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Algonquin Park Fall Colour Report

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Highway 60 at km 10 in Algonquin Park on September 24, 2020

Image: Algonquin Park's maple fall colour on September 24, 2020 (click to enlarge).


Algonquin Park Webcam: Live Views of Algonquin Park

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Fall Colour Reports

The 2020 fall colour reporting season has concluded. Fall colour change reports will begin in early to mid-September 2021, 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 2020. 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.

Highway 60 at km 38 in Algonquin Park on October 2, 2020

Image: Highway 60 at km 38 in Algonquin Park on October 2, 2020 (click to enlarge).

Costello Creek in Algonquin Park on October 6, 2020

Image: Costello Creek in Algonquin Park on October 6, 2020 (click to enlarge).


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.

Red Maple in Algonquin 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 meters 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 meters above sea level), Toronto (75 meters 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 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). During 2015 and 2016, the peak Sugar Maple colour was determined to be October 8 (almost record late) and October 5, respectively. 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 For 2020, the peak maple canopy colour in the western portion of the Highway 60 Corridor was September 24.

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.


Red Maple in Autumn, Algonquin ParkWhy Does Fall Colour Happen?

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?

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

Image: Algonquin Park's fall colour seen from space. A satellite of image of Algonquin Park, showing maple fall colour, taken on October 1, 2012.


Summary of Fall 2020 in Algonquin Park

At km 42 of Highway 60 in Algonquin Park on October 12, 2019

Image: At km 43 of Highway 60 in Algonquin Park on October 12, 2019 (click to enlarge).

A summary of events during September and October 2020.

August 26, 2020 - Environment Canada issues a Frost Advisory for Algonquin Park. Temperatures dip to 3.4°C at the East Gate with minimal frost along the Highway 60 area of Algonquin Park.

September 6, 2020 - The temperature in Algonquin Park dips to just 1.8°C at the East Gate.

September 8, 2020 - A notable colour change is visible in Algonquin Park's deciduous forests. The deep green of summer is changing to a yellow-green marking a developing fall colour. Some individually stressed maple trees are showing brilliant colours, but this is not representative of the overall deciduous forest.

September 12 - 18, 2020 - Several Frost Advisories are issued for Algonquin Park and the overnight temperatures dip to below freezing (-0.1°C on September 14, first below freezing conditions since June 14, 2020). A low of -2.4°C on September 18, 2020 is the coldest temperature of the season so far. Scattered frost was observed along Highway 60 in Algonquin Park on several mornings. Cold overnight conditions will help to encourage fall colour change in the days ahead. Good maple viewing is now possible. The best maple colours are on forest edges and the canopy (tops).

September 19 - 24 , 2020 - The season's best viewing of Sugar and Red Maple fall colour at the canopy (tree top) level in Algonquin Park is underway.

September 24, 2020 - Peak maple canopy colour was recorded in the western portion of the Highway 60 Corridor. This peak colour was slightly earlier than the average for the past 40+ years of September 27.

September 25 - 28, 2020 - After a long period of calm conditions that increased the maple canopy colour to peak, increased wind speed and scattered rain has knocked fragile maple leaves from the canopy. Excellent maple fall colour is still developing in the understory. Aspen fall colour is increasing with each passing day.

September 30, 2020 - Aspens in the eastern portion of Highway 60, including around the Algonquin Park Visitor Centre, are showing improving colour. See the Algonquin Park Webcam for live views.

October 1 - 3, 2020 - Maple understory offers its best viewing of the fall season. The maple canopy continues see increasing leaf fall. Aspen colour continues to increase to a yellow-orange colour.

October 4 - 5, 2020 - Aspens are showing a brilliant yellow-orange colour in the eastern portion of the Highway 60 Corridor.

October 6 - 7, 2020 - Strong wind gusts and rain increased leaf fall of all species in Algonquin Park, especially the remaining maple understory and aspens.

October 13, 2020 - Tamarack, Algonquin Park's latest changing tree species, is showing excellent fall colour in wetland areas.

October 14 - 16, 2020 - Heavy rain and strong winds cause a decline in the remaining Tamarack and aspen fall in Algonquin Park. Aspen are now well past peak.

October 18, 2020 - With the exception of a few Tamarack and the odd Trembling Aspen, Algonquin Park's tree species are now bare and prepared for winter.

October 20, 2020 - A dusting of snow marks the end of the fall colour season in 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.