It’s no secret – every year Canada blushes from head to toe. It starts in early August amid the ankle-high bonsai of the high Arctic tundra, a yellow, neon-orange and crimson wave sweeping southwards across the provinces’ northern borders: down through the Rockies – where fall foliage can be admired from the luxury of the Rocky Mountaineer’s train – up into Whistler’s meadows and over the Prairies.
But the very grand finale is an arboreal fireworks of brilliant colours that light up the forests of Ontario, Québec and the Maritime provinces. Hot on their trail from early September through October are legions of “leaf peepers”, enthusiasts who log in to autumn colour alerts to pinpoint peak times around which to plan their autumn vacations.
In Ontario, Algonquin Park is an iconic location to experience Mother Nature’s showy display, on a forest hike or a canoe journey across peaceful lakes blood-red with leafy reflections. Check out when the colours will peak, then hop the Algoma Central Railroad to travel by rail – as the Group of Seven painters did – to be inspired by the colours of the Agawa Canyon near Sault Ste. Marie.
Québec’s sugar maple trees make the province synonymous with fall colours. North of Montréal, European-styled Tremblant ski village celebrates fall with the Symphony of Colours arts and music festival from Sept. 10 to Oct. 10, set among the lakes and brilliant yellow birch and American beech forests of the Laurentian Mountains. South of Montréal, drift along on a calm, crisp autumn morning in a hot air balloon over giant pumpkin patches in the Montérégie region. In the New England-esque Eastern Townships, colours often continue until late October. Enjoy them amid the forest setting of chic Balnea Spa in Bromont or on a gourmet brunch, lunch or happy hour cruise aboard a deluxe new ship plying the forest-lined shores of Lake Memphremagog.
Fall foliage coincides with harvest time and both are celebrated on Prince Edward Island with oysters, mussels, clams, lobster, chowder and more during the Fall Flavours Festival from Sept. 2-25. The warm surrounding Gulf of St. Lawrence waters bless PEI with one of the longest fall foliage seasons in the Northeast.
In New Brunswick, take a road-trip on the Fundy Coastal Drive for vivacious reds and deep orange forests alongside some of the highest tides in the world on the Bay of Fundy. Watch for whales – it’s the season. And time your visit with a turkey dinner during Canada’s Thanksgiving Weekend on the second Monday in October.
Via Rail rolls along the rails at a leisurely pace through Eastern Canada’s fall spectacle from Toronto to Montréal en route to Halifax. From there, head out on your own by car on Nova Scotia’s Cabot Trail, one of the world's most scenic drives, as it winds and twists along Cape Breton's northern shore. Overnight on the Trail at the seaside, Scottish-themed Keltic Lodge overlooking maple, birch, oak and mountain ash blanketing the Highlands in red and gold. And while you’re there, take in the province’s Celtic Colours International Festival from Oct. 7 to 15 - is there a better way to celebrate fall than with fiery fiddling and foliage?