While we may be sad to see the summer go, one of autumn’s most endearing assets is its foliage fanfare. From late September through to the end of October, a Canada bursts forth with a beautiful bounty of color. If you’re looking for an Instagrammable road trip, here are five of the best destinations in Canada for fall foliage.
Bucolic Banff is legendary for its jaw-dropping landscape, abundant wildlife and stellar hiking opportunities. Come October, the town gets to show off a lesser-known asset: its stunning golden larches. Larches are deciduous conifers with needles that transform from green to yellow before they drop in winter. Many of the majestic mountains in the area surrounding Banff and Lake Louise are covered with these unique trees and thus appear to be nestled snugly under a blanket of gold every fall. For an unforgettable way to experience the foliage, consider taking a train ride through the Rockies with the Rocky Mountaineer. Stay in the heart of the mountains at Fairmont Banff Springs, Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise or at the unique Glacier View Lodge in nearby Jasper. If you visit in October you can also experience the Jasper Dark Sky Festival.
Killarney Park, Ontario
Killarney is famed for its stunning natural beauty, abundant wildlife and incredible opportunities for outdoor adventure. Thanks to a massive amount of sugar, red and striped maple trees, the park is equally as well known for its profusion of fall colors. Visitors during prime leaf peeping season will find a panorama awash in pinks, crimson, ocher and amber. At Killarney it’s all about ambiance with the mournful sound of loons and occasional moose and bear sightings adding magic to the show. Late September to early October tends to be the ideal time for leaf change—you can confirm the time is right by checking out Ontario Park’s fall color report. For some of the finest hiking, head to Killarney’s La Cloche Silhouette Trail (though the full trail can take 10 days to complete you can just do a portion). An official Dark Sky Preserve, it’s also the only park with its own observatory.
Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia
Cape Breton’s Cabot Trail (which does a complete loop around the coast of the island) offers one of the most jaw-dropping drives in Canada any time of year but in autumn it really shines—literally. Bright hues of red, yellow and orange electrify the landscape and set off the magnificent azure shades of the surrounding Atlantic Ocean perfectly. Your Instagram feed will thank you. In October, the must-do event in Cape Breton is the Celtic Colours International Festival, a celebration of Celtic music and culture. Enjoy a “Perfect Picnic” at the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. The feast for your eyes doesn’t end when the sun goes down—Cape Breton has some amazing stargazing opportunities too. Take in the night sky as you get ready for sleep in a geodesic dome at Pleasant Bay and Dingwall.
Sault Ste. Marie Region, Ontario
Parkland, a relatively remote locale and a whole heck of a lot of maple trees is a wonderful recipe for fall color. See some of Canada’s most exquisite (and artistically inspiring) autumnal transformations in the city of Sault Ste. Marie and the surrounding region. It was the foliage in this area of northeastern Ontario that inspired some of the most striking work from the country’s legendary Group of Seven artists. The best way to explore the luminous landscape is via the Agawa Canyon Tour Train, which takes guests on a breathtaking ride through the picturesque Agawa Canyon. Guests on the train also get the chance to hike, look for wildlife and picnic in the fiery forest. Other nearby areas that offer superb leaf-change sightings are the Edmund Fitzgerald Lookout at Pancake Bay Provincial Park and the Coastal Trail in Lake Superior Provincial Park (an official Dark Sky Preserve). See some original Group of Seven works at the Algoma Art Gallery and visit the impressive Sault Ste. Marie Canal, once the longest lock in the world.
Undulating hills of lemon, coral, copper and vermillion greet visitors fortunate enough to visit one of Quebec’s most gorgeous regions in the fall. Charlevoix owes its beauty and one-of-a-kind terroir in part to a meteorite that hit the area 350 million years ago and created a massive crater. Over time, the crater developed into a verdant, bowl-shaped valley so unique that it received recognition as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. You can tour the area by helicopter for incomparable views. Get the most out of your visit by combining your leaf peeing route with Charlevoix’s lip-smacking Flavor Trail. The fertile land makes the region ideal for farming and thus offers some of the best meat, produce, cider and cheese in the country.