As you nestle into coffee shops and reminisce about summer, don’t forget about the colourful foliage that permeates the Canadian landscape. I’ve listed 15 of the best places to enjoy the fall foliage across the country. However, if your sole purpose is to photograph or even just immerse yourself in the richest colour, Ontario, Quebec or the Maritime provinces are probably your best bet.
1. Vancouver Island, British Columbia
There are many locations across Vancouver Island to immerse yourself in and to capture postcard-worthy fall colours on your camera. One of the best places is in Tofino, a small fishing town on Vancouver Island’s western shore. The drive through the colourful landscape to this coastal town is just as magical as the destination. And, if you’re feeling up to it, why not travel by seaplane to marvel at the autumn colours.
2. Victoria, British Columbia
You don’t always need to travel to the rural countryside to see the changing leaves of Canada’s west coast. B.C.’s capital, Victoria, is also an excellent destination. Your best bet in the city is Butchart Gardens, where the famous Japanese Garden is layered with vibrant maples and golden chrysanthemums.
3. The Rocky Mountains, Alberta
Alberta’s Rocky Mountains are generally warm and dry in September and October and the summer vacationers have gone home. Finding quiet moments of reflection are ideal to savour the reds and yellows of the subalpine larch and aspen trees. Wondering how to access this colourful wonderland? Try sites such as Johnston’s Canyon and Tunnel Mountain near Banff or hike up to Lake Agnes from Lake Louise. The drive from Jasper to Banff is breathtaking, especially on Icefields Parkways. For a bird’s-eye view, treat yourself to a gondola ride at the top of Sulphur Mountain, where you’ll glide up over the treetops and have a glimpse of local wildlife.
4. The Canadian
Via Rail’s “Canadian” is one of the world’s best greatest train journeys and a unique way to enjoy the motion blur of red, oranges and yellows. The trip takes four days to travel between Toronto and Vancouver, offering comfortable sleeping cars, including deluxe cars with double beds, excellent dining, and an peaceful, elegant ambiance. The extra wide viewing windows have been designed with sightseers and photographers in mind. From the lakes of Ontario, across the prairies and through the mighty Rockies you can stop at key cities along the route.
5. Algonquin Park, Ontario
Don’t expect to be alone as you visit one of the most popular parks in Ontario. This 7,725 square kilometre park is about 2 1/2 to 3 hours from Toronto and can be explored by hiking, camping, kayaking, canoeing. There’s a reason why thousands of people flock to the park in the autumn every year. The red and sugar maples shine brightest from mid-September to mid-October, and the golden aspens, red oaks, and tamaracks follow shortly after.
Before you go, check out the Ontario Park’s Fall Colour Report for colour activity and more viewing spot suggestions. For timely information, you could also follow Ontario and Algonquin Park on Twitter to get details on local sightings.
6. Agawa Canyon Trip, Ontario
If you were intrigued by destination #4 on my list, but you don’t want to commit to such a long journey, then you might prefer the Algoma Central Railroad/Railway’s Agawa Canyon trip, which runs north from Sault Ste Marie in northern Ontario. This one-day adventure into the Ontario wilderness extends 184 kilometres north from Sault Ste. Marie through forest and lake country, and along the striking granite cliffs of the Canadian Shield. The train has large viewing windows, and “locomotive” views on flat screen TV’s in the carriage.
7. Niagara Parkway, Ontario
Winston Churchill called the historic Niagara Parkway “the prettiest Sunday afternoon drive in the world,” and follows the winding curves of the Niagara River, which divides Canada and the US. After you take in the colours of Queenston and Niagara-on-the-Lake, cap your day by savouring a glass of Niagara wine.
8. The Bruce Peninsula
Located in a World Biosphere Reserve, Bruce Peninsula National Park is home to thousand-year-old cedar trees boasting fiery tones, ancient limestone caves, and Georgian Bay’s calm waterways. The Bruce Trail, an 800 km hiking trail. features trees that are more than 1000 years old and their colours from the end of September to the beginning of October are something to behold.
9. Muskoka, Ontario
Muskoka is truly an outdoor playground throughout the entire year but it really shines during the Fall. In September and October its rugged landscape explodes with vibrant red, yellows and oranges. There are a multitude of ways to experience the region’s fall beauty, including on a boat cruise, helicopter tour, ATV tour, zip line excursion, or kayaking adventure. It’s easier to find solitude in Muskoka than it is in some of the busier parks. This means that you can spend less time in your car and more time exploring off the beaten path.
10. The Laurentian Mountains, Quebec
One of the most beautiful displays of fall foliage in Canada is in the rolling hills of the Laurentian Mountains. There are also yellow birch and the American beech. You might even want to celebrate the colours by attending the annual Symphony of Colours festival in Mont Tremblant.
While Quebec City is a great destination through all four seasons, areas closer to the city like the Charlevoix region and Montmorency Falls are amazing fall getaway spots, only a short drive from Quebec City. Quebecers who live in and around Montreal usually take day trips to the Laurentians or the Eastern Townships to view the colours.
To plan your fall colour tour in Quebec, check out Quebec Original for a report on the evolution of fall colours for all regions of Quebec.
11. Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba
One of Manitoba’s most scenic fall hikes is along the dramatic Manitoba Escarpment. Some of the most stunning fall colours can be found in Riding Mountain National Park. It covers over 3,000 square kilometres of rolling hills and boreal forest. While snapping photos of the vibrant fall colours, you can join interpreters as they track herds of elk along the Gorge Creek Trail.
12. Prince Edward Island
PEI forests have an exceptional range of colours in autumn and the warm waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Northumberland Strait give PEI a relatively moderate climate and help create one of the longest fall foliage periods in northeastern North America. PEI’s fall weather is clear and bright, with maple, poplar, birch and beech leaves providing the canvas of colour.
13. The Cabot Trail, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia
The roughly 300-kilometre-long scenic Cabot Trail winds around Cape Breton’s northern shore and rewards fall colour seekers in a spectacular way. The best time to visit is in the first or second week of October when the fiery reds, oranges and golds blanket the highlands and reach their peak.The scenery between Ingonish and Englishtown is a mix of sandy beaches, rugged headlands and lush valleys in the midst of orange, red and gold. Try visiting Cape Breton Highlands National Park or Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site.
The best time to plan a fall getaway to Cape Breton is in early October, when the colours reach their peak, the crowds are gone, and the temperature is just right.
14. Fundy Coastal Drive, New Brunswick
If you have time, combine the Cabot Trail experience with the Fundy Coastal Drive for another outstanding maritime journey. See some of the highest tides in the world and enjoy the vivacious reds and deep pumpkin oranges, which are at their best the first two weeks of October during Canada’s Thanksgiving Weekend. No matter how you approach this world-recognized 460-kilometre-long natural treasure, the experience will fill you with awe.
15. Peterborough, Ontario
Two and a half hours from Ottawa and 90 minutes from Toronto, you’ll discover the largest wilderness preserve south of Algonquin Park, Peterborough and the Kawarthas are ideal for a weekend fall escape to experience the vibrant autumn colours. Situated among well over a hundred lakes, there are plenty of cabin and B&B getaways, while your camera captures the stunning colours of the region.