Algonquin fall colours

Fall colours at Algonquin Provincial Park

cars at AlgonquinFall colours at Algonquin Provincial Park 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 compiled answers to the most commonly asked questions about fall colours at Algonquin. Here’s our best advice for a smooth, memorable trip:

  1. What’s different in 2021?
  2. Do I need a reservation to visit for the day?
  3. Do I need a reservation if I have a seasonal permit?
  4. What access point should I book if I’m coming for fall colours?
  5. When’s the best time to visit if I want to avoid crowds?
  6. Will you limit the number of vehicles that enter the park if the park reaches capacity?
  7. When do the colours start to change?
  8. Where should I go? / Is there anywhere in Algonquin that’s NOT crowded?
  9. Okay, I’m entering via the uber-busy West Gate…what should I know?
  10. How will I know if there’s traffic / the park’s full already?
  11. Where can I park?
  12. Where are the washrooms?
  13. Is there anything I need to know about hiking the trails?
  14. Is the Visitor Centre open?
  15. Where can I grab lunch?
  16. What should I pack?
  17. How much does it cost?
  18. Can I stay overnight?
  19. Where can I go / camp if Algonquin gets crowded / is already full?
  20. Will my phone get reception?
  21. Will I spot a moose?
  22. Other questions?

1. What’s different in 2021?

This year, Algonquin is piloting a new service for day-use visitors: advance sales of daily vehicle permits.

This fall, 100% of daily vehicle permits will be available in advance. This means we will know in advance if we have reached capacity for the upcoming weekend, and we will provide these updates on Twitter.

If we have already sold all daily vehicle permits for a certain day and you arrive at either the East or West Gate, you will not be able to purchase a permit (or use your seasonal pass), and you will not be able to visit the park.

The safety of our visitors and staff is always our top priority. We have implemented measures to address overcrowding and promote physical distancing in our park spaces and buildings during busy visitation times.

Algonquin is located within the Renfrew County and District Health Unit, and visitors are asked to wear a mask or face covering when visiting indoor facilities, such as park offices, at the Visitor Centre, and washrooms.

The Visitor Centre will continue to monitor occupancy. If the building is at capacity, you will be required to wait in line for entry.

staff

We’re counting on people to be responsible when enjoying fall colours at Algonquin. Continue to follow public health advice including:

  • physical distancing by keeping at least two metres from others
  • wearing a face covering where required and when physical distancing may be challenging or not possible
  • washing hands regularly with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

We appreciate your cooperation and shared commitment to safety.

2. Do I need a reservation to visit for the day?

If you want to guarantee your spot during Algonquin’s extremely busy fall season, yes.

We know you don’t want to spend your time driving to Algonquin or sitting in lines, only to be turned away because we are already full.

If you’re coming for fall colours, book the Highway 60 Algonquin access point.

You can obtain a daily vehicle permit up to five days in advance of your trip, beginning at 7:00 a.m.

Make your reservation:

  1. Online at OntarioParks.com
  2. By phone at 1-888-ONT-PARK (1-888-668-7275) – open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. EST

Not sure how to book? Here’s a walkthough.

3. Do I need a reservation if I have a seasonal permit?

Again, to guarantee your spot, yes.

Remember: on their own, seasonal permits don’t guarantee access to a park. If the park reaches capacity, no additional vehicles can enter without a reservation, including seasonal permit holders.

The benefit of your seasonal permit is that you can make your day-use reservation for free!

When making your reservation, you can input your permit’s serial number, which will adjust your fee due to $0.

This video shows exactly how to do it:

Please remember to bring your reservation (printed or on your device) and your seasonal permit to the park.

4. What access point should I book if I’m coming for fall colours?

Algonquin is a very big park. When making your advance day-use reservation at Algonquin, you have seven day-use locations to choose from.

If you’re coming for fall colours, please select “Highway 60.”

Your advance daily vehicle permit is specific to your location, so you can’t use a permit for Achray to access Highway 60. Please make your reservation with care.

5. When’s the best time to visit if I want to avoid the crowds?

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 are open daily for information and merchandise. The park is open for day-use during daylight hours.

Also, when you are booking in advance and checking the weather forecast, consider visiting on rainy or overcast days. These light conditions can cause the colours to really pop, and there will likely be fewer visitors.

Wondering how busy the park is? Algonquin will post regular capacity updates on Twitter.

6. Will you limit the number of vehicles that enter the park if the park reaches capacity?

Yes. In Algonquin this fall, 100% of daily vehicle permits will be available in advance (book online or by phone).

