Algonquin Park Fall Colour Report
The 2016 fall colour reporting season has concluded. Fall colour change reports will begin in early September 2017 (or as conditions warrant). For live views of Algonquin Park please see the Algonquin Park Webcam. For general Algonquin Park fall colour trip planning information please see the topics below.
A trip to Algonquin Park between mid-September and mid-October is best for observing Algonquin Park's fall colour, but more precision regarding an exact date depends upon what species of tree you are interested in observing.
Algonquin Park is home to 34 native species of trees. Of these species 10 are classified as conifers (cone bearing) and will retain their leaves (needles) year-round and are often referred to as "evergreen". The only exception is the Tamarack that changes to golden yellow colour before dropping its needles in preparation for winter. The other 24 species of deciduous trees change colour at different times, depending upon the species, their location in Algonquin Park, and the specific environmental conditions in that area. No tree happens to grow in a location, rather they struggle against great odds and hazards for a place in the sun and each species is subtly equipped to do better than its competition in certain conditions. Therefore the mosaic of forest types in Algonquin Park is no accident but is determined by soil type, moisture, climate, etc. resulting in the amazing blend of green, yellow, orange, red, and purple colours makes Algonquin Park's fall colour so special.
Traditionally, Algonquin Park's fall colour occurs earlier than surrounding areas because of the Park's higher elevation, up to almost 600 metres above sea level. This can mean the best colour is observed several weeks (or more!) prior to leaf colour change in places like Ottawa (70 metres above sea level), Toronto (75 metres above sea level), or or even communities just outside Algonquin Park's boundaries. Algonquin Park’s high elevation, thin soils, and cooler temperatures results in a shorter growing season for all plants including its trees.
Mid-September to Early October
If visiting Algonquin Park during mid-September to early October, you will observe the colour change of the Sugar Maples and Red Maples. This fall colour covers hills in orange and red colours and is best observed at locations with expansive views such as trails and views across water. During the past 40+ years, the earliest Sugar Maple peak recorded was September 15, 1982 and the latest October 9, 1996. During 2015, the peak Sugar Maple colour was determined to be October 8 (almost record late), as a result of warm fall temperatures and a late frost. The average peak of the Sugar Maple canopy in the western portion of the Highway 60 Corridor is September 27. See the current status of Algonquin Park's colour change above.
An Algonquin Park visit between early to mid October (including Thanksgiving) will observe the yellow-orange colours displayed by poplar and birch species, plus the orange colour of the Sugar Maple understory. This time known as the "Golden Encore" generally occurs after the Sugar Maple and Red Maple peak colour, but offers great landscape views in poplar and birch dominated areas. The eastern portion of the Highway 60 Corridor and the Park's East Side is a great location to view this colour.
Once leaves have fallen from the tops of the Sugar Maples, the understory changes colour at ground level as it was previously protected from cold temperatures by the blanket of overhead leaves. A hike along an interpretive trail dominated by maples is a great way to see understory fall colour up close.
Mid to Late October
A mid to late October visit showcases Tamarack at their peak yellow colour before dropping their needles in preparation for winter. The Tamarack is Algonquin Park's only cone bearing tree that changes colour and drops all its needles in preparation for winter. Search for Tamaracks in wetlands and bogs including the Spruce Bog Boardwalk, the Mizzy Lake Trail, or along the Opeongo Road. By late October or early November (depending upon environmental conditions) all deciduous trees are bare and prepared for winter.
Upcoming weather conditions (including wind, rain, and snow) will determine the end of the fall colour viewing season. In some years, the best colour is short lived as a result of high winds for example. In other years the best viewing will remain for weeks. Environmental conditions control the duration that various species of trees will retain their fragile fall coloured leaves.
