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Algonquin Park Fall Colour Report

At km 25 of Highway 60 in Algonquin Park on October 1, 2021

Image: Fall colour along Highway 60 in Algonquin Park on October 1, 2021 (click to enlarge). See more images below or see live views via the Algonquin Park Webcam.

Algonquin Park Webcam: Live Views of Algonquin Park

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Fall Colour Reports

The 2021 fall colour reporting season has concluded. Fall colour change reports will begin in early to mid-September 2022, or as conditions warrant. See below for more details about planning your fall trip to Algonquin Park.

Below are images of Algonquin Park during fall 2021. 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.

Fall colour is subject to numerous environmental variables such as daylight length, moisture, temperature, frost, wind, heavy rain, etc., so the exact peak fall colour for each species is difficult to determine in advance. High winds, rain, or even snow can sometimes quickly result in fragile leaves being knocked off the trees increasing what is called leaf fall.


Algonquin Park Fall Colour Season Summary 2021

Below is a summary of the Algonquin Park 2021 fall colour season annotated with imagery. Please note that the timing of the best fall colour varies from year to year, see Fall Colour History in Algonquin Park (below) for more details.

At km 48 of Highway 60 in Algonquin Park on October 1, 2021

Image: At Brewer Lake in Algonquin Park on October 1, 2021 (click to enlarge).

Poplar (aspen) along Highway 60 in Algonquin Park on October 6, 2021

Image: Poplar (aspen) along Highway 60 in Algonquin Park on October 6, 2021 (click to enlarge).

View of the Sunday Creek Valley in Algonquin Park on October 18, 2021

Image: Tamarack fall colour along the Opeongo Road in Algonquin Park on October 20, 2021 (click to enlarge).

2021 Fall Colour Timeline

September 10, 2021 - The temperature recorded at the East Gate of Algonquin Park dropped to 3°C overnight. Slight fall colour change is noted in the deciduous trees in Algonquin Park. Fall colour season is beginning!

September 13, 2021 - Shortening daylight length and cooler temperatures have encouraged Sugar Maples, and especially Red Maples, to intensify their fall colour change. Maple dominated areas are showing a greenish-yellow colour at the current time, with the occasionally brilliant red of a Red Maple. Later changing poplar and Tamarack are showing no colour change. Trees subject to unusual stress from disease, insects, etc. are changing colour early, as expected.

September 19, 2021 - The overnight temperature dips to 1.3°C as recorded by Environment Canada at Algonquin Park's East Gate. Overnight temperatures have yet to fall below freezing in August or September 2021.

September 20, 2021 - A few days of high pressure weather conditions (bright sunshine, clear sky, and cooler overnight temperatures) has helped to intensify the Sugar Maple and Red Maple fall colours in maple dominated areas, such as the western portion of the Highway 60 Corridor.

September 21, 2021 - A Rainfall Warning is issued for Algonquin Park with amounts possibly exceeding 100 millimetres. During some heavy rain events when leaves are more advanced in their fall colour change, fragile leaves can be knocked off the trees by rain and wind increasing what is called leaf fall.

September 21 to 23, 2021 - Algonquin Park's East Gate weather station records over 106 millimetres of rainfall. Heavy rain and strong winds do little to knock leaves from Algonquin Park's trees. Fall colours continue to increase.

September 28 to 29, 2021 - High pressure and clear conditions, resulted in cool overnight temperatures dipping to 0.3°C as recorded by Environment Canada at Algonquin Park's East Gate on September 28, 2021. These cool overnight temperatures are increasing the maple fall colour resulting in "near peak" Sugar Maple and Red Maple fall colour at the canopy level in Algonquin Park.

October 1, 2021 - The overnight temperature dips to -1.0°C as recorded by Environment Canada at Algonquin Park's East Gate.

October 2, 2021 - Sugar Maple canopy colour reaches peak in the western portion of the Highway 60 Corridor in Algonquin Park. This peak is later than the 40+ year average of September 27.

