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(2012 - Fall Issue)


As seasons change we are reminded that life just keeps marching on.

We can’t stop it, but perhaps at beautiful moments we can slow it down by taking a good look around us. Right now, for example, our Canadian landscapes far and wide are lighting up in radiant colour, a phenomenon of nature that lasts for just a few fleeting weeks each year—so fleeting, many of us miss it.   

As autumn begins, why not slow the pace of life by taking a long country drive, a weekend hike, or cycle to one of many fall fairs, farmers’ markets and harvesting festivals? Do it for the fresh air, for the colour spectacle and to bring home your share of in-season apples, pumpkins, grapes and wine. Travel farther afield by hopping on a train for one of several “leaf-peeping” rail trips deep into the landscapes—and deep into our Canadian heritage at the same time. It is the central and eastern regions of this continent that combust into the sharpest flames of colour every year due to the deciduous variety and sheer abundance, so here are some of the prettiest places at the top of that list:   

Fundy Coast 

Inside the Acadian forests of sugar maple, beech, yellow birch and hemlock trees is possibly the most eye-popping fall foliage in the world. Tourism New Brunswick points out that especially during the first two weeks of October the best seaside driving routes follow the Fundy Trail, which takes in two national parks, Fundy and Kouchibouguac.

Cabot Trail 

Fiery red, orange, crimson and gold blanket the highlands of this historic north-shore drive in Nova Scotia, expected to reach the peak of colour during the first week of October. To determine prime time amongst forests of red maple, white ash and northern red oak, consult the interactive Leaf Watch Forum on the official tourism website.

Prince Edward Island

Due to the warm waters in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Northumberland Strait, the moderate climate here delivers the longest fall foliage period in all of North America. Mid-September to early October is the zenith, perfectly scheduled to feed you well at the annual Fall Flavours Festival, September 7–30. The PEI forests are bear-free, with no deer or moose ensuring a hunter-free environment.

Laurentian Mountains

Québec is a particular standout for autumn colour due to great swaths of sugar maples, yellow birch and American beech, igniting into orange, red and rust across endlessly rolling landscapes. Drive north of Montréal into the Laurentian Mountains where the colour peaks at different elevations from now until mid- to late-October. Join others for the Symphony of Colours Festival in Mont-Tremblant. The online Québec Fall Foliage Report is updated every Friday and includes the equally spectacular regions of the Eastern Townships, Gatineau Park and Charlevoix.

Southern Ontario

Georgian Bay: At the peak time for apple festivals, fall fairs and farmers’ markets, take to the great outdoors of Manitoulin Island and Tobermory, or hit any part of the 800-kilometre Bruce Trail across the Niagara Escarpment.

Algonquin Park: Less than an hour’s drive eastward from Huntsville is the gateway to this 7,725-square-kilometre protected wilderness where the maples, aspens, tamaracks and red oaks usually reach their peak in mid-October.

Niagara Parkway: Any time starting from mid-September, drive or cycle from Queenston to pretty Niagara-on-the-Lake, where you can also sample wines and stay overnight. In Ontario, consult the online Fall Foliage Colours Progression Report.

Rocky Mountains

Radiant gold and dark green are the dominant colours in the autumn sunshine, where the leaves of birch, poplars and aspens turn varying shades of luminous amber to punctuate vast forests of evergreens—sometimes sparkling with a white dusting of snow. September and October weather is usually clear and dry and the experience is quiet. Consult the online Alberta Fall Colour Report. An easy drive from Calgary leads to the Banff and Lake Louise region, where you can hike in Johnston Canyon, on Tunnel Mountain, or ride the Banff Gondola to an elevation of 2,281 metres for nature adventures of a lifetime.

Ride the Rails

Rail trips are popular too.

Just sit back on the Charlevoix train (Le Train du Massif de Charlevoix) to travel along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, a region so rich in wildlife, fjords, headlands and bays it was designated a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in 1989. Journey the 140 riverside kilometres between Québec City and La Malbaie and on this unique rail-cruise experience treat your taste buds to Charlevoix gastronomy (lemassif.com).

In Ontario, hop on a VIA program they call Fall Foliage Romance By Rail where it is very likely you will be holding hands during the weeklong spectacular from Toronto to Halifax via Montréal and Québec City.

If a week’s too long, ride the Algoma Central Railway in Sault Ste. Marie for the legendary one-day wilderness trip to the Agawa Canyon. Along the way witness the riveting rock formations of the Canadian Shield and watch for Mile 102 (164 kilometres) when the rail line begins its 16-kilometre descent to the floor of the 150-metre-deep canyon. Fall foliage tours are popular so reserve your seats early.

Rail enthusiasts might want to experience a couple of options out west.

On the Rocky Mountaineer, select any number of Western Canada routes originating in Vancouver and Calgary, or stay on board and traverse the entire country by rail. At rockymountaineer.com, take a look at the 16-day, Coast to Coast by Rail tour (Vancouver to Halifax) which includes overnight stays in Kamloops, Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper, Toronto and Montréal so you miss nothing of the landscapes during the night.

From Toronto, VIA Rail hosts you westbound on The Canadian for its legendary four-day, 4,400-kilometre journey to Vancouver.

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