Many Canadians are electing to do staycations this year and luckily autumn is a wonderful time to travel close to home. Thanks to a vast territory covered in a myriad tree varieties, Canada is among the world’s top regions for leaf peeping. Better yet, there are plenty of under-the-radar places perfect for peeping that also guarantee you’ll have minimal crowds. Here are Canada’s best under-the-radar destinations for fall foliage.
Mauricie National Park, Quebec
Mauricie National Park is the ideal locale for a fall feast of colors. With more than 150 lakes, you’ll get an eye-full of hues as the yellow, orange and red leaves stand sentinel over the vibrant blues of the lakes. The park is an excellent place for a peaceful pause with ample opportunities to revel in the unmistakable cries of loons, swim at the base of waterfalls and be serenaded with the haunting hoots of barred and great horned owls come nightfall. This is a wonderful year to visit the park as the verdant landscape just turned 50 in 2020.
Cliffs of Fundy UNESCO Global Geopark, Nova Scotia
Cliffs of Fundy Geopark is Nova Scotia’s newest addition to the UNESCO family, having just officially been designated in July of 2020. You’ll find tons of resplendent foliage within the Geopark, especially in areas like Three Sisters, Five Islands Provincial Park, Cape Chignecto Provincial Park and Cape d’Or, to name but a few. At more than 300 million years old, the Geopark is also a unique place to learn about the history of the Mi’kmaw people, experience the highest tides in the world and discover the oldest dinosaur fossils in Canada.
Humber Valley, Newfoundland
Between the breathtaking views, plentiful rainbows and the abundance of trees, you’re sure to get an unforgettable showcase of foliage on Newfoundland’s west coast at Humber Valley. Set along the Humber River at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains, this region of Newfoundland is rich in autumnal colors. It’s also a popular place for canoeing, hiking, camping and even skiing. Anglers will be happy to learn that the area is reputed to have some of the best salmon fishing on the planet.
Katepwa Point and Meadow Lake Provincial Parks, Saskatchewan
Saskatchewan lays claim to an embarrassment of riches when it comes to top places to see fall foliage. Two of the under-the-radar favorites are Katepwa Point Provincial Park and Meadow Lake Provincial Park. In September and October, Katepwa Point Provincial Park is awash in fiery foliage and also has many lovely walking trails and placid waterways super for canoeing and kayaking. Meadow Lake Provincial Park is among the largest provincial parks in the country. The park features excellent fishing and gorgeous beaches, as well as the Boreal Trail, a prime hiking destination.
The Fundy Trail, New Brunswick
The Fundy Trail, which was just completed in 2020, boasts not only the highest tides in the world but also has breathtaking vistas of some of Canada’s finest fall foliage. The 19-mile long parkway is ringed by 820-foot coastal cliffs with stellar hiking, gorgeous beaches, picturesque rivers and a 275-foot suspension footbridge. The Fundy Trail also forms part of two UNESCO designated sites: the Fundy Biosphere Reserve and Stonehammer Global Geopark. The region also marks the beginning of the Fundy Footpath hiking path, considered among the top 50 hiking trails in the world.
If you’re looking for a more urban (if still underappreciated spot) for some leaf peeping then head to Alberta’s capital city, Edmonton. The stunning River Valley at the center of the city hugs the North Saskatchewan River and is the largest urban park in the country—it’s 22 times the size of New York City’s Central Park. Be sure to take a ride on the 100 Street Funicular for panoramic views of the fall foliage overlooking the Valley. There’s also lots of opportunities for hiking (there are over 90 miles of trails), picnics and canoeing.
Thousand Island Region, Ontario
The Thousand Islands region ranks as one of Canada’s most popular “cottage country” destinations and as such offers endless forests, stunning lake views and a wealth of wildlife. The region’s ebullient display of autumnal splendour is not to be missed and can be enjoyed via canoe, kayak, boat tour and even by helicopter. Landon Bay is reputed to have some of the area’s most breathtaking views and the lovely town of Gananoque is a big draw for foodies. Beer and cider lovers will discover many hand-crafted brews to sample and can work off the extra calories along one of the dozens of bike paths or with a hike through Thousand Islands National Park.
Spruce Woods Provincial Park, Winnipeg
Just a two-hour drive west of Winnipeg lies Spruce Woods Provincial Park, one of the province’s best kept secrets. Not only will you get to enjoy a plethora of fall foliage, you’ll get lots of Instagramable photos thanks to the park’s inimitable landscape. Often called Manitoba’s desert (although, it’s not technically a desert), the park is covered with massive sand dunes and has some vegetation (like cactus!) and animals found nowhere else in the province. The best way to see the sand dunes is via the Spirit Sands self-guided trail.