Review 2015 Fall Colour in Algonquin Park
Algonquin Park is ablaze with vibrant colours during September and October. In a landscape so often dominated by the green of summer, how does this brief explosion of reds, oranges, and yellows happen in the early autumn? The answer involves a complex process of numerous chemicals and environmental variables. Read more at Why Does Fall Leaf Colour Change Happen?
|Autumn Day Use Guide - EN, FR, DE, ZH, JA, KO|
The "Algonquin Dome" refers to the high elevation piece of the Canadian Shield that underlies the western two-thirds of Algonquin Park. Here an ancient mountain range continues to exist increasing elevation well above that of surrounding areas (primarily outside the Park). These ancient rolling hills covered by soils deposited by a glacier thousands of years ago, creating suitable conditions for the growth of maples. The maples - primarily Sugar, Red and Striped - experience a cooler climate than those outside the Park area as a result of the higher elevation. These cooler conditions and the resulting shorter growing season make for an early fall and thus an earlier fall colour watching season than other locations in southern Ontario. Fortunately for visitors, Highway 60 runs through a large section of Algonquin Park's higher elevation. The Highway 60 Corridor provides easy access to the Park area dominated by these three species of maples for keen "leaf peepers".
Below is a satellite image taken near the peak of the Sugar Maple canopy showing the red/orange colour of the Sugar Maples and the boundary of Algonquin Park. Algonquin Park's West Side including the Highway 60 Corridor is dominated by maples, while the the Park's East Side is dominated by pines that show green needles that do not change colour. This satellite image was taken on October 1, 2012.
Below are suggested places for viewing Algonquin Park's fall colour. These locations change according to the date and conditions observed within Algonquin Park.
- West Gate (km 0.0)
- Algonquin Art Centre (km 20)
- Two Rivers Picnic Ground and Beach (km 33)
- Rock Lake Road (km 40.3)
- Algonquin Visitor Centre (km 43.0)
- Opeongo Road (km 46.3)
- Brewer Lake (Highway 60 at km 49)
- Algonquin Logging Museum (km 54.5)
- The backcountry including access from these Access Points around the periphery of Algonquin Park:
Regardless of the exact date, Algonquin Park's Interpretive Trails are a good way to view the fall colour. Trails offering lookouts with wide vistas are especially popular around the Sugar Maple peak and the later peak of poplar and birch species. These day walking trails range in length from 800 metres to 11 kilometres in length. Trails that are suggested for fall walking include:
- Booth's Rock Trail
- Brent Crater Trail & Tower
- Centennial Ridges Trail
- Hardwood Lookout Trail (closed fall weekends)
- Lookout Trail
- Peck Lake Trail
- Track and Tower Trail
- Whiskey Rapids Trail
- See all Interpretive Walking Trails
The following side roads connected to Highway 60 offer foliage viewing opportunities with lower speed traffic than Highway 60.
- Arowhon Road (at km 15.4)
- Source Lake Road (at km 20.0)
- Centennial Ridges Road (at km 37.6) - This road is best for early/mid-October viewing.
- Rock Lake Road (at km 40.3) - This road is best for early/mid-October viewing.
- Opeongo Road (at km 46.3) - This road is best for late season foliage viewing.
- Roads leading to Access Points around the periphery of Algonquin Park
Coming to Algonquin Park to enjoy the best fall colour? Here are a few tips for fall colour watchers.
1. Plan ahead
Know where you want to explore and how to get there. Use official Park information sources such as:
Not all trees change colour at the same time. Traditionally, Algonquin Park's fall colour occurs earlier than surrounding areas because of the Park's high elevation, thin soils, and cooler temperatures results in a shorter growing season for all plants including its trees. This can mean the best fall colour is observed several weeks (or more!) prior to leaf colour change in places like Ottawa, Toronto or even communities just outside Algonquin Park’s boundaries. Algonquin Park fall colour season typically starts in mid-September and concludes in mid-October.
