, it's definitely worth the long drive since Tarrance Barrens is the premier aurora borealis watching spot in Southern Ontario and one of six designated dark sky preserves in the province. Torrance Barrens lies in Muskoka region, far away from big cities and highways. It covers 5,000 acres (2,023 ha) and features lush forests, marshlands, trails, boardwalks, and many scenic outlooks for night-time photography and stargazing.

Practical info

What is the best time to observe aurora borealis in Ottawa?

The optimal duration of the northern lights in Ottawa starts from October and ends in March. With Ottawa being located in Southern Ontario, seeing auroras in the region might be a challenge, but it is still possible if the right conditions and time coordinate. To spot even the slightest shine in Ottawa, a Kp-Index value of no less than 4 is necessary, so visitors should be aware of that when planning their trip. Show more

What is the method of determining the aurora borealis forecast in Ottawa?

Checking the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website or specialist geomagnetic phenomena sites will help predict the aurora borealis forecast in Ottawa. As the aurora is only visible in complete darkness, leaving the bright city lights and traveling to remote places outside the city is favorable. This is the best way to enhance one's chances of experiencing the aurora in its full-fledged glory and beauty. Show more

How many miles away is Torrance Barrens Night Sky Reserve from Ottawa, and why visit it?

The Torrance Barrens Night Sky Reserve, one of six dark sky preserves in Ontario, is situated in the Muskoka region. It lies approximately 250 miles (400 km) from Ottawa and takes approximately 4.5 hours to reach. Despite the long journey, the Night Sky Reserve is worth visiting as it presents a spectacular vista of the northern lights, a serene atmosphere, and well-preserved trails and viewpoints for stargazing and night-time photography. Show more

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