Canada is a spectacular country, but when those splashes of crimson red, golden yellows and vibrant oranges arrive, they create autumn scenes that you really shouldn’t miss. For the best of the best, the perfect spots for fall color can be found in these destinations.
Banff National Park, Alberta
Banff isn’t just one of the best places to be in Canada in autumn, it’s one of the best in the world. From mid-September through most of October the days are still comfortable for enjoying all of those outdoor adventures, like hiking the 13-mile-long Banff Legacy Trail and watching for wildlife along the way, or perhaps even enjoying an epic sunrise. It’s easy to find solitude, especially this season, with summer’s tourists gone, and spots for drinking up all of those colors of the aspens and sub-alpine larch. Alberta is renowned for its golden larch trees that are transformed into blazing hues of yellow in the fall.
Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
The Cabot Trail on Cape Breton is often ranked among the world’s most scenic drives, and when autumn’s colorful foliage arrives, it’s simply breathtaking. It snakes around the northern shore, rewarding leaf-peepers in a big way with beautiful shades blanketing the highlands. As you drive the northern coastline, it will lead you to various parts of Highlands National Park, which offers magnificent vistas from the lookout points, as well as from the many hiking trails. In addition to its stunning landscapes, you can enjoy a laid-back atmosphere as well as a culture with unique Gaelic origins and the soulful sounds of the fiddle in many of the lively pubs.
Algonquin Park, Ontario
Algonquin Provincial Park offers outdoor adventures year round in a spectacular landscape that spans across 4,750 miles of forests, rolling hills and lakes, and is dotted by the solitary moose. Much of it can only be explored on foot, or by canoe, which means this pristine wilderness is ideal for an active escape, where you can paddle past brilliant maple trees in late September and early October, or stroll through the aspens, red oaks and tamaracks that reach their peak in the latter half of October. You can also camp in sites that you probably couldn’t book during the summer, and bugs are less bothersome too.
Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland
Gros Morne offers striking natural beauty in western Newfoundland, stretching nearly 700 square miles as part of the Long Range Mountains. Dotted with tiny seaside communities, it features forests, freshwater fjords, striking cliffs and picturesque shorelines as well as barren lowlands, bogs and moose, all of which are highlighted by gorgeous colors in autumn. To take in its best, walk the Western Brook Pond or Baker’s Brook Falls trails, or view the fall canopy via zip-line with Marble Zip Tours for an especially unique and thrilling experience.
The Laurentian Mountains, Quebec
The Laurentian Mountains of Quebec offer something for everyone, in every season. In the fall, this region boasts flora that changes brilliantly, from the golden birch trees to the sugar maples, with bursts or orange, yellow and red that typically peak from the end of September through mid-October. This region north of Montréal and north east of Ottawa is filled with rolling hills, mountains and lakes, and is a popular playground for outdoor lovers, and also offers plenty of fabulous cuisine as well as a rich and diverse cultural scene thanks to the mix of people who settled the area: Amerindians, French, Irish and Scots.
Lots of color can be enjoyed in the west too. Vancouver Island, including the capital city of British Columbia, Victoria, and especially Butchart Gardens, where its famed Japanese Garden is a showcase of vibrant maples and golden chrysanthemums. The period between late September to mid-October is one of the best times for a visit, with summer crowds dwindling, the weather mild and, all of that color. If you’re looking for outdoor adventure, hit the trails in Pacific Rim National Park, take a whale watching tour to catch the grey whales before they migrate south, or even hit the waves for a little surfing – yes, that water is chilly, so you will need a wet suit.
Prince Edward Island
The forests on Prince Edward Island are alive with an extraordinary array of colors in the fall, and they also enjoy one of the longer autumn foliage periods in all of northeast North America, thanks to the warm waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence resulting in a fairly moderate climate. Touring in the fall, you’ll view lots of bright apricot-orange sugar maples splashed with the fiery reds of cherry, sumac and red maple trees as well as the vibrant yellows of beech, birch and poplar mixed in. The color is at its best all the way from mid-September through the end of October, and is ideal to experience from the myriad of biking and hiking trails, or with a scenic drive along the unpaved Heritage Road.
New Brunswick’s variety of trees and colors are similar to that of New England’s, but here, you’ll find few crowds. Colors begin to form in the mountainous Appalachian region first, usually around mid-September, and then some of the most vivid shades will emerge on the upper portion of the Saint John River Valley soon after. If you plan to arrive around Canada’s Thanksgiving weekend in mid-October, head to the Bay of Fundy region which starts its fall transformation last, creating an impressive rainbow of colors along the coast. Similar to the Cabot Trail of Cape Breton, the Fundy Coastal Drive is ideal for a maritime/foliage adventure. You can view some of the highest tides on the planet, as well as those reds, oranges and yellows.