Fall colours at Algonquin are breathtaking to behold.
But take a look at this photo.
Clearly, our secret’s out.
So if you’d like to enjoy the wonder of Algonquin’s autumn, or you’re looking for some solitude, read on.
We’ve assembled a list of frequently asked questions and top tips for planning your autumn at Algonquin:
- When’s the best time to visit if I want to avoid crowds?
- When do the colours start to change?
- Where should I go? / Is there anywhere in Algonquin that’s NOT crowded?
- Can you recommend a good driving route?
- Okay, I’m entering via the uber-busy West Gate…what should I know?
- How will I know if there’s traffic / the park’s full already?
- Where can I park?
- Where are the washrooms?
- Is there anything I need to know about hiking the trails?
- Where can I grab lunch?
- What should I pack?
- How much does it cost?
- Can I stay overnight?
- Where can I go instead of Algonquin and still see amazing fall colours?
- Where can I go / camp if Algonquin gets crowded / is already full?
- Will my phone get reception?
- Will I spot a moose?
In a word? Weekdays.
Fall weekends get extremely busy, especially at the West Gate.
Planning your arrival to avoid these times will minimize wait time at the park’s entrance gates, and reduce potential crowding on already busy trails and other park facilities.
If you can only visit on a weekend, come early. The trails get busier as the day goes on.
The West Gate and East Gate open at 8:00 am until Thanksgiving, but day use permits can be purchased at self-serve fee stations at both locations earlier.
Also, consider visiting on rainy or overcast days. The colours really pop, and there will likely be fewer visitors.
Traditionally, the fall colours are on display from mid-September until mid-October, but the timing’s different from year to year.
Check our Fall Colour Report for the most up-to-date autumn intel.
Here’s a secret: most of our park visitors arrive through the park’s West Gate (travelling eastbound along Hwy 60 from Huntsville). This is where you may encounter traffic congestion.
If you’re coming from the GTA, consider entering via the East Gate. Here’s how: take Hwy 35/115 north to Peterborough, 28 north to Bancroft, and 62 and 127 north to Whitney, and access the park through the East Gate. Generally, there is less traffic congestion and quicker access to park facilities taking this travel route.
Bonus: driving around the northern edges of Algonquin is a can’t-miss autumn adventure all on its own!
Absolutely. For many people, the driving route is part of the fall colour viewing experience.
If you’re coming from the GTA, check out our Algonquin-Peterborough route (and remember: follow this route counter-clockwise to avoid the West Gate crowds).
If you’re an Ottawa native, or visiting from Quebec, follow this route:
For those wishing to access the park via the West Gate, here are a few trip planning tips and new services that the park is offering this year.
Remote debit/credit machines and cash lanes will be available to process daily vehicle permits upon your arrival. Please take advantage of this service as you can remain in your vehicle and be back on the Parkway Corridor in minutes and avoid potential line-ups at the West Gate permit office.
Staff will be available in the parking lot to provide information and answer any questions that you may have on park facilities and programs.
Moral of the story: this isn’t a good place to stop. Try to pass through West Gate as efficiently as possible, stopping for washroom breaks further inside the park.
The 511 travel information service — offered by the MTO — provides up-to-date information on traffic and traffic accidents on provincial highways. Please check this service the day of your arrival and avoid any potential delays.
You can also tune into Algonquin’s Twitter account for updates from park staff.
Park only in designated parking lots and pull-outs along the Parkway Corridor and avoid parking on road shoulders.
Your safety is paramount and your cooperation will reduce traffic congestion and assist in everyone’s enjoyment of the park.
Again, avoid stopping / parking at West Gate.
While there are washrooms located at the West Gate, there can often be long lineups during peak times in the day which can result in traffic congestion.
Instead, please take advantage of the other park facilities, picnic grounds and many of the park’s trailheads which have flush and vault toilets.
Before heading out, always check the length, difficulty and time required to complete the trail. Allow enough time to get back to your vehicle before dusk (we suggest leaving a 30-minute cushion). Don’t forget to wear trail- and weather-appropriate footwear and clothing.
Note: The Hardwood Lookout Trail will be closed on three weekends in 2016: Sept. 24-25, Oct. 1-2 and Oct. 8-10.
While there are concessions open along the Hwy 60 Parkway Corridor, consider packing a picnic and stop at one of the many of the park’s picnic areas.
Picnic areas include Tea Lake and Kearney Lake campgrounds (both of which feature comfort stations with flush/vault toilets), as well as Western Uplands, East Beach, Lake of Two Rivers, Canis Bay Lake and Costello Lake campgrounds.
When disposing of food containers, use the animal-proof garbage/recycling containers (found at all major facilities).
Please don’t picnic or bring outside food — including boxed lunches — into any restaurants.
Again, proper footwear is a must. Visitors should also dress for the weather, including warm layers when appropriate. A raincoat or waterproof shell is always a good idea.
Entry fees are charged at a rate of $17.00 / day per vehicle (discounts available for seniors and Ontarians with disabilities. ID required).
You can also purchase a Seasonal Pass (a great way to avoid the line-ups!).
Park permits must be displayed on the dash of your vehicle at all times.
While Algonquin’s often seen as the fall colours flagship, there are plenty of Ontario Parks that are every bit as vibrant in the autumn.
Check out parks like:
- Restoule Provincial Park (4 hours north of Toronto, 1 hour south of North Bay)
- French River Provincial Park (3.5 hours north of Toronto, 1 hour south of Sudbury)
- Kawartha Highlands Signature Site Park (2.5 hours from Toronto — camping only, no day-use)
- Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park (45 minutes east of North Bay)
- Driftwood Provincial Park (2.5 hours north of Ottawa)
- Chutes Provincial Park (1 hour outside Sudbury)
If you’re planning a bigger roadtrip, we suggest the Lake Superior Coastal Route. This renowned route follows Lake Superior’s majestic north shore between Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay. And it’s absolutely breathtaking in the fall!
15. I wanted to explore Algonquin, but it’s super crowded today. Is there anywhere nearby to visit instead?
If you drove all the way to Algonquin, but it’s completely packed, we suggest nearby parks like:
- Oxtongue River – Ragged Falls Provincial Park (5 minutes from Algonquin’s West Gate)
- Bonnechere Provincial Park (1 hour from Algonquin’s East Gate)
- Lake St. Peter Provincial Park (30 minutes from Algonquin’s East Gate)
- Arrowhead Provincial Park (30 minutes from Algonquin’s West Gate)
- Samuel de Champlain Provincial Park (2 hours from Algonquin’s West Gate)
- Mikisew Provincial Park (1.25 hours from Algonquin’s West Gate)
Tough to say — cell service is limited along Highway 60 and the trails, particularly between Kilometre 20 (Algonquin Art Centre) and Kilometre 30.6 (Mew Lake Campground).
Free wifi is available in the Algonquin Visitor Centre.
Possibly. Remember to watch for moose while driving — they pose a serious danger to motorists. Stay alert, never exceed the speed limit and use extra caution at night.
If you do pull off the road to observe wildlife, ensure your vehicle is safely off the pavement and don’t pull over in any of the designated “No Parking” Zones. Watch for traffic, and stay a respectful distance from wildlife.