3. Know where to visit
No tree happens to grow in a random location, rather each tree struggle against great odds and hazards for a place in the sun and each species is subtly equipped to do better than its competition in certain conditions. Certain species of trees grow in different locations in Algonquin Park. Therefore, the mosaic of fall colour in Algonquin Park is no accident but is determined by factors such as geography, soil type, moisture, climate, etc. Check the “Where to Visit” section for more information.
4. Get a Park permit
Everyone who uses a provincial park requires a valid permit. Display your permit on your vehicle’s dashboard so Park Wardens can easily see it. Park Wardens issue tickets for failing to display a permit on a parked vehicle.
5. Stay locally
Consider staying within Algonquin Park or just outside the Park boundary to avoid entering the Park during the busy late morning or mid-day period.
6. Consider a weekday visit
Fall weekends are always busier than weekdays. If possible consider a mid-week visit to Algonquin Park as all facilities are open 7-days a week during the fall colour season. During 2016, the busiest weekends in Algonquin Park are expected to be September 24/25, October 1/2, and Thanksgiving weekend (October 8/9/10).
7. Arrive early
The West Gate and East Gate open at 8:00am until Thanksgiving*, but day use permits can be purchased at self-serve fee stations at both locations earlier. Permits can also be purchased at the Visitor Centre or Logging Museum as long as you don’t use other Park facilities prior. Another option is to purchase a Seasonal permit that allows an unlimited number of day-use visits either by season or annually. Seasonal permit holders don’t have to stop to purchase a permit on each visit.
* See the Events Calendar for more operating dates and hours
8. Avoid traffic congestion
On the busiest weekends of the year (likely September 24/25, October 1/2, and Thanksgiving weekend of 2016) traffic can become slow or even stopped at some locations in Algonquin Park. Most visitors enter Algonquin Park via the West Gate that can experience traffic congestion during the late morning/early afternoon on peak weekends. Consider entering or exiting Algonquin Park’s Highway 60 Corridor via the quieter East Gate (near Whitney, Ontario).
9. Visit on a cloudy day
Many people avoid visiting Algonquin Park on cloudy or rainy days during the fall colour season. Overcast conditions cut the glare and many people agree that leaf colours appear brighter than on sunny days. An added benefit is that the Park will have fewer visitors.
10. Drive and park safely
If you stop to look at fall colour or wildlife, ensure you pull completely off the traveled portion of the road and watch for traffic. Never stop in a lane of traffic. When parking do so in designated areas only. Never block emergency vehicle or pedestrian access.
11. Get away from your vehicle
Consider getting into a canoe, hiking a longer trail, or heading off the "beaten path" as most fall visitors stay close to their vehicles or hike only the shortest trails. Or for the adventurous visitor or one seeking solitude, head into the Park’s vast backcountry.
12. Keep wildlife wild
Algonquin Park is not a zoo, all animals in Algonquin Park are wild and act accordingly. Never feed or approach wildlife regardless of its size. Feeding, harming or harassing wildlife is illegal in Algonquin Park (and all provincial parks). Use caution with your cell phone camera as getting a closer image may cause you to approach an animal too closely.
13. Take home the proper souvenirs
The removal of natural or cultural objects from Algonquin Park is illegal. All vegetation (including brightly coloured leaves) and other natural features are protected and can not be removed from a Provincial Park. Many Park facilities sell appropriate souvenirs as memories of your visit.
14. Be a responsible pet owner
All pets must be on a leash not exceeding two metres in length and under control at all times. Pets can not produce excessive noise or harass wildlife. Pet owners must also “poop and scoop” in Algonquin Park.
15. Explore beyond the Highway 60 Corridor
Algonquin Park covers 7,630 square kilometres and many backcountry access points around the periphery of Algonquin Park, especially on the Park’s West Side, offer excellent fall colour viewing with fewer people. Algonquin Park’s backcountry accessible by canoe or hiking trail is also a quiet location for those seeking solitude. Check the Algonquin Park Canoe Routes Map or Backpacking Trails Map for route ideas.