October 6, 2021 - Maple canopy colour is now past peak. Leaves are fragile on the twig and a significant portion of maple leaves are expected to drop with the next strong wind or heavy rain event. The maple understory continues to improve in colour. The yellow-orange-gold colour of the poplars (aspens) continues to intensify.

October 8 to 10, 2021 - Fragile maple leaves begin to fall with rain and wind events. The maple understory offers good colour for Thanksgiving weekend visitors. The poplar (aspen) fall colour reaches peak in the eastern portion of the Highway 60 Corridor.

October 12, 2021 - Algonquin Park's fall colour season is in its final stages. The Sugar Maple canopy is almost bare and the understory is still showing some yellow-orange-red colour, but leaves are fragile and continue to fall with wind and rain events. The poplars (aspens) reached peak over Thanksgiving weekend and leaf fall is increasing. Tamarack is nearing peak.

October 17, 2021 - Algonquin Park’s only cone-bearing tree that drops all its needles and the latest changing tree species each year, the Tamarack, is showing peak colour intensities of yellow/gold along portions of the Highway 60 Corridor.

October 18 and 19, 2021 - Overnight temperatures dip to below freezing with frost (-2.1°C and -3.1°C respectively) as recorded by Environment Canada at Algonquin Park's East Gate.

October 22, 2021 - A dusting of snow marks the end of the fall colour season in Algonquin Park.


When Should I Visit Algonquin Park?

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.

Trees of Algonquin Provincial ParkAlgonquin 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 random location, rather each tree struggles 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 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 that 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 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

Fall Colour in Algonquin Park

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 2016, the peak Sugar Maple colour was determined to be October 6 (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.

Early to Mid-October

Large-toothed Aspen in Algonquin Park

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

Tamarack

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.


Algonquin Park Autumn Day Use Guide Algonquin Park Autumn Day Use Guide

Algonquin Park Fall Colour HistoryFall Colour History in Algonquin Park

During the past 40+ years, the earliest Sugar Maple peak recorded in Algonquin Park was September 15 (1982) and the latest October 9 (1996). The average peak of the Sugar Maple canopy in the western portion of the Highway 60 Corridor is September 27. Algonquin Park Autumn Day Use Guide

The best fall colour watching in Algonquin Park is expected from mid-September to mid-October. Fall colour is subject to numerous environmental variables such as daylight length, moisture, temperature, frost, wind, heavy rain, etc., so the exact peak of fall colour is difficult to determine in advance. High winds, rain, or even snow can sometimes quickly result in fragile leaves being knocked off the trees increasing what is called leaf fall.

Algonquin Park's Famous Fall Colours

Book Cover: The Last Forest Ranger by Tom LinklaterIn 1949, Tom Linklater was working alone at the West Gate of Algonquin Park and noted in his autobiography The Last Forest Ranger: Algonquin Park Memories...

“…Thanksgiving weekend was going to be very busy, as the colours were at their peak. I should have about three hundred permits made up ahead of time so that all I would have to do was fill in the driver’s name and car license number, and if he was stopping, note the place. Saturday was not that busy but Sunday was unbelievable. By about eleven o’clock I had used up all my permits. There was about a quarter mile of cars lined up waiting to get into the Park! I thought to myself this was ridiculous! These folks were not hunters or poachers, they just wanted to take some pictures of the colours that were at their best...”


Why Does Fall Colour Happen?Red Maple in Autumn, 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?


Where Should I Visit in Algonquin Park?

Algonquin Park Autumn Day Use Guide
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, created 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 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.

Algonquin Park's Fall Colour Seen From Space

Suggested Places for Viewing Algonquin Park's Fall Colour

Below are suggested places for viewing Algonquin Park's fall colour. These locations change according to the date and conditions observed within Algonquin Park.

Recommended Interpretive Walking Trails

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:

Side Roads with Foliage Viewing Opportunities

The following side roads connected to Highway 60 offer foliage viewing opportunities with lower speed traffic than Highway 60.

  • Roads leading to Access Points around the periphery of Algonquin Park

Related Information

 

Reserve your developed or backcountry campsite for your next visit.

Share your passion for Algonquin Park by becoming a member or donor.

Special regulations for Algonquin's special fishery.