As summer slowly fades, a kaleidoscope of gorgeous autumn scenery appears in Canada and the Northeast as one last hurrah before winter snows set in. Dubbed "leaf-peeping season" by locals, mid-September through October is peak viewing time. Maple trees burst into flame, turning hues of red and orange, while ginkgos turn an electrifying shade of yellow. In addition, there's the chance to see majestic humpback whales on fall foliage cruises.
Canada is one of the best places to see fall colors. From hikes in national parks to inner-city picnics, there's something for every leaf peeper.
Charlevoix is a delight and is one of Quebec's best places to see fall colors. The valley was formed some 350 million years ago by a meteorite, earning it the title of UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. With rolling hills densely packed with aspen and coniferous, poplar and maple trees, the scenery is a must-see.
While Mont du Lac-des-Cygnes in Parc National des Grands Jardins is worth the hike, a helicopter tour is the best way to take in the autumn scenery. From up above, you can see the valley ablaze with seasonal trees. When you touch down, hire a car and gear up to take in the local "Flavor Trail," where you can indulge in delicious harvest produce and warm apple cider produced by microbreweries. Thanks to Charlevoix's complex biodiversity, you can indulge in some of Canada's best meat, cider and cheese.
Cape Breton Island practically glows with color in the fall. Red, orange and gold electrify the landscape and melt into the deep blue Atlantic in spectacular fashion, creating gorgeous autumn scenery. With numerous parks, the Bras d'Or Lake (a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve) and seasonal food markets, there's plenty to do!
Head to Meat Cove, where orange trees whose leaves are rustled by the sea breeze perch at the dramatic cliff drop. Or you can be one with nature when you fly fish on the Margaree River, which flows between two fiery hills. Waterfall lovers and rock climbers can make their way to the quiet terrace of Egypt Falls (just off Lake Ainslie) for a quick but daring hike and rock climb.
If you'll be taking a fall foliage cruise and your time is limited, renting a car is your best option. Take the circular Cabot Trail, which hugs the coast and passes through plenty of dazzling viewing spots. Visit in October to take part in the Celtic Colors International Festival, which celebrates Celtic music and culture. And don't forget to look up as you cruise out from the port. The stars are incredible.
Northern Ontario is legendary for inspiring some of Canada's most beloved landscape artists, who are known as the Group of Seven. Whether or not you're interested in the art history of the region, the sheer volume of the sunset-colored leaves in the gorgeous autumn scenery is well worth the trip. Colors burst from thousands of maple trees in what's considered to be one of the greatest autumn shows you can experience, making it one of the best places to see fall colors.
Follow in the artists' tracks (they painted here beginning in 1918) via railway and take the Agawa Canyon Train Tour over the landscape. The one-day train trip takes you directly to Canyon Park, where you can spend free time hiking, picnicking or wildlife-spotting. When you get back into town, stop at the Art Gallery of Algoma to see some of the works created by the Group of Seven.
With bushy sugar maples turning a brilliant sunset red and birch trees blazing a golden yellow, the Laurentian Mountains are a classic stop on every leaf peeper's list and one of the best places to see fall colors. Soak up the fall atmosphere in all its glory from the tallest peak in the whole range, Mont Tremblant. Don't worry if hiking isn't your strong suit. Just hop in the panoramic gondola and let it whisk you up to the top!
You can find popular walking trails and family-friendly hikes at P'tit Train du Nord, Doncaster Park, Val-David and Val-Morin Regional Parks. Each year during the peak fall season, Sommet Saint-Sauveur's F.U.N. Festival takes place over a few weeks. Highlights include a breathtaking gondola, carnival rides, and a minigolf course.
Frederick Law Olmsted, the famed designer of New York's Central Park (whose fall colors deserve an honorable mention), also designed Mount Royal Park. His influence is seen in the delightful complexity and diversity of the fall foliage, which results in gorgeous autumn scenery.
Take one of many walking or running trails and enjoy the vibrant bursts of color that come at every twist and bend. Follow the signposts up to the Mount Royal Summit (there are several trails) and stop off at viewpoints before making it to the top, where you'll find one of the best places to see fall colors in Montreal. Fall foliage cruises pass by the banks of St. Lawrence River, giving you one last glimpse of Montreal's beautiful colors before you cruise to your next destination.
The Saguenay Fjord National Park is massive, wild and free from crowds of tourists. With mountainous forests of evergreen balsam fir dotted by groups of bright golden birch trees, white pine, cedar trees and bright red maple, the park is a never-ending symphony of colors, resulting in gorgeous autumn scenery.
Adventure is in the air at this off-the-beaten-path destination. Go rock climbing up 1150-foot high cliffs, hike more than 62 miles of trails, cycle the extensive bike route or strap on your adventure gear and go on a multiple-day canoe or kayak trip. If you'd like to admire nature from your car, then a scenic drive around the park to the various small towns that dot the lake's edge is the way to go. Don't forget to stop at the old abandoned Val-Jalbert mining town. The forest makes for a romantic backdrop against the crumbling buildings.
Like most of Canada, Rockwood Park in Saint John transforms into hues of red, orange, yellow and green in fall, making it one of the best places to see fall colors. You can take a stroll along one of the more than 55 hiking trails (graded for various intensities) or take part in one of its other many activities. Break a sweat and warm up in the cool autumn air, choosing from biking, canoeing, kayaking, rock climbing and even golf. If learning and relaxing is more your pace, then there are camping options and geocaching spots. You can also hop on a fun pedal boat, go fishing or visit the zoo.
A popular way to see the park is from the 19-mile-long Fundy Trail Parkway. You'll pass by stunning overlooks that are positioned perfectly for leaf-peeping, daringly cross a suspension bridge and stop off at a refreshing waterfall.
While Acadia National Park is a hot spot in the summer months, September and October bring turning leaves, cooler temperatures and fewer crowds. The park is almost entirely encircled by the Atlantic, spans a massive 47,000 acres, and is home to moose, bears, and whales.
While common trails can get busy, you can easily find seclusion on lesser-known pathways such as the Beehive Trail or the challenging Ladder Trail. The harder the hike, the fewer the crowds. September has the mildest weather but leaves only begin to really turn mid-October. Keep an eye on Maine's fall forecast to time your fall foliage cruise perfectly. Acadia has mitigated light pollution, so the night sky is truly spectacular. Make sure you look up!
Back in 1625, an English settler built the first cabin in the area amidst the trees. Now, almost four centuries later, the Boston Common is a sanctuary of nature within the city and remains a hub of activity for locals. Every fall, maple, oak, beech and chestnut trees celebrate the changing of seasons in a fantastic show of color.
Thanks to the particular mix of tree species, some only change color after the usual October season so, despite the cooling weather, you can still take in gorgeous autumn scenery as late as November and early December.
Woodstock is likely one of the sweetest towns you'll ever visit. With architecture dating back to the 1800s, accommodations are quaint and charming. Get in the fall spirit with activities like vegetable harvesting, cider pressing and even horse-drawn wagon rides among the leaves. With so many trees in Woodstock being a maple of some kind, it's as if the mountainside has adorned itself in a dazzling robe of red and orange hues, making it one of the best places to see fall colors. Head to Quechee to get a bird's-eye view of the landscape from a majestic hot air balloon or visit the ski resort Suicide Six for the ride of a lifetime. In true New England style, fishing and mountain biking are also options.
Woodstock's residents also put on quite the fall foliage celebration. Join in the festivities at a belt-loosening Thanksgiving weekend at the Billings Farm, where staff demonstrate how the holiday would have been celebrated in the late nineteenth century. You can also practice your farm skills with rustic activities at the annual Harvest Festival and get rewarded for your efforts with hot spiced cider and just-fried donuts. This is fall indulgence at its finest.