This means that we will know in advance if we have reached capacity for the upcoming weekend. Once we have sold out of daily vehicle permits or reached our daily capacity, we will not sell any daily vehicle permits in the park.

If we have already sold all daily vehicle permits for a certain day and you arrive at either the East or West Gate, you will not be able to purchase a permit (or use your seasonal pass), and you will not be able to visit the park.

Algonquin will regularly post capacity updates via Twitter in advance of the weekends during the week.

Park wardens will be using vehicle licence plates to confirm that your vehicle is associated with a valid daily vehicle permit. It is important to make sure the licence plate is accurate and up to date. The permit holder may change the licence plate online by preregistering, by calling the reservation service line, or upon arrival at the park.

7. When do the colours start to change?

Traditionally, the fall colours are on display from mid-September until mid-October, but the timing differs from year to year.

fall colour map

Check our Fall Colour Report for the most up-to-date autumn intel.

8. Where should I go? / Is there anywhere in Algonquin that’s NOT crowded?

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, west on 60 and access the park through the East Gate (about 5 minutes from Whitney). Generally, there is less traffic congestion and quicker access to park facilities taking this travel route.

Remember to fill up your gas tank on your way into the park. The last gas stations along Highway 60 are in Huntsville or Dwight from the west, or in Whitney to the east.

Also, while the Highway 60 Corridor gets extremely busy, there are a few other Algonquin day-use locations to consider:

  • to the south: Kingscote Lake
  • to the west: Tim River

Be sure to read the descriptions of each location very carefully to confirm what day-use amenities and facilities are available, and to confirm exactly where the location is.

Daily vehicle permits purchased for one day-use location in Algonquin are not transferable to other locations. For example, you cannot purchase a permit for Kingscote Lake, and use it to visit Highway 60.

When Highway 60 is at capacity, consider Mikisew, Restoule, Lake St Peter, or Samuel de Champlain provincial parks.

map

Bonus: driving around the northern edges of Algonquin is a can’t-miss autumn adventure all on its own!

9. Okay, I’m entering via the uber-busy West Gate…what should I know?

Algonquin traffic

This year, we won’t be selling daily vehicle permits in the park on busy fall weekends, which will drastically reduce the traffic through the West Gate.

However, this still isn’t an ideal place to stop. Try to pass through West Gate as efficiently as possible, stopping for washroom breaks further inside the park.

The closest available washrooms when entering from the west are located at Tea Lake campground (open on fall weekends only).

On busy days, westbound traffic may not be able to enter the parking area at the West Gate and should always plan to use other washroom facilities located elsewhere in the park before leaving.

10. How will I know if there’s traffic / the park’s full already?

Ahead of busy fall colour weekends and other busy days, park staff will post regular updates about capacity on Algonquin’s Twitter . Also on busy weekends, we will post updates on traffic, closures, and conditions.

You can also follow the park’s Facebook page for general fall colours updates.

For information on your drive to the park, the MTO’s 511 Travel Information Service (Twitter or website) provides up-to-date information on congestion and traffic accidents on provincial highways. Please check this service the day of your arrival and avoid any potential delays.

11. Where can I park?

Algonqiun fall parking
Please do not leave valuables in your vehicle

Park only in designated parking lots along Highway 60. Parking along the roadways or in an areas that restrict or block access may result in your vehicle being towed.

If a trail is posted as closed and there are blockades to a trail entrance, this means that both the parking lot and trail are closed. Do not park on the highway, and walk up the driveway and hike the trail.

Your safety is paramount and your cooperation will reduce traffic congestion and assist in everyone’s enjoyment of the park.

12. Where are the washrooms?

While there are washrooms located at the West Gate, there can often be long line-ups 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.

Washrooms may be closed at any time for cleaning or maintenance.

Algonquin map
Click to expand

13. Is there anything I need to know about the hiking or bike trails?

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.

Looking to visit the Lookout Trail, but the parking lot is full?

Trailhead and sign leading into forest.

We have created a new 450 m trail connecting the Big Pines Trail parking lot to the Lookout Trail parking lot.

Please take advantage of this additional parking, and do not walk up the side of the Highway.

Note: The Hardwood Lookout Trail will be closed on five weekends, including some Fridays, in 2021: Sept. 11-12, Sept. 18-19, Sept. 24-26, Oct. 1-3, Oct. 8-11, Oct. 16-17. 

14. Is the Visitor Centre open?

Yes, the Algonquin Visitor Centre is open. The viewing deck, art room, exhibits, washrooms and bookstore are open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m (subject to Public Health Guidelines). The Sunday Creek Café is closed for the 2021 season.

