Quebec is considered one of the best leaf-peeping destinations in the world. Fall comes early in Canada, with leaves starting to change in the northernmost deciduous forests in early September and spreading down to the American border by the end of the month. By the time October rolls around, a rainbow of reds, oranges, golds, and yellows has already taken over the province, making it an ideal destination for folks who want to get an early start on seeing America's fall foliage this year.
Since the weather in Quebec can be rather temperamental, especially this time of year, it's hard to predict exactly when the leaves start to change color and when they'll begin to brown and fall. Fortunately, local botanists and nature enthusiasts track and report the fall foliage levels across the region each year, so you can see weekly updates about which areas are experiencing peak colors.
The Greater Montreal Area tends to peak the latest, with the leaf-peeping season reaching its colored apex in the city around early and mid-October. On the other hand, colors in northern and eastern regions like the Laurentians have usually peaked around mid to late September.
The province's largest and most popular city with tourists provides plenty of fall foliage opportunities without having to leave the city limits. Montreal is a scenic destination year-round, but the bright colors that take over in the autumn make it an especially appealing time. Mount Royal Park always makes the lists of top things to do in Montreal, but around the end of September when the trees turn bright red and orange, there are few better places to be in the city.
The Montreal Botanical Garden isn't one of the free options to see fall foliage, but the admission price includes much more than just autumn leaves. Visitors can also see tarantulas and other creatures in the Insectarium, enjoy a cup of tea in the Japanese Gardens, or take a romantic stroll through the rose gardens. Fall is also the time to enjoy the highly-anticipated Gardens of Light annual festival.
To get out of the city without actually leaving the city, head out to the island Bois-de-l'Île-Bizard. It's best reached by car or bicycle since it isn't well-connected to public transit, but this nature park is a perfect escape from the urban sprawl of Montreal. The marshes of the island's wetlands are a unique backdrop to the fiery colors of the fall trees, and the long boardwalks and wooded trails lend a beautiful eeriness.
Mont-Tremblant is famous for its wintertime ski slopes, but this resort town is just as worthwhile to visit in the fall when the surrounding maple trees reach their peak autumn colors. It's also relatively accessible from Montreal and just an hour and a half from the city center by car. However, its convenience also makes Mont-Tremblant a popular weekend getaway for locals, and traffic to the mountain can quickly pile up on warm autumn days. To avoid the worst of congestion, try visiting the mountain on weekdays.
The Mont-Tremblant webpage is updated weekly to show the current level of fall colors so you can plan out your trip for peak foliage. Definitely take a ride on the gondola for breathtaking views of the entire area while riding up to the summit of Mont-Tremblant, the highest peak in the entire Laurentian mountain range.
La Mauricie National Park
Travel a bit further north from Mont-Tremblant along the Laurentian Mountains and you'll find yourself in La Mauricie National Park, about two and a half hours from Montreal. When the leaves reach peak color—usually around mid-September—the golden hues of the maple and birch trees blend in with the green of the conifers for a truly dramatic display.
Canoeing is a particularly popular activity in any one of the many rivers or 150 lakes that inhabit the park, allowing visitors to experience fall foliage from an entirely new perspective. Recommended routes are useful for those who aren't familiar with the park's layout, especially if you aren't prepared for a route that involves portage, or places where carrying your boat is necessary. The Waber Falls expedition involves a full day of canoeing and hiking for those up to the challenge, but is one of the most rewarding trips you can take inside the park.
The hilly landscapes of the Charlevoix region above Quebec City are arguably one of the most scenic places in all of Canada, sitting between the Laurentian Mountains and the St. Lawrence River. The ski resort at Le Massif offers over 12 miles of hiking trails that are best enjoyed when the maple trees begin to change color around mid-September and the resort is celebrating the Le Massif en Couleurs event, or Le Massif in Colors. On weekends in September and October, you can ride the gondola to the mountain peaks for a bird's eye view of the foliage below.
For a more laid-back journey, take the scenic train ride between Baie-Saint-Paul and La Malbaie. Both towns are worth visiting on their own for their charming city centers and typical Quebecois bistros, and the train ride between them is designed for passengers to fully immerse themselves in the splendor of the fall foliage around them.
Montreal to Jonquière Scenic Train Ride
Exploring fall foliage throughout Quebec without a vehicle can be limiting, but just because you don't have a car doesn't mean you have to stick to city parks. This scenic train ride offered by Via Rail shuttles passengers directly from Montreal to the town of Jonquière in the heart of Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, a scenic area known for its extensive woodlands and gorgeous lakes.
While there's plenty of nature and miles of hiking trails to enjoy around Jonquière, the real treat is the train ride itself. The journey is set up for maximum enjoyment, winding through the colorful forests of northern Quebec in cars that are equipped with extra-large windows. The total journey is 317 miles (510 kilometers) and economy class seats start at just 65 Canadian dollars, or about $45.