Ontario Parks are an ideal place to see the Ontario autumn colours. Below, we focus on which Ontario Parks would be ideal for you to visit in order to see the best fall colours in Ontario, and look closely at Algonquin Park, and the parks nearby.
Though autumn does signal that winter is on its way, it’s hard not to have a soft spot for autumn in Ontario because of its sheer beauty. San Diego might have the perfect weather all year round, but they don’t know what its like to see the trees bursting with bright oranges and reds that would have any painter salivating.
We recently wrote about some of the most breathtaking places to see fall colours near Toronto, but today we’re going to run through where else you can and should be looking to make the most of fall in Ontario. Specifically, we’ll focus in on how to see the fall colours at Ontario Parks.
If you’re looking for a great little autumn Ontario weekend getaway, or perhaps even to take a day off during the week and to soak it all in (don’t worry, we won’t tell your boss), then this article is for you.
The Ontario Fall Colours Report
Many Ontarians don’t know that Ontario Parks actually does a brilliant job of tracking fall colours for us. You can find their interactive map right here, and its diligently updated through the fall.
On the right side, you’ll see a colour icon that will be representative of each specific park and its fall colour report, so you’ll know which parks are in bloom. The colour of each region is determined by averaging all parks within that region.
Generally speaking, the best Ontario fall foliage is typically seen from the middle of September to the middle of October, but each year is going to be different, and that’s why we’re such a big fan of the Ontario fall colours report.
This is also a good way of discovering new parks in the province. You might come across a lesser known park that has gorgeous colouring, and decide to go and check it out. Here at Ultimate Ontario, we try to put the focus on lesser known parks where we can, and that’s why we focus on things such as Quetico Provincial Park’s Dark Sky Designation.
What You Need to Know About Fall Colours at Algonquin Park
The most famous place to see fall colours in Ontario is undoubtedly Algonquin Park. There’s absolutely no question that it’s stunning, but it’s also busy as can be.
We’re going to include some tips here directly from Ontario Parks to help you navigate seeing Algonquin Park in Autumn without getting snubbed because there’s no space for you left in the park.
This year, Algonquin is piloting a new service for day-use visitors: advance sales of daily vehicle permits. One hundred percent of daily vehicle permits will be available in advance. If you arrive without booking in advance, and they’re already sold all daily vehicle permits for the day, then you’re out of luck, so make sure you book in advance.
You’ll want to make a reservation if you’re visiting for the day.
From Ontario Parks:
“We know you don’t want to spend your time driving to Algonquin or sitting in lines, only to be turned away because we are already full.
If you’re coming for fall colours, book the Highway 60 Algonquin access point.
You can obtain a daily vehicle permit up to five days in advance of your trip, beginning at 7:00 a.m.
Make your reservation:
Online at OntarioParks.com or by phone at 1-888-ONT-PARK (1-888-668-7275) – open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. EST
Not sure how to book? Here’s a walkthough.“
Even if you have a season permit, you’ll need to make a reservation.
They’ve noted that you’re best to come on weekdays to see the Algonquin fall foliage. The cost is 21 bucks per day, per vehicle, unless you’ve already got a seasonal permit and then you’ll book in advance, but won’t be charged.
You can indeed stay overnight as well if you’d like at a selection of lakes, but, again, reservations are strongly encouraged.
What Other Ontario Parks Should I Have On My Radar for Ontario Fall Colours?
Some of this will depend on your location in Ontario, as well as you using the Ontario Fall Colours Report to find the best spot, but we’ll quickly run through some other excellent spots to see Ontario fall foliage.
The list below is in no particular order, and they’re all wonderful in their own right. We’ve focused more heavily on provincial parks that are near Algonquin Park in case you’re aiming to see the fall colours at Algonquin, but then have to make some ulterior plans. Most of these parks are located within a 2 hour drive of Algonquin.
Arrowhead Provincial Park
Large, treed and private campsites in the heart of Muskoka. You’ll also find three sand beaches on Arrowhead Lake which make for some lovely photography. Motorboat-free lakes, and over 15 kilometres of hiking trails, including a trail to a waterfall (Stubb’s Falls).
Restoule Provincial Park
The ancient cedars of Restoule are lovely to paddle alongside in the summer, but they’re even more stunning in the fall. If the weather is nice, consider hiking the Fire Tower Trail for an amazing view of Stormy Lake. This park is also known for mountain biking if that’s your thing!
Whether you choose to do some waterfront camping or backcountry camping, Restoule quietely offers some of the best Ontario fall colour viewing opportunities.
Silent Lake Provincial Park
Silent Lake has almost 20 kilometres of hiking trails, and to go along with that, they’ve also got 17 kilometres of mountain biking trails. Wherever you go, and however you choose to see this provincial park, note the remarkable lookout over Silent Lake. There are two sandy beaches, no motor boats, and some campsites available for walk-in camping enthusiasts.
There’s also four season accommodation at yurts and camp cabins available.
Earl Rowe Provincial Park
Earl Rowe is known for its abundance of quality hiking trails, including one that is a paved trail for those with accessibility needs. Earl Rowe Lake is a great spot for canoeing, fishing, swimming and everything in between. They’ve got a fair bit of RV and car camping for those interested in that.
Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park
Many will know that Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park is located on the historic Mattawa River, which was a fur trade route in the scenic Mattawa Valley. This park is known province wide for its fall colours, and hiking trails which give vantage points of the colours. It’s also a fantastic place to explore via canoe, which is part of the reason the Voyageur Adventure Interpretive Experience is headquartered here.
Mikisew Provincial Park
Mikisew has plenty of private campsites in mature maple and open red pine forests, which makes it a nice spot for fall foliage. If you’re fine with cold water, then you’ll be happy to know they’ve also got three shallow sandy beaches (which are popular with families in the warmer months). The hiking here will take you through hardwood forests and some picturesque ponds and wetlands.
Lake St. Peter Provincial Park
A large lake that’s ideal to explore via boat that, like Balsam, has ample fishing opportunities. Not to mention, a handful of beaches if you’re keen to take a dip (but, again, we know it may be a touch too late in the year). Lake St. Peter is located only 30 minutes from Algonquin’s East Gate, so it’s a fairly good backup if you can get into Algonquin because they’ve run out of permits for the day, but it is certainly beautiful in its own right.
Bonnechere Provincial Park
Bonnechere has a rich Ottawa valley history, but it’s got a lot more than that. They’ve got a lovely beach on the shores of Round Lake, the McNaughton Trail, a historic depot with log ranger cabins, and some rustic cabins to rent for those who are looking to see some fall colours and then spend the night.
Oxtongue River-Ragged Falls Provincial Park
Oxtongue River-Ragged Falls Provincial Park is located only 5 minutes from Algonquin’s West Gate so, again, that’s worth noting if you’re unable to get into Algonquin if it’s already full. You’ll find the impressive Gravel Falls here, and it’s only a short trail from the parking lot to get to a lookout of the thundering Whitewater Falls. Many people consider the falls here to be some of the most beautiful waterfalls in Ontario.
Balsam Lake Provincial Park
This is a spot to have on your radar if you wouldn’t mind doing some fishing while you take in the fall colours. Balsam is known for having some great Walleye, Muskellunge, as well as Large and Small Mouth Bass. There are some easy hiking opportunities here, as well as the chance to do a little boating on the Trent-Severn Waterway. Not to mention, a large sandy beach.
You may also want to know that they’ve got a fully-furnished four bedroom rental cottage available.
Make the Most of Fall in Ontario
We’re lucky that before winter in Ontario, we get to see this remarkable transformation take place before our very eyes. Some years, we barely stop to take it all in, so we hope this article serves as a kind reminder that it’s worth it to make the drive or to stay overnight in places that allow us to truly appreciate the majesty of fall in this province.
Christopher Mitchell is the Cofounder of Ultimate Ontario. He’s visited over 80 countries, and has lived on 4 continents, but now has his eyes set squarely on exploring this incredible province, and helping others do the same.