16. Don’t litter
Garbage cans plus recycling and organics (compost) facilities exist in most location in Algonquin Park. Garbage serves as a wildlife attractant and is also unsightly to other visitors. Use the provided waste management facilities or “pack out” your garbage.
17. Stay late
The busiest times in Algonquin Park are from late morning to mid-afternoon. If you are planning a day visit, your permit is valid until 10:00pm. Try observing a sunset before heading home or stop by the Visitor Centre that is open until 7:00pm. For your safety ensure you are off any trail prior to darkness. Only registered overnight campers are permitted in Algonquin Park after 10:00pm.
Below are Algonquin Park images from fall 2016. Click to enlarge the images and see the captions for the image date and location. For live video see the Algonquin Park Webcam or The Friends of Algonquin Park's Facebook page for additional images.
Image above: Along the Opeongo Road on October 20, 2016 (click to enlarge).
Image above: Near km 41 of Highway 60 in Algonquin Park on October 20, 2016 (click to enlarge).
Image above: Along the Opeongo Road on October 20, 2016 (click to enlarge).
Image above: Golden colour of poplars and birches on October 20, 2016 (click to enlarge).
Image above: Golden colours of poplar species (background) and Tamarack (foreground) on October 17, 2016 at Ring-necked Pond in Algonquin Park (click to enlarge).
Image above: Fisher Lake in Algonquin Park on October 13, 2016 (click to enlarge).
Image above: Large-toothed Aspen in Algonquin Park on October 13, 2016 (click to enlarge).
Image above: Golden colours of poplar species on October 13, 2016 at km 41 of Highway 60 in Algonquin Park (click to enlarge).
Image above: Rock Lake Road in Algonquin Park on October 13, 2016 (click to enlarge).
Image above: Fall colour in Algonquin Park on October 13, 2016 (click to enlarge).
Image above: Increasing fall colour of Tamarack in Algonquin Park on October 13, 2016 (click to enlarge).
Image above: Fall colour at Lake of Two Rivers in Algonquin Park on October 6, 2016 (click to enlarge).
Image above: Fall colour near Tea Lake Campground (km 12 of Highway 60) in Algonquin Park on October 6, 2016 (click to enlarge).
Image above: Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park on October 6, 2016 (click to enlarge).
Image above: Along Highway 60 near km 16 in Algonquin Park on October 6, 2016 (click to enlarge).
Image above: Fall colour near Smoke Lake in Algonquin Park on October 6, 2016 (click to enlarge).
Image above: Along Highway 60 near km 17 in Algonquin Park on October 6, 2016 (click to enlarge).
Image above: View of Brewer Lake in Algonquin Park on October 6, 2016 (click to enlarge).
Image above: Fall colour in Algonquin Park on October 6, 2016 (click to enlarge).
Image above: Fall colour at Tea Lake Dam Picnic Ground in Algonquin Park on October 2, 2016 (click to enlarge).
Image above: Near Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park on October 2, 2016 (click to enlarge).
Image above: Near Smoke Lake in Algonquin Park on October 2, 2016 (click to enlarge).
Image above: At km 8 in Algonquin Park on October 2, 2016 (click to enlarge).
Image above: Near km 9 of Highway 60 in Algonquin Park on October 2, 2016 (click to enlarge).
Image above: At km 13 of Highway 60 in Algonquin Park on October 2, 2016 (click to enlarge).
Image above: Fall colour in Algonquin Park on October 2, 2016 (click to enlarge).
Image above: Fall colour near Track and Tower Trail in Algonquin Park on September 28, 2016 (click to enlarge).
- Algonquin Park Webcam
- Images of Fall in Algonquin Park (Facebook)
- Daily Panorama Image from the Algonquin Park Webcam
- Submit your images of fall in Algonquin
Plan Your Visit
- Directions to Algonquin Park
- Fees and Permits
- Highway 60 Corridor
- Fall in Algonquin Park
- Plan Your Visit
- Events Calendar