Algonquin fall colours

Fall colours at Algonquin Provincial Park

cars at Algonquin

Algonquin fall colours are breathtaking to behold.

But take a look at this photo; clearly, our secret’s out.

At peak times during the fall season, the line-ups on Highway 60 can stretch over 3 km!

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 experiencing fall colours at Algonquin. Here’s our best advice for a smooth, memorable trip:

  1. When’s the best time to visit if I want to avoid crowds?
  2. When do the colours start to change?
  3. Where should I go? / Is there anywhere in Algonquin that’s NOT crowded?
  4. Can you recommend a good driving route?
  5. Okay, I’m entering via the uber-busy West Gate…what should I know?
  6. How will I know if there’s traffic / the park’s full already?
  7. Where can I park?
  8. Where are the washrooms?
  9. Is there anything I need to know about hiking the trails?
  10. Where can I grab lunch?
  11. What should I pack?
  12. How much does it cost?
  13. Can I stay overnight?
  14. Where can I go instead of Algonquin and still see amazing fall colours?
  15. Where can I go / camp if Algonquin gets crowded / is already full?
  16. Will my phone get reception?
  17. Will I spot a moose?

1. 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 open at 8:00 am until Thanksgiving, but day use permits can be purchased at self-serve fee stations at both locations on weekdays.

Also, consider visiting on rainy or overcast days. The colours really pop, and there will likely be fewer visitors.

2. When do the colours start to change?

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

fall colour map

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

3. 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, and access the park through the East Gate. Generally, there is less traffic congestion and quicker access to park facilities taking this travel route.

Also, while the Highway 60 Corridor gets extremely busy, Algonquin North is the perfect spot for some autumn solitude. Why not plan a trip to Achray, Kiosk or Brent Campgrounds?

map

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

4. Can you recommend a good driving route?

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).

Peterborough route

If you’re an Ottawa native, or visiting from Quebec, follow this route:

Toronto/Algonquin/Ottawa route

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

Algonquin traffic
We work hard to process visitors as efficiently as possible. Please have payment ready.

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.

Payment lanes will be in place at the West Gate.  Visitors should ensure that they have their payment ready.  Having cash payments ready will be your fastest option. 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. Credit/debit payments will be still be available to those who do not have cash available.  Please note that Amex cards are no longer accepted.

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.

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

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.

There is active highway construction from Hwy 60/11 intersection through Huntsville, east to Hidden Valley Road. Expect some delays through this area on weekdays. There is also active highway construction within the Park from km 25 (Cache Lake) eastbound to Centennial Ridges trail at km 37. Expect some delays through these construction zone during weekdays.

Algonquin 511

You can also tune into Algonquin’s Twitter account for updates from park staff.

7. Where can I park?

Algonqiun fall parking
Please do not leave valuables in your vehicle.

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.

8. Where are the washrooms?

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.

Algonquin map
Click to expand

9. Is there anything I need to know about hiking the 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.

Note: The Hardwood Lookout Trail will be closed on three weekends in 2017: Sept. 23-24, Sept. 30-Oct. 1 and Oct. 7-8.

10. Where can I grab lunch?

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 campground (which features a comfort station with flush/vault toilets), as well as East Beach, Lake of Two Rivers, Canisbay Lake, Tea Lake Dam and Minnesing Bike Trail.

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.

11. What should I pack?fall photographer at Algonquin

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.

Visitors should also consider packing: water, snacks, map/compass, phone (check our list of neat hiking, photography and citizen science apps), and camera.

12. How much does it cost?

Entry fees are charged at a rate of $17.00 / day / vehicle (discounts available for seniors and Ontarians with disabilities. ID required). On weekends and statutory holidays between September 4 and October 31, entry fees are charged at a rate of $20.00 / day / vehicle. 

During this time the fee increase will also apply to the permits issued for Ontario Senior (65+) $16.00, and Ontario residents with a disability $10.00.

A friendly reminder that the Discovery Pass issued by Parks Canada, is not valid in Algonquin as it is an Ontario Provincial Park.

A valid Park permit must be displayed on the dash of your vehicle at all times.

Again, payment lanes will be available to process daily vehicle permits upon your arrival. Please take advantage of this service and have your payment ready, 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.

13. Can I stay overnight?

Absolutely. Several Algonquin campgrounds — Achray, Brent, Canisbay Lake, Kiosk, Lake of Two Rivers, Rock Lake and Whitefish Lake — are open until after Thanksgiving Weekend.

AlgonquinPP Pumpkin on campsite for Halloween event

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

14. Where can I go instead of Algonquin and still see amazing fall colours?

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.

autumn leaves over blue lake
Including Restoule Provincial Park…

Check out parks like:

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:

16. 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).

Free wifi is available in the Algonquin Visitor Centre.

17. 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 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.

18. Other questions?

Visit the park’s webpage, the Friends of Algonquin Park website or call the park directly at 705-633-5572.

A word from our team at Algonquin

Park Warden working Algonquin's West GateThis fall season, Algonquin Provincial Park staff ask visitors to arrive in the park be prepared for an enjoyable and safe experience.

The park and its partners continue to work on ways to protect park resources and ensure that you have an awesome time.

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. Some park trailheads may have limited parking between the hours of 10:00 am and 2:00 pm.
  • 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 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, picnic ground parking lots and museums.

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