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Watching the Leaves Change Colour: Enjoy the Best of Ontario’s Fall Colours

Updated: Feb 27

If you’re looking to enjoy the best of Ontario’s fall colours, you’ve come to the right place.

The spectacular display of fall leaf colour is one of the most jaw-dropping experiences in the natural beauty Ontario has to offer.

And if you’re looking for one of the best places in Ontario to see the colours, look no further than Algonquin Park.

Whether you want to climb up for an awe-inspiring look-out view, or you’re hoping for a cozy and relaxing fall hike, we’ve got you covered with expert tips and spots only locals know about to watch the leaves change colour.

Here’s how to make the most of the fall colours in Algonquin.

Experience an Artistic Wonder Money Can’t Buy: Fall Colours in Algonquin

Albert Camus famously said, “Autumn is a second spring, when every leaf is a flower.

Nowhere is that truer than in Algonquin Park where the sprawling hardwood forest bursts into brilliant reds, yellows and oranges every year and brings visitors from around the world to take in the inspiring views.

The autumn leaves of Algonquin are deeply ingrained in our collective memory – Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven captured the fiery views in dozens of paintings and many of them can be seen in the Art Gallery of Ontario collections if you’re looking for some fall inspiration before you come to see the leaves for yourself.

Today, the changing colours probably invoke feelings and memories for you – like reconnecting with friends, sipping hot cider in front of a campfire, or pumpkin spice everything! But before you grab your chunky sweater, a pumpkin spiced latte and hit the road, you might be wondering a few things like why do the leaves change colour? Or, what’s the best way to see the changing leaves? Don’t worry - we’ve got you covered!

Why do Leaves Change Colour in the Fall?

Most people are surprised to learn that the green leaves we see most of the year already contain a lot of the pigments that create the brilliant red, yellow and orange colours of fall in Algonquin. However, they have way more of the green pigments (chlorophyll) that they use to absorb sunlight to make sugars through photosynthesis.

In the fall, the days get shorter and cooler. Without all that sunlight the tree stops making chlorophyll to save energy for the winter. When the green chlorophyl goes away it allows the fiery yellows and oranges, called xanthophylls and carotenes (think carrots), that were there all along to shine.

But if there’s one thing the changing leaves in Algonquin are known for - it’s the brilliant red leaves of the sugar and red maples, like a million Canadian flags dotting the landscape.

These reds are made by anthocyanins (the same free radical fighting chemicals that give blueberries their colour) that the tree produces in the fall to protect it from sunlight while it works on storing all its energy for the winter ahead. By the way, if you’re wondering where all those sugars go for next year's growth - it’s in the twigs!

So now that you know what nature is up to when it’s painting its stunning fall canvas, you’re probably wondering what the best way is to take in the colourful autumn landscapes.

How to See the Fall Colours of Algonquin

Fall colours come out best when the nights get cool but the days are still bright.

Algonquin Park happens to sit quite a bit higher than the surrounding areas, which means it gets cooler faster so you can come see the fall colours earlier here! If you are waiting for the leaves to change in Toronto or Ottawa, you just might miss them in Algonquin, so the best thing to do is check the park’s Fall Colour Report and Webcam to make sure you don’t miss your chance.

Usually a trip between mid-September and mid-October is your best bet and these handy tips will help you nail down the best time to book your stay at Four Corners so you can catch the colours.

Early Fall Colour Change: Where and When to See It

Mid-September to early October is the best time to catch the flaming red leaves of the sugar and red maples. Some of the best spots to check out the brilliant red maples are Centennial Ridges and Lookout trail – both of which are on the east side of the park, right near Four Corners Algonquin. If you want to head a bit more west on highway 60, Hemlock Bluff or Track and Tower trails are good bets as well.

Mid Fall Colour Change: Where and When to See It

From early to mid-October the maples turn orange and brown, but the golden leaves of the poplars and birches take over in the “Golden Encore”. We have plenty of Poplar and Birch on site at Four Corners and the east half of Algonquin Park is the best place to see the golden encore, just a couple minutes from camp.

Late Fall Colour Change: Where and When to See It

In late October, the Tamaracks turn yellow before dropping their needles (the only colour changing conifer in Ontario). These are mostly found in wetlands, so Spruce Bog boardwalk in eastern Algonquin Park is a good spot to check these out.

Plan Your Trip

So now you know the best time to come to see the brilliant colours of autumn in Algonquin and take in all of those fall feels by the campfire. Luckily Four Corners Algonquin is just outside the east gate and perfectly situated to give you access to all the best views of nature’s magic. Make sure you book your stay with us early so you can be here for the best show – then pack your favourite sweaters, hot cocoa mugs and a camera and come experience a show you will never forget.

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