Canada's true colours
Take in your province's autumnal display with a drive
After the heat and humidity of summer, there's nothing more spectacular than the entrance of fall. Bundling up in a sweater, making stews, and seeing the trees turn brilliant shades of yellow, orange and red. It's enough to inspire many to take a day or two to reconnect with a slower pace of life, to escape the city's bindings, back-to-schoolers and barbaric drivers.
So that's what my family did, we packed up a car - in this case, a Hyundai Genesis- and made tracks North in search of some serenity. Unfortunately for us, we were a couple weeks early in terms of having the colours at their absolute peak, but there's still time for you to make plans of your own.
We decided to go to 'old reliable, which in Ontario, is Algonquin Provincial Park, near Huntsville. It's the Province's largest park, is perhaps the best area to take in the fall splendour and provides plenty of fantastic scenery - especially along the 56-km stretch of Highway 60 that bisects the southwest corner.
To do anything within the park, a day permit costs only $15, and can be purchased at either the West or East gate. From there, you'll have access to all of the park's attractions, from camping areas to hiking trails. Since we were only going for a day, both the Hardwood Lookout and Peck Lake walking trails were completed easily within an hour, and offer breathtaking views and vistas.
The Genesis proved to be an excellent travel companion, faithfully carrying us and our assorted gear back and forth across the park's width twice, all in search of moose, deer, bear and other wildlife. The V8's near 400 horsepower was never brought to task, but the supple suspension and predictable handling did help my confidence tackling dozens of kilometres worth of gravel roads.
The modern visitors' centre offered a perfect location for a mid-day break. We grabbed cafeteria food, scoped the gift shop, and took a short self-guided tour through the museum.
While we didn't have the time to stay for the weekend, those looking for some haute cuisine and the accompanying luxury should check out the Arowhon Pines, an old '30s hotel built on Little Joe Lake. Bartlett Lodge on Cache Lake and Killarney Lodge on Lake of Two Rivers offer similar trés-Canadian cabin accommodations for overnighters as well.
The portion of Algonquin accessible by car is tiny compared to the 7,700-odd sq-km of Provincial Park. Even this time of year, the rest can be used for canoe trips or backpacking adventures. For those hardy enough to brave the cooler nights, there are still some campgrounds that the parks keeps open until Thanksgiving.
In terms of vegetation, the maple trees are fully turned by the end of September, while the oaks and aspens reach their apex by the middle of October. Perhaps suggesting a nice post-Thanksgiving drive might win you some friends. In other parts of Ontario, Killarney Provincial Park and the Haliburton region are excellent options as well, as are many spots around Ottawa's Capital region.
For other regions, the Parks Reports, will have the most up-to-date information on the best places to visit. Even Ontario Tourism publishes a fall colour report, which is updated every Tuesday and Friday during the season.
Canada's vast geography and abundant protected areas mean every province puts on a show come autumn.
Newfoundland's smaller trees don't provide the same breathtaking views as others, but the colour changes in the Gander, Grand Falls and Cornerbrook regions are reason enough to visit.
In Prince Edward Island, the season is longer than most, running from mid-September through Halloween, with sugar maples, sumacs, birches and beech.
The Cabot Trail around Cape Breton Island's eastern half is one of Nova Scotia's most spectacular regions, with ash, elm and aspen providing the show. The province has also put together a handy, interactive Leaf Watch.