Canada is the second biggest country in the world by area, spanning from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean. So while predicting exact fall foliage timing in an area as huge as Canada may be tricky, you can get a leg up on your fall vacation by visiting one of the prime viewing locations. While the western provinces of British Columbia and Alberta are home to some amazing forests, the intensity and pervasiveness of autumn color tend to be best in the eastern parts of Canada. So if the sole purpose of your visit is to see fall foliage, Ontario, Quebec, or the Maritime provinces are probably your best bet.
The Rocky Mountains: Alberta
In September and October, the days are warmish and dry in Alberta's Rocky Mountains. The summer crowds have gone home, providing a peaceful atmosphere as you drink in the reds and yellows of the sub-alpine larch and aspen trees. Try accessible spots near Banff National Park, which has mountains all around. One option is Johnston Canyon with its waterfalls, a creek, and limestone cliffs. Tunnel Mountain offers lovely views of Banff and Bow River. Or hike up from Lake Louise to Lake Agnes and warm up with a cup of tea at the historic 1905 Lake Agnus Tea House on top of the mountain.
Algonquin Park: Ontario
The size, beauty, and proximity to Toronto of this 2,955 square-mile park make Algonquin one of the most popular parks in Ontario. The oldest provincial park in Canada, it is comprised of dense forests and thousands of lakes and rivers that can only be explored by foot or canoe.
The maple trees are at their best at the end of September or early October, while aspens, tamaracks, and red oaks reach their peak in the middle or end of October. Consult the Algonquin Fall Colour Report for fall color activity and specific viewing spots.
Agawa Canyon: Ontario
The Agawa Canyon Tour Train, which runs north from Sault Ste. Marie in northern Ontario, is an excellent way to see the colors around the end of September and beginning of October. One train a day is available, taking passengers 228 miles round trip with views of gorgeous rivers, lakes, forests, and granite rocks. In the fall there's usually an hour and a half stop at Agawa Canyon Wilderness Park, which has a diversity of trails to four waterfalls and other beautiful spots.
Via Rail: Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia
There is nothing more spectacular or romantic than the dramatic changes autumn brings to the forests of Eastern Canada, and there's something also romantic about experiencing the colors by train. Via Rail, Canada's national train service, offers a fall foliage vacation that features some of Canada's most dramatic viewing spots through popular cities such as Toronto, Montreal, Québec City, and Halifax.
The train has various scenic routes available all year for your family's enjoyment, including some that are geared toward fall foliage. The most popular train route in eastern Canada is the Windsor-Québec Corridor, which runs through major cities including Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Québec City. While this one is great for moving around and surely offers some autumnal views, the scenery is mostly urban. For a truly spectacular ride, try the route from Montreal up north to Jonquière or Senneterre.
Niagara Parkway: Ontario
The historic Niagara River Parkway, or "River Road,” is the route that former U.K. Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill called "the prettiest Sunday afternoon drive in the world." This parkway follows the winding curves of the Niagara River, which divides Canada and the United States, all the way to the eponymous waterfall.
The loveliest stretch in autumn, between the small community of Queenston and the historic town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, usually reaches its pinnacle of color in early October. Of course, you'll want to visit world-famous Niagara Falls while you're in the area. Finish your day by enjoying a glass of wine from one of the many wineries in the area.
Bruce Peninsula: Ontario
The Bruce Peninsula between Georgian Bay and Lake Huron is full of indigenous history and features one of the best portions of the Bruce Trail—an almost 500-mile hiking trail—comprised of splendid Ontario flora, fauna, and water vistas. Some of the trees are even more than 1,000 years old, although these are the coniferous trees that don't change color. But the trail provides plenty of deciduous specimens and in the autumn, especially from the end of September to the beginning of October, the colors are something to behold. Check the Ontario Parks Fall Colour Report for seasonal activity, great viewing spot suggestions, and park information.
Laurentian Mountains: Québec
Québec is famous for its autumn colors because of the sugar maple trees. Also prevalent are the provincial yellow birch and the American beech. Try the Laurentian Mountains in southern Quebec—north of the St. Lawrence and Ottawa rivers—for one of the most beautiful displays of fall foliage in North America. Colors begin their peak at the end of September and continue until mid- to late-October in lower elevations and more southern locations.
The ski resort of Mont Tremblant is one of the most popular places in the area for leaf-peeping since it's just 80 miles outside of Montreal. However, it also fills up with locals on the peak weekends and the curvy mountain highways can quickly turn into a traffic nightmare.
Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island (PEI) forests have an exceptional range of colors in autumn. The warm waters of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the Northumberland Strait give PEI a relatively moderate climate and help create one of the longest fall foliage periods in northeastern North America. In addition, PEI's forests are free of bears, deer, and moose, ensuring a safe, hunter-free environment.
Access the island from New Brunswick via Confederation Bridge, the longest bridge in Canada and the world's longest bridge that crosses ice-covered water.
Cabot Trail, Cape Breton Island: Nova Scotia
Hailed as one of the world's most beautiful drives, the Cabot Trail winds around the northern shore of Cape Breton Island and rewards fall color seekers in a spectacular way. Fiery reds, oranges, crimsons, and golds blanket the highlands and reach their peak the first or second week of October. The route also passes directly through the stunning landscapes of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, which is all the more beautiful at this transitionary time of year.
Enjoy the Celtic heritage of Cape Breton through the locals, food, and music, and the seasonal Celtic Colours International Festival held in mid-October each year is the perfect way to do that.
Fundy Coastal Drive: New Brunswick
The Bay of Fundy spans from Maine's northern coastal area into Canada, between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Like the Cabot Trail, the Fundy Coastal Drive is another outstanding maritime journey. See some of the highest tides in the world and enjoy the vivacious reds and deep pumpkin oranges. The colors are at their peak the first two weeks of October during Canada’s Thanksgiving weekend, which is a smaller celebration than that of the U.S. Tree variety and colors are similar to those in New England, but with a fraction of the crowds that inundate the U.S. Northeast.