If you’re looking forward to fall, why not take in the beautiful fall colours of Gatineau Park from a new perspective with a trip to Camp Fortune’s aerial park and mountain coaster? Only about a 15-20 minute drive from the ByWard Market, it’s a super convenient attraction to experience this fall, which my partner and I did in early September.
The drive to Camp Fortune’s lodge through Gatineau Park was stunning even in the early days of fall and will be gorgeous once the foliage is in its full fall glory. And as an outdoor activity, we felt very safe with the COVID-19 measures in place. And in case the smiles don’t give it away, we had a blast completing the course!
So what does an aerial park adventure entail? After checking in at the lodge, you’ll be asked to complete a waiver and wait with others in your time slot for a guide to walk you to the start of the course. In terms of gear, all you really need is closed-toed shoes and athletic wear. You can bring your phone or camera to snap photos, but you’ll want to have both hands free as you move through the park. There are washrooms at the lodge and at the start of the aerial course, and a water station on the course itself.
It’s important to note that there is a reach requirement to do the Explorer aerial course—for those who can’t quite reach 1.75 m, there’s a smaller course available (minimum reach of 1.35m). Camp Fortune has a handy online guide to help you decide which course is best for your group.
Unfortunately, the mountain coaster was rained out the day we had planned to try it, but we’ll be back this fall to speed down the mountain. The staff were super accommodating and offered a rain cheque for a new date. Heads up that there are also height and age restrictions to ride the mountain coaster.
The aerial park adventure begins when you’re fitted with your harness, helmet and gloves. Nothing like dressing the part to make it feel real! The staff will guide you through the equipment and do a short demonstration on how to clip in and then you’re off. There’s a practice station for those who want to nail the technique before hitting the course.
While intimidating at first, the course is designed to help you get your footing (pun intended) and build your confidence as you move from one platform to another.
The adventure really begins when you climb a ladder and are faced with your first obstacle. While intimidating at first, the course is designed to help you get your footing (pun intended) and build your confidence as you move from one platform to another.
We were a party of two, but part of a bigger group in the same time slot. Everyone was really respectful and kept their distance and I never felt rushed as I was making my way through the course. Camp Fortune staff were within shouting distance on the ground and are there to help guide you, offer encouragement, or toss you your gloves in case you drop them.
Having never used climbing gear, I found the harness system very intuitive. You are always connected and while I was off balance a few times, I never really felt like I was going to fall. Spaced throughout the obstacles were a number of ziplines which was a fun way to move through the course at high speed. Just don’t brake too early or you’ll have to work even harder to pull yourself to the platform!
The course itself took us about an hour and a half to complete, with a water break in the middle, but overall the experience was closer to two and a half hours to account for checking in, getting geared up, and a short rain delay. Although the rain let up as the day went on, the course itself was quite wet as we moved through, which added a degree of difficulty but didn’t hamper our enjoyment of the course.
Whether you’re looking to do something with friends, plan a team-building exercise with coworkers, or show off our beautiful capital region to out-of-town visitors, supporting Camp Fortune is a great way to support our local tourism industry which was so hard hit by COVID-19. Ottawa Tourism launched a campaign called #Invite2 which encourages residents to reconnect with friends and family by inviting them to Ottawa and to rediscover the city through its many attractions and experiences. Ottawa has so many interesting events and attractions that it’s been fun planning staycation activities and scoping out activities for visits from out-of-town families.
Bonus: Camp Fortune is just a short drive from old Chelsea and a great spot to enjoy a pre-adventure coffee or a post-adventure pizza and beer on the patio at Biscotti & cie. Even in the rain, we saw a number of cyclists and runners on their way to and from Gatineau Park. It was a great reminder of how fortunate we are to have an awesome outdoor space so close to home.
Note: this experience was gifted as part of Ottawa Tourism’s #Invite2 campaign.
The Camp Fortune lodge is located at 300 chemin Dunlop in Chelsea. Tickets are available online for both the aerial park and mountain coaster. The aerial park is open from 9 a.m. until 2 hours before dusk on weekends until October 31 (group bookings available during the weekday). The mountain coaster is open on weekends from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. until October 10, plus Thanksgiving Monday, October 11. There is free parking at the lodge.