posted on September 8, 2021

Discover the best day trips and road trips to enjoy the fall foliage in Canada

Summer is ending, and the first crisp breezes of fall are rolling in. Spectacular but short-lived, the autumn season is made to be savoured, so plan to get outside and enjoy it while it lasts. 

Why do leaves change colour in the fall? As the temperature cools and sunlight fades, trees begin a chemical process of storing nourishing sugars for the season ahead. As a result, green chlorophyll goes dormant and orange, yellow, and red pigments emerge. Late September to early October is the best time to see the leaves changing colour across Canada. 

Along with exploring orchards, farms, and local campgrounds, taking a scenic drive to fully experience the scenery is one of the best things to do in the fall. If you’re hoping to squeeze in one more road trip this year, now is the time! 

You might be wondering, where are the best fall drives near me? We’ve got you covered. Here’s our shortlist of where to go for fall colours to make the most of the season:

1. Scenic drives in Quebec

The King’s Road

Dating from the 18th century, this New France thoroughfare is a favourite road trip from Montreal or Québec City. Follow a route once travelled by stagecoaches for impressive natural scenery, historical towns, and archaeological sites. The Mauricie region is a prime destination for viewing the foliage, and detours to Mont Tremblant and Mauricie National Park are well within reach from the King’s Road.

Start: Montreal or Québec City

Distance: 280 km

Mandatory Stops: Lanaudière wineries, Trois-Rivières, SCIRBI Islands, Cartier-Roberval Archeological Site, Vieux-Chemin

Route des Monts Notre-Dame

As far as Québec scenic drives go, this one is a thrill ride. A worthwhile detour from the epic Gaspésie Tour, this road winds through a mountain chain and concludes at the New Brunswick border. Treetop trekking, a distillery specializing in alcoholic maple beverages, and Portes de l’Enfer Canyon (a.k.a. “the Gates of Hell”) can all be found on this adventurous route.

Start: Saint-Luce, 3.5 hours from Québec City or 5 hours 40 mins from Montreal

Distance: 186 km

Mandatory Stops: Domaine Valga, Portes de l’Enfer Canyon, Parc national du Lac-Témiscouata, Domaine Acer

St. Lawrence Route

Art, history, and the great outdoors — the Charlevoix region has everything you could ever want on a Québec road trip. Nestled between the Laurentian mountains and the St. Lawrence river, this route truly captures the magic of the province, making it one of the best road trips in Québec. Begin in Le Massif to enjoy the fall foliage by gondola, especially during the Massif in Colours event in early October.

Start: Le Massif, about 1 hour from Québec City, or about 4 hours north of Montreal

Distance: 105 km

Mandatory Stops: Le Massif, Baie-Saint-Paul, Papeterie Saint-Gilles, La Malbaie

Summit Drive

Fall colours reach new heights in the Eastern Townships, home to the highest mountains in southern Québec. Photo-worthy panoramas, gorgeous lake views, and 15 mountain summits await on this drive, making it a perfect addition to any Montreal road trip. Reward yourself with a bite at one of the region’s eateries after conquering the steep hiking trails or enjoying a heritage walk. After dark, don’t miss out on stargazing opportunities at Mont-Mégantic. 

Start: Parc régional du Mont-Ham, about 2.5 hours from either Montreal or Québec City

Distance: 193 km

Mandatory Stops: Parc régional du Mont-Ham, Morne de Saint-Sébastien, Mont-Mégantic International Dark Sky Reserve

Chemin du Terroir

Get closer to the earth with this short and sweet route, one of the easiest and closest scenic drives near Montreal packed with gourmet flavours and local culture. Looping through the Laurentides region, this drive is a top choice for agrotourism, showcasing the wares of artisans and farmers with a deep pride for working the land. 

Start: Saint-Eustache, 1 hour from Montreal or 3 hours from Québec City

Distance: 226 km

Mandatory Stops: Rivière du Chêne Winery, Saint-Joseph-du-Lac, Intermiel, Route des Gerbes d’Angelica

2. Scenic drives in Ontario

Highway 60 Corridor

Wondering where to see fall colors in Ontario? Look no further. This beloved route through Algonquin Park is one of the best scenic drives Ontario has to offer, and is one of the top destinations for fall colours in the province. A gateway to picturesque destinations like Muskoka and Deerhurst, this region offers incredible hiking trails and served as inspiration to founding Group of Seven member Tom Thomson. If you can only choose one of the magnificent fall road trips in Ontario, this should be it.

