Algonquin fall colours

Fall colours at Algonquin Provincial Park

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

  1. What’s different in 2020?
  2. When’s the best time to visit if I want to avoid crowds?
  3. Will you limit the number of vehicles that enter the park if the park reaches capacity?
  4. When do the colours start to change?
  5. Where should I go? / Is there anywhere in Algonquin that’s NOT crowded?
  6. Okay, I’m entering via the uber-busy West Gate…what should I know?
  7. How will I know if there’s traffic / the park’s full already?
  8. Where can I park?
  9. Where are the washrooms?
  10. Is there anything I need to know about hiking the trails?
  11. Is the Visitor Centre open?
  12. Where can I grab lunch?
  13. What should I pack?
  14. How much does it cost?
  15. Can I stay overnight?
  16. Where can I go / camp if Algonquin gets crowded / is already full?
  17. Will my phone get reception?
  18. Will I spot a moose?
  19. Other questions?

1. What’s different in 2020?

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.

In consultation with the Ministry of Transportation and the Ontario Provincial Police, Algonquin will stop selling permits once we reach parking capacity along the Highway 60 Corridor during busy fall colour weekends.

If you arrive at either the East or West Gate and we have reached capacity, 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 weekend capacity updates via Twitter.

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.

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

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. 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 as early as 7:00 am.

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

Wondering how busy the park is? Algonquin will be posting weekend capacity updates on Twitter.

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

Yