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While many people associate New England with some of the world’s best fall foliage, and rightly so, Canada offers many of its own fantastic destinations for viewing the array of yellows, oranges and reds. From British Columbia’s magnificent west coast all the way to the mountains and fjords of Newfoundland, you’re sure to find an ideal spot for an autumn escape here. These are the best of the best when it comes to a getaway among brilliant fall foliage in Canada.
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Alberta is home to some of Canada’s most beautiful mountain scenery, with the dramatic Rockies even more stunning in the fall. The area typically experiences relatively warm, dry weather in September and October, while the biggest crowds of the year have left and visitors have a better chance of finding solitude while taking in the yellows of the aspens and the reds sub-alpine larch trees. One of the best ways to experience it is to hike the 13-mile-long Banff Legacy Trail while watching for wildlife along the way. Other options include mountain biking, overnight horseback riding excursions and even dinner trains that roll through the colorful trees.
Algonquin Park is made up of 4,750 miles of dense forest with aspens, tamaracks, maples and red oaks bursting into color at various times between late September and early October, along with thousands of rivers and lakes that can only be explored by paddling a canoe or on foot. It’s an ideal place to lose yourself in the wilderness where the silence is broken only by the songs of the birds, the ripple of the water, and the occasional rustling of the leaves as a lone moose moves through the trees.
Cape Breton’s Cabot Trail is often ranked among the most scenic drives on the planet, and when autumn arrives, it becomes even more magnificent. The roadway meanders around the northern shore, where leaf-peepers will be awed with the gorgeous hues that blanket the highlands. Continuing on the northern coastline leads into stretches of Highlands National Park with its breathtaking vistas from multiple lookout points and hiking trails. In between your exploits, look forward to relaxing in one of the many lively pubs, where the soulful sounds of the fiddle can often be heard.
River Road, also known as the historic Niagara Parkway, follows the curves of the Niagara River which divides the U.S. and Canada. Once called “the prettiest Sunday afternoon drive in the world” by Winston Churchill, during autumn, it’s like driving through a gallery of Impressionist paintings. The loveliest stretch during this season is between the towns of Niagara-on-the-Lake and Queenston, at its peak in early October. The maple trees that edge the river create a changing panorama of gold, orange and red, while the grass is still lush and green. Along the way, you’ll find a number of scenic lookout spots to take it all in, including Heights Park in Queenston which showcases an impressive vista of the river and Lake Ontario.
In Quebec’s Laurentian Mountains you’ll discover a place with flora that changes brilliantly in the fall, from the golden birch trees to sugar maples, with bursts of red, yellow and orange, typically from the end of September through mid-October. The rolling hills, mountains and lakes make it a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, and you’ll find plenty of options for fueling up those adventures too. This area boasts a rich, diverse cultural scene.
Blankets of autumn hues can be discovered in Canada’s western regions as well, including Vancouver Island just off the west coast. The capital city of Victoria boasts plenty of fun attractions, including the serene and foliage-filled Butchart Gardens. Its famed Japanese Garden is a showcase of vibrant maples and golden chrysanthemums, peaking from late September to mid-October, yet the summer crowds have dwindled and the weather is often ideal. There are plenty of outdoor adventures to be had in the remote areas nearby as well, including multiple hikes in Pacific Rim National Park.
The variety of trees and colors in New Brunswick are often compared to that of New England’s, but here you won’t have to battle the crowds. Those who arrive in mid-October should explore the Bay of Fundy region, the last to experience fall’s transformation, creating an impressive array of colors along the coast. Fundy Coastal Drive is similar to Cabot Trail on Cape Breton, ideal for a leaf-peeping maritime adventure where you’ll not only view the various shades of yellow, orange and red but witness some of the highest tides on the planet.
The west side of Newfoundland is home to Gros Morne National Park, renowned for its outdoor adventures, dramatic forest-covered mountains, freshwater fjords and rugged shorelines, all highlighted by striking colors in autumn. It stretches nearly 700 square miles as part of the Long Range Mountains and is dotted with tiny seaside villages while thousands of moose roam the land – one of the world’s highest moose densities. The best way to experience it is to get out and hike on the Baker’s Brook Falls or Western Brook Pond trails, or if you’re looking for big thrills, view the canopy of color from a zip-line with Marble Zip Tours.
The forests of Prince Edward Island burst into an extraordinary array of colors in autumn. It also enjoys one of the longest fall foliage periods in the northeast region of the continent, due to the warm waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence creating a relatively moderate climate. Autumn brings vibrant apricot-orange sugar maples as well as splashes of reds, from the cherry, sumac and red maple trees mixed in with the brilliant yellows of beech, birch and poplar. The color can often be enjoyed from mid-September through late October, with the many trails in the area offering a great way to experience it, including the Confederation Trail.