Start: Huntsville (West Gate), 2.5 hours from Toronto. Whitney (East Gate), 2 hours 40 minutes from Ottawa

Distance: 250 km 

Mandatory Stops: Deerhurst, Algonquin Visitor Centre, Algonquin Art Centre, Spruce Bog Boardwalk Trail

Loyalist Parkway

Highway 33, also known as the Loyalist Parkway, is one of the best road trips from Toronto for foodies seeking a relaxed drive with plenty of culture and flavour. Prince Edward County shines at harvest time, so don’t hesitate to make roadside stops and sample local fare like cheese and wine. For a leisurely hike or a stroll along the beach, visit the Lake on the Mountain or Sandbanks Provincial Park.

Start: Highway 62 at Bloomfield, 2 hours 15 minutes from Toronto. Kingston, about 2 hours from Ottawa

Distance: 60 km

Mandatory Stops: Picton, Bloomfield, the Lake on the Mountain, Sandbanks Provincial Park

Kawartha Lakes

Just 90 minutes from the city, the Kawartha Lakes offer several scenic drives Toronto daytrippers can enjoy, and are a prime spot when it comes to Ontario road trip ideas in the autumn. Festivities like Buckhorn’s Pumpkinfest showcase the rustic charm of the Kawarthas, along with the area’s local wineries, breweries, and eateries. Take your time enjoying the lakes that give the region its name, as well as natural phenomena like the glacier-formed Warsaw Caves.

Start: Peterborough, about 1.5 hours from Toronto

Distance: 45 km to 130 km, depending on route choice

Mandatory Stops: Burleigh Falls, Warsaw Caves, Buckhorn Pumpkinfest, Stoney Lake, Kawartha Highlands Provincial Park

Niagara Parkway

Following the Niagara River, this is one of our favourite road trips from Toronto. The Niagara region has something for everyone, whether you’re looking for a family-friendly vacation or a tour of wine country. Quaint villages, historic sites, and the idyllic scenery of the escarpment make this part of the province a perfect escape from the city, and in the fall the drive is even more dazzling.

Start: Fort Erie, 1.5 hours from Toronto or 5 hours 45 minutes from Ottawa

Distance: 55km

Mandatory Stops: Niagara River Parkway Recreation Trail, Botanical Gardens, Butterfly Conservatory, Niagara-on-the-Lake

Lake Superior North Coast

For lovers of the outdoors craving a fall road trip Ontario is the place to be, and the north coast of Superior proves it. Starting from Lake Superior Provincial Park, the journey begins with the rich reds of maples and transitions to Boreal yellows and golds as you near Thunder Bay. The ancient coastline is defined by scenic lookouts, rugged hiking trails, and echoes of a long-ago past evidenced by Ojibway pictographs.

Start: Lake Superior Provincial Park, about 9 hours from Toronto

Distance: 511 km

Mandatory Stops: Lake Superior Provincial Park, Pukaskwa National Park, Agawa Canyon, Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, Terry Fox Memorial and Scenic Lookout

3. Scenic drives in Alberta

Icefields Parkway

Of all the scenic drives in Alberta, this is the most famous. Bookended by Jasper and Banff National Parks (both top sites for fall colours in Alberta), Icefields Parkway boasts crystal clear lakes, ancient glaciers, mountain views, and abundant wildlife. It’s one of our favourite road trips from Calgary or Edmonton, and one of the best drives in Canada. Pull over frequently to marvel at once-in-a-lifetime natural wonders like Athabasca Falls, Mistaya Canyon, and the Glacier Skywalk.

Start: Banff, 1.5 hours from Calgary or Jasper, 4 hours from Edmonton

Distance: 230 km

Mandatory Stops: Bow Lake, Peyto Lake, Mistaya Canyon, Athabasca Falls, Glacier Skywalk

The Cowboy Trail

Journey back in time with one of the most historic scenic drives around Edmonton that can also be picked up from Calgary. Defined by a landscape of rolling foothills and golden fields, the Cowboy Trail is where the Prairies meet the Rockies. Explore local distilleries, unique shops, and historic buildings in authentic rural towns, and get your fill of fall colours at Bragg Creek Provincial Park.

Start: Mayerthorpe, 1.5 hours from Edmonton or Lundbreck, 2 hours from Calgary

Distance: 700 km total

Mandatory Stops: Rocky Mountain House National Historic Site, Cochrane, Bragg Creek, Leighton Art Centre

Kananaskis Trail

The Western Larches are some of the most sought-after fall foliage in Alberta, and the Kananaskis region is where to find them. One of the shorter scenic drives near Calgary, this route is a thrill ride of hairpin turns on steep mountain roads, and winds through several provincial parks offering spectacular hikes rich with leaves of all colours.

Start: Cochrane, 35 minutes from Calgary

Distance: 125 km

Mandatory Stops: Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Chester Lake, Grotto Canyon, Canmore

Crowsnest Highway

If you’re travelling between Alberta and British Columbia as part of your autumn adventures, then this route is ideal. Kicking off just south of Calgary, this mountainous highway passes through UNESCO world heritage site Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo Jump, as well as many scenic national parks. The hiking trails at Crowsnest Pass are particularly stunning when it comes to fall foliage, so be sure to stretch your legs and savour the colours before you exit the province.

Start: Fort Macleod, 1 hour 45 minutes from Calgary

Distance: 95 km

Mandatory Stops: Head-Smashed-In-Buffalo Jump, Crowsnest Pass, Lundbreck Falls, Frank Slide Interpretive Centre, Burmis Tree

Bow Valley Parkway

Still swooning over Icefields Parkway? This alternate scenic route between Banff and Lake Louise keeps the view fresh while letting you linger in this unforgettable part of Alberta. Natural wonders like Johnston Canyon and nearby waterfall hikes can be found along this shorter drive, plus picnic stops and wildlife. 

Start: Banff, 1.5 hours from Calgary

Distance: 48 km

Mandatory Stops: Johnston Canyon, Castle Mountain Lookout Point, Morant’s Curve

4. Scenic drives in British Columbia

Okanagan Valley

When it comes to road trips from Vancouver, the Vancouver to Kelowna drive can’t be missed. Soak up the fall colours at Stanley Park and the UBC campus before striking out along Highway 3 on one of the most scenic drives Vancouver has to offer. Cruising the Okanagan Valley reveals waterfalls, lakes, sunflower fields, and local wineries. Stop at the Chilliwack Corn Maze and Pumpkin Farm, as well as Keremeos, the “fruit stand capital of Canada” to make the most of fall activities in this region.

Start: Vancouver

Distance: 456 km

Mandatory Stops: Chilliwack, Keremeos, Knox Mountain Park, Merritt

Victoria to Tofino

This Vancouver Island road trip is a classic, and it’s easy to see why. Marked by unforgettable scenery and culture, the Victoria to Tofino road trip twists and turns along remote, winding roads that are not for the faint of heart. Taste a Nanaimo bar straight from the source, wander through towering Douglas firs and cedars at Cathedral Grove, and browse local wineries and antique shops in the quirky communities that dot the route. Before departing Victoria, enjoy a stroll through Beacon Hill Park, one of the best spots in the city for blazing fall colours. 

Start: Victoria, approximately 3 hours from Vancouver

Distance: 318 km 

Mandatory Stops: Nanaimo, Englishman River Falls, Cathedral Grove, Ucluelet

Kootenay Rockies Circle Route

Tucked away in the BC interior, the Kootenays are a quintessential British Columbia road trip, defined by unique mountain culture and spectacular landscapes that draw biking, hiking, and skiing enthusiasts from around the world. Make sure to linger in the artsy heritage community of Nelson for gorgeous fall colours — the view is especially striking from the water. 

Start: Revelstoke, 6.5 hours from Vancouver

Distance: 1317 km

Mandatory Stops: Revelstoke, Glacier Park, Fairmont Hot Springs, Cranbrook, Nelson

Canim Lake & the Interlakes Loop

Vibrant fall foliage abounds in BC’s South Cariboo region, making this one of the best road trips in BC in the autumn. Photo-worthy vistas and beautiful lakes are complemented by warm and dry weather at this time of year, perfect for canoeing, cycling, fishing, or horseback riding at resorts and campgrounds along the way. By nightfall, the Northern Lights have been known to make an appearance.