Please note the Visitor Centre will not be selling daily vehicle permits. Additional washroom facilities are available in the Visitor Centre parking lot.

To address overcrowding and promote physical distancing in the Visitor Centre, we will continue to monitor occupancy. If the building is at capacity, you will be required to wait in line for entry. Click here to see real-time occupancy updates for the Visitor Centre. 

15. Where can I grab lunch?

While there are concessions open along Highway 60, consider packing a picnic and stop at one of the many of the park’s picnic areas.

Picnic areas include Tea Lake Campground (open on fall weekends only, has a comfort station with flush/vault toilets), as well as East Beach (please note: Picnic Pavilion closed), the Outdoor Theatre parking lot (picnic tables available), Lake of Two Rivers, Canisbay Lake, Tea Lake Dam, and Minnesing Bike Trail.

The Sunday Creek Café is closed for the 2021 season.

When disposing of food containers, use the animal-proof garbage/recycling containers (found at all major facilities). Please do not deposit garbage in toilets as this will damage them and make then unusable for park visitors.

Please don’t picnic or bring outside food — including boxed lunches — into any restaurants.

16. What should I pack?fall photographer at Algonquin

Proper footwear is a must. Visitors should dress for the weather, including warm layers when appropriate. A raincoat or waterproof shell is always a good idea.

Visitors should also consider packing: water, snacks, hand sanitizer, face masks, phone (check our list of neat hikingphotography and community science apps), and camera.

Don’t forget to grab an Algonquin Autumn Day-Use Guide – it includes a map of Highway 60 and all the key information you need to know for your visit.

17. How much does it cost?

Entry fees for Highway 60 are $21.00 / day / vehicle (discounts available for seniors and Ontarians with disabilities. ID required).

Entry fees for Algonquin’s perimeter day-use locations are $18.00 / day / vehicle (discounts available for seniors and Ontarians with disabilities. ID required.)

Already have a seasonal permit? That’s great! You’ll be able to use it with our new advance daily vehicle permit service to guarantee your park access, at no additional cost.

Plan your visit with confidence by using your seasonal permit to obtain a daily vehicle permit in advance.

18. Can I stay overnight?

Absolutely. Along the Highway 60 corridor, Pog Lake is open until October 11, Canisbay and Rock Lake are open until October 17, Lake of Two Rivers is open until October 31, and Mew Lake is open year-round.

The campgrounds on the east and north side of the park – Achray, Brent, and Kiosk – are open until October 24.

Reservations are strongly encouraged as we no longer offer first-come, first-served sites, and fall has become a busy camping season.

There are also three nearby parks available for camping:

AlgonquinPP Pumpkin on campsite for Halloween event

Mew Lake Campground (including its seven heated yurts) is open year-round, as are most interior sites.

19. I wanted to explore Algonquin, but it’s super crowded today. Is there anywhere nearby to visit instead?

If you didn’t book in advance, and drove all the way to Algonquin only to find that it’s at capacity, we suggest nearby parks like:

20. Will my phone get reception?

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).

21. Will I spot a moose?

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.

Mother and daughter moose watching along Hwy 60 in Algonquin Park May 2016 Michelle Kobzik

If you are lucky enough to see a moose, please remember your safety – do not stop unexpectedly on the highway, or put yourself, your passengers, pedestrians, or wildlife in danger.

22. Other questions?

Visit the park’s webpage and social media feeds, call the park directly at 705-633-5572, or send an email.

Facebook: @AlgonquinProvPark

Twitter: @Algonquin_PP

Instagram: @Algonquin_PP

A word from our team at Algonquin

Park Warden working Algonquin's West GateThe park and its partners continue to work on ways to protect park resources and ensure that you have an awesome time.

This fall season, Algonquin Provincial Park staff ask visitors to arrive ready for an enjoyable and safe experience.

Protect yourself and your park by following these tips:

  • Be patient and courteous. On fall weekends, you can expect some traffic congestion and delays arriving through the West Gate, even if you’ve booked in advance. Some park trailheads may have limited parking or even be temporarily closed at any time, especially when we are at or near capacity.
  • Help protect yourself and wildlife. Don’t feed wildlife. Stay at least 100 m away from black bears and wolves, and at least 30 m from moose and deer.
  • Drive responsibly. Observe highway and park speed limits. Do not park along the shoulders of the highway and watch out for distracted drivers. Parking is allowed only at designated trailheads, day-use picnic areas, access points, museums, and galleries. Vehicular access is only permitted on public roads within the park.

For more information on visiting Algonquin this fall, check out our fall brochure.

Don’t forget to share your experience on social media with #AlgonquinFallColours!