Top spots across Canada to take in breathtaking fall foliage

Stunning views guaranteed at these parks, trails and lookouts.

Stunning views guaranteed at these parks, trails and lookouts

(Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

Ah, fall. It's that time of year when we collectively debate the merits of pumpkin spice flavouring, the need for jackets and whether or not the squirrels actually seem smarter. One thing that's not up for debate, however, is our shared love of fall foliage.

Albert Camus called autumn "a second spring when every leaf is a flower". In Japan, the anticipation of autumn leaves can rival the excitement around cherry blossom season, but what's the appeal behind so-called leaf peeping beyond the promise of aesthetically pleasing Instagram photos? Psychologists speculate that it could be anything from our innate attraction to high contrast colours to fond recollections from childhood.

Whatever the reasoning, it's hard to argue the fact that heading out into nature to check out this fleeting, once-a-year occurrence may just be the best (free!) way to spend a weekend outdoors before the weather gets frigid.

We scoped out some of the best parks, trails and scenic lookouts in Canada for viewing fall foliage in its prime. Of course there are so many more. Browse, drool, and be inspired to get out to your favourite local leaf peeping destination at least a few times this season.

Tombstone Territorial Park, Yukon

The Yukon experiences a different sort of gold rush each year between September and October as valley shrubbery, transformed in hues of ochre and crimson, is juxtaposed against rugged mountain peaks. It's also common to spot the northern lights during this time of year.  

Goldstream Provincial Park, British Columbia

Located just 17 kilometres from Victoria, this provincial park, home to an old-growth temperate rainforest, boasts some of the most beautiful fall foliage on Vancouver Island. Visit in October and you'll also witness the annual salmon run, during which time thousands of fish return to the Goldstream River to spawn.

Alexandra Falls, Northwest Territories

Located 75 kilometres north of the Alberta border, Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park is one of the Northwest Territories' most popular tourist attractions, and the area around Alexandra Falls is among its most photogenic landscapes. The 32-metre cascade is especially breathtaking framed in fall foliage.

Lake Louise, Alberta

The aptly named Larch Valley outside of Lake Louise is a spectacular spot for viewing the area's namesake conifers, which change from green to brilliant yellow in fall. Peak viewing season runs from the middle of September through the beginning of October.

Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, Saskatchewan

Straddling the border between Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada's only interprovincial park is a place where the Rockies meet the grasslands. In the fall, low-lying plants and shrubs explode in colour framed by pine, spruce and aspen trees in this stunning part of the country. 

Whiteshell Provincial Park, Manitoba

Head an hour and a half east of Winnipeg to picturesque Whiteshell Provincial Park for some prime Manitoba leaf peeping. Pine Point Trail, a nine-kilometre loop, is a particularly beautiful place to take in the changing hues of the boreal forest.

Dorset, Ontario

Climb the Dorset Scenic Lookout Tower for a 360-degree bird's eye view of Lake of Bays and its surrounding forest. This popular road trip destination on the outskirts of Algonquin Park offers unparalleled fall foliage viewing opportunities from mid-September through mid-October.

Sutton, Quebec

The arrival of autumn is cause for celebration in Quebec's eastern townships. Mont Sutton, a popular ski destination south of Montreal, hosts a fall festival running from mid-September to mid-October, during which time you can take a chairlift ride to enjoy the multicoloured mountains from above or enjoy free guided hikes through the forest.

Kugluktuk, Nunavut

Fall comes early in Nunavut. The tundra floor is typically carpeted in fall colours by late August or early September and just south of Kugluktuk, a hamlet in the western part of the territory, you may happen across a striking scene like this. 

Irishtown Nature Park, New Brunswick

Moncton is home to one of the largest urban parks in Canada and it's an especially gorgeous place for a fall stroll. Visitors to Irishtown can enjoy Acadian forests, marshlands, a lake, and excellent bird-watching year-round.

Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia

Few landscapes compare to the Cabot Trail in autumn. This winding road carved into craggy seaside cliffs has been called one of the best scenic drives in Canada. Schedule your trip to Cape Breton Island in mid-October to enjoy breathtaking highland foliage at every turn. 

Confederation Trail, Prince Edward Island

Embark on a fall cycling adventure on Prince Edward Island's Confederation Trail and you'll be flanked by sugar maples, cherry, poplar, birch and beech trees in hues ranging from amber to scarlet and canary yellow.

Corner Brook, Newfoundland

The west coast of Newfoundland is blanketed in fiery hues from late September through early October. The Humber Valley outside Corner Brook, which is home to numerous maple trees, is a particularly stunning place to enjoy fall's splendour.

Jen O'Brien is an award-winning editor and freelance writer based in Toronto. Follow her @thejenobrien.