Start: 100 Mile House, 5.5 hours from Vancouver

Distance: 300 km

Mandatory Stops: Canim Lake, Lac des Roches, Green Lake, The Sugar Shack

Stewart-Cassiar Highway

For the truly adventurous, the Stewart-Cassiar Highway cuts into Northern BC along the Western Rockies and is the scenic road of choice for anyone bold enough to drive to Alaska from Vancouver. Rich with unspoiled natural beauty, this route offers mountain goat viewing, volcanic landscapes, glaciers, and mountains galore in addition to the vibrant hues of fall. It may very well be the most ambitious road trip BC has to offer. 

Start: Terrace, 15 hours from Vancouver. Flights are also available

Distance: 855 km

Mandatory Stops: Bear Glacier Provincial Park, Iskut River Valley, Jade City, Boya Lake

5. Scenic drives in Nova Scotia

Cabot Trail

Of all the scenic drives Nova Scotia has to offer, Cabot Trail tops the list. Looping through the rolling hills of Cape Breton Highlands National Park and along breathtaking views of the shoreline, the drive is hailed as one of the best fall road trips in the world. Of the park’s 26 hiking trails, the Skyline Trail is the most popular for jaw-dropping views of the coast and its glorious autumn foliage. 

Start: Baddeck, 3.5 hours from Halifax

Distance: 300 km

Mandatory Stops: Ingonish Beach, Skyline Trail, Cheticamp, Uisge Ben Falls

Lighthouse Route

No Nova Scotia road trip is complete without taking in the epic coastline and spotting a few lighthouses. This route is one of our favourite scenic drives near Halifax, especially during the fall. Experience the charm of the Maritimes by soaking up small town history, browsing local businesses, and stopping for fresh seafood and lighthouse views along the way. Lunenburg is particularly gorgeous at this time of year, its postcard-perfect colours and unique architecture as vibrant as the surrounding trees. 

Start: Wolfville, about 1 hour from Halifax

Distance: 300 km

Mandatory Stops: Peggys Cove, Mahone Bay, Lunenburg

Annapolis Valley

Peppered with charming towns and vineyards, this fall road trip brims with lesser-known treasures that make it a joy to discover. Start in the town of Windsor, considered the birthplace of hockey and home to some of the world’s biggest pumpkins, then continue to the aptly-named Lookoff for a magnificent view of golden farmers’ fields, flanked by trees in fall splendour. Try the trails at Blomidon Provincial Park or Cape Split for dramatic views of the Bay of Fundy to complete the experience.

Start: Windsor, less than 1 hour north of Halifax

Distance: 25 to 250 km, depending on route choice. 

Mandatory Stops: Windsor, The Lookoff, Blomidon Provincial Park, Cape Split

Marine Drive

A coastal drive free of tourist traps, this Halifax road trip is a less-travelled scenic route dotted with fishing villages, plenty of beaches, and hiking trails that get up close and personal with autumn colours. If you’re game for an uphill trek, the Admiral Lake Loop reveals a vibrant view of tree canopies. Canso Islands National Historic Site marks this drive’s finish line, but with Cape Breton Island just over an hour away, it’s tempting to keep on exploring.

Start: Dartmouth, just 15 minutes from Halifax

Distance: 340 km

Mandatory Stops: Admiral Lake Loop, Martinique Beach, Taylor Head

Digby Neck and Kejimkujik

Pick up this route at Kejimkujik National Park, a family-friendly destination offering outdoor fall activities and events like the Haunted Jaunt and a pumpkin carving contest. Continue along the Digby Neck peninsula until you reach Brier Island, perched on the westernmost tip of Nova Scotia and a must-visit spot for autumn foliage. Annapolis Royal and Wolfville are also worth a stop for a taste of the area’s history and local wineries.

Start: Kejimkujik National Park, 2 hours from Halifax

Distance: 250 km

Mandatory Stops: Kejimkujik National Park, Brier Island, Annapolis Royal, Wolfville

Driving is only half the fun of any road trip. Fall activities abound at this time of year, so don’t hesitate to add a camping trip to your itinerary, stop for a hike, or explore roadside markets and local festivals. Corn mazes, apple orchards, and pumpkin patches are crowd-pleasers for all ages that will make the trip a memorable one.

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