Disappointed that summer is over? Don’t be. Canada is lucky enough to experience a lush, vivid fall. Only a few hours out of Toronto, you can experience the full glory of an Ontario autumn, including hot apple cider, pumpkin carving, apple picking, hayrides and haunted corn mazes.
Ontario attracts leaf-peepers to goggle at the vast, lush forests as they light up with bright oranges and yellow hues. Leaf-peeping is such a popular activity in the region, Ontario Parks has a leaf color tracker, a great reference for planning.
Here are the best places to see fall colors within driving distance of Toronto.
Algonquin Provincial Park
If there was an autumn-themed snow globe with falling leaves instead of snow, Algonquin Provincial Park would be the inspiration. This is one of the most remarkable places to view the fall colors of Canada. You can get lost in deep forests or view the huge expanse of fall foliage from various viewpoints and lakes. Algonquin Provincial Park is a full-day adventure, so pack a picnic and wear comfortable hiking boots. Seeking out the autumn colors is such a popular activity here that the park website follows the change in trees across the park with live updates. Algonquin is vast, and it is worth doing a viewpoint hike to see the leaves from above. Popular hikes include Lookout Hike, Centennial Ridges and Track and Tower.
How to get to Algonquin Provincial Park: Algonquin is a scenic three-hour drive from Toronto. Public transportation is tricky. There are no buses that go directly to Algonquin Provincial Park from Toronto, but various tour companies offer Algonquin day tours.
Spencer Gorge Conservation Area
Less than an hour from Toronto, Spencer Gorge Conservation Area is packed with natural phenomena, thanks to its location on the stunning Niagara Escarpment, a large series of ridges and cliffs stretching through Ontario as well as Wisconsin, Illinois, New York and Michigan in the US. The autumn colors here are stunning, with plenty of viewpoints to choose from. Dundas Peak is the most famous, and it's a short forest hike from the parking lot and bus drop-off. After Dundas Peak, it’s a quick hike to Webster’s Falls and Tews Falls, two magnificent waterfalls surrounded by trees decorated in fall colors. Hamilton, where this part of the Niagara Escarpment is located, is the waterfall capital of Ontario, and more stunning waterfalls like Albion Falls, Tiffany Falls and the Devil’s Punchbowl are just a short car ride away.
How to get to Spencer Gorge Conservation Area: From central Toronto, it's only a 50-minute drive to Dundas Peak. If you take public transportation, the journey is a little longer. You can get a shuttle from Union Station to Main Street Hamilton, and then it’s another bus to Dundas Peak. You can then walk to the waterfalls or check schedules for local buses.
Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area
Rattlesnake Point in Milton is another section of the Niagara Escarpment, though this area overlooks the Nassagaweya Canyon instead. This forest towers with 100-year-old cedar trees, canopying you with fall foliage. This location is a popular spot to rock climb, and hiking trails have various levels of difficulty. If you get tired during your hike around the Point, you can drive 10 minutes to Chudleigh’s apple farm for a mug of hot apple cider, a crispy slice of apple crumble and a relaxing view of the fall cedars.
How to get to Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area: You can either drive an hour from Toronto or take a bus or train from Union Station to Milton GO station, and then a series of buses from there. There is no direct bus to Rattlesnake Point.
Belfountain Conservation Area
The Belfountain Conservation Area in Caledon is located on the stunning Bruce Trail, stretching from the Niagara River to the tip of Tobermory, Ontario. The Bruce Trail is Canada’s oldest marked hiking trail, and the trees here are old and regal. The area is also home to a suspension bridge, allowing for more dramatic viewpoints of the fall foliage. Belfountain also includes Forks of the Credit Provincial Park, a great spot to admire the fall colors from the water, and the lake here is open for kayaking and canoeing. If you want to wind down after a day of hiking, head to Downey's Farm Market, a 20-minute drive away, to see possibly the biggest collection of pumpkins you’ll find in Caledon.
How to get to Belfountain Conservation Area: It's a 50-minute drive from downtown Toronto to Belfountain Conservation Area. Forks of the Credit Provincial Park is a further six-minute drive, or it's accessible via a hiking path. Public transport is a little messier. You can take the VIA Rail from Union Station to Malton GO, and then a series of local buses from there.
Niagara-on-the-Lake is a picturesque 19th-century town a 20-minute drive from Niagara Falls, lined with oak trees and filled with adorable shops that all decorate for fall. It's a great place to experience local wineries, especially in the fall, and you can rent a bicycle and explore the various vineyards, such as Two Sisters Vineyards or Peller Estates Winery, from the main town.
How to get to Niagara-on-the-Lake: From downtown Toronto, it's about a two-hour drive to Niagara-on-the-Lake, but on busy fall weekends, it could take as long as three hours. Public transportation might be less stressful, and you can take the VIA Rail from Union Station to Niagara Falls, and then a bus to Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Prince Edward County
Prince Edward County is all over Instagram for its up-and-coming food and culture scene. It's considered Canada’s coolest island, teeming with galleries, amazing restaurants and plenty of fall-themed activities surrounded by some spectacular foliage. The town itself is straight out of Gilmore Girls with quaint antique shops, bookstores and cafes. You can experience nature at Sandbanks Provincial Park, and the tree-lined beaches are mysterious and misty come autumn.
How to get to Prince Edward County: It's a lovely 2.5-hour drive from downtown Toronto. If you're taking public transport, hop on a GO Train to Oshawa or VIA Rail to Belleville and then either a series of public buses or a quick taxi to Prince Edward County.
Schedule a few days to explore the beauty and serenity of Muskoka, a region of forests and lakes that's particularly delightful in fall. You can take autumn-specific cruises to enjoy the majestic tree-lined lakes, experience cranberry festivals and farms, hike and cycle through Georgian Bay Island National Park, and even take a woodland wagon ride.
How to get to Muskoka: Muskoka is three hours from Toronto by car, but it's difficult to get there on public transport. Plan on spending at least a few days in the area: there are so many fall activities that it would be difficult to squeeze them all into a day trip.
Sault Ste Marie
Sault Ste Marie is home to the Agawa Canyon Train, one of the most famous fall experiences in Canada. These landscapes have existed for 1.2 billion years and inspired countless artists, including the Group of Seven, Canada’s most prominent landscape painters in the early 20th century. Many of their paintings reflect the exact views you’ll be passing by in autumn. The fall foliage here is stunning, and the day-long train trip takes you through lakes, gorges and other natural phenomena.
How to get to Sault Ste Marie: Sault Ste Marie is about a nine-hour drive from Toronto, making it impossible for a day trip but perfect for a longer escape from the big city.
This article was originally published in October 2019 and last updated in September 2021.
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