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TRAVEL SLEUTH - THE GREAT CANADIAN FALL FOLIAGE PHENOMENON
 
(2014 - Fall Issue)

Writer: JANE STOKES



What is it that makes the central and eastern regions of Canada a phenomenon recognized worldwide for fall colour?

Botanists tell us it’s the unprecedented volume, diversity and density of deciduous trees on those particular landscapes, all of which spread south and east of the U.S. border as well. At the end of every summer, multiple shades of textured green on the forested hillsides suddenly combust into the colour of fire. 

Maple, oak and birch dominate, but did you know that within the 400 million hectares of Canadian forests nationwide, there are at least 180 species of trees, both coniferous and deciduous? For this very reason during just a couple of weeks or so every fall, countless people in faraway lands jump on jet planes aimed for Canada, so they, too, can witness red, amber and orange colours ignite throughout our forests. 

Autumn is also prime time for fall fairs, farmers’ markets and harvesting festivals throughout the country (Canadian-fairs.ca), so how lucky are we to be able to just hop in our cars to see it all so easily? Here are some of the very best fall touring, strolling, cycling and hiking trails:

NEW BRUNSWICK

World-renowned: The Fundy Coast is where the sugar maple, yellow birch, hemlock and beech forests offer some of the most eye-popping landscapes on Earth.

Honourable mention: In the northern part of the province, the Restigouche-Chaleur region sprawls across a high ridge of the forested Appalachian Range and, if you begin your drive in the highlands of Saint-Quentin, Route 17 leads you through a burst of colour in the hills and valleys to the Restigouche River at Atholville. Is it any wonder Saint-Quentin is known as the Maple Capital of Atlantic Canada?

Best time: Traditionally the first two weeks of October. Consult tourismnewbrunswick.ca for the real time report and to plan other details of your trip.

NOVA SCOTIA

World-renowned: The Cabot Trail is a sensational drive along the north shore of Cape Breton where fiery red, orange, crimson and gold blanket the entire highlands on a backdrop of sea-green and blue.

Honourable mentions: Plan a stay in Parrsboro on Minas Basin in north central Nova Scotia. From there take Route 2 into the Cobequid Mountains. Also on Old Highway 311 flanked by countless red sugar maples, the trip from Truro to Tatamagouche is one of the very best fall foliage drives in the province.

Best time: Early October is peak, but consult the Autumn Leaf Watch weekly report, plus other tourism information at novascotia.ca

PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND

World-renowned: PEI is known for the longest fall foliage period in North America due to the warm waters and moderate climate in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Northumberland Strait. Your front-row seat takes you along the Confederation Trail, where ruby-red maples add to the patchwork of apricot-orange and sunburst yellows of poplars, birch and beech trees.

Honourable mention: Take Route 20 on the Central Coastal Drive with its classic fishing ports and postcard-pretty villages. Stop in storied Cavendish for a peek at the Green Gables farm and plan for a bite to eat in lovely Victoria-by-the-Sea.

Best time: Mid-September through early October is reliable for leaf peeping. Watch for updated reports at janroncommunications.com. For general trip planning, consult tourismpei.com.

QUÉBEC

World-renowned: Within an hour’s drive of Montréal in the Laurentian Mountains, great swaths of sugar maples, yellow birch and American beech ignite into orange, red and rust across endlessly rolling landscapes. Suggested routes can be found at laurentides.com.

Honourable mention: Also within an hour of Montréal, the Eastern Townships is a collection of hills and vales, farmlands and Victorian villages brimming with theatres, art galleries and antique shops. Autumn is also ripe for the vineyard harvest, so be sure to follow the designated Wine Route for a full array of tantalizing gastronomy.

Best time: The online Québec Fall Foliage Report (janroncommunications.com) is updated every Friday and additional tourism planning can be done at bonjourquebec.com.

ONTARIO

World-renowned: Algonquin Park, one hour north of Huntsville, is 7,725 square kilometres of sensational pristine wilderness where the luminous leaves of maples, tamaracks, red oaks and aspens push this glorious season all the way into the winds of winter.

Honourable mentions: The entire Georgian Bay region is spectacular in places such as Tobermory and Manitoulin Island. Perhaps lesser known but equally splendid is the drive from Penetanguishene to Awenda Provincial Park. In spring, the profusion of trilliums makes the park unforgettable—and when September meets October, nature does its thing again as we watch the forests of radiant maple, oak and birch trees light up the deep-green cedar forests.

Best time: Aim for the last weekend of September when the peak period begins, or take your cue from parkreports.com and ontariotravel.net.

ALBERTA

World-renowned: In the Canadian Rocky Mountains, the leaves of birch, poplars and aspens turn varying shades of luminous amber, albeit still overpowered by the endless forests of evergreens. To capture a grand slice of the spectacle, drive from Calgary to the Banff and Lake Louise region, then north to Jasper.

Honourable mentions: On the Trans-Canada Highway (#1), head west from Calgary and at the Hwy. 40 turnoff embark on the Kananaskis Trail. To witness the marvels of the season even more close up, head south on Hwy. 40 for another 10 minutes, stop at Barrier Lake and then hike along its shoreline. 

Best time: Mid-September to mid-October will deliver what you came to see including the autumn spotting of eagles, elk, buffalo and bears. Consult travelalberta.com.

BRITISH COLUMBIA

World-renowned: Stanley Park, a 400-hectare space in the heart of Vancouver, attracts locals throughout the day as well as around eight million visitors per year. In autumn, the textured greens of the conifers, which include hemlock, red cedar, plus corridors of towering Douglas fir, are dotted from place to place with rust-red, orange and lemon as the deciduous trees begin their retreat for the winter.

Honourable mention: Just a 15-minute drive south of downtown Vancouver, spend the day at the fanciful VanDusen Botanical Gardens. In the fall, hydrangeas, heather and the autumn crocus bloom and the tree leaves will turn every shade of brilliant red, gold and orange.

Best time: September to mid-October is the prime period. Complete travel assistance can be found at hellobc.com, and at tourismvancouver.com.

 
 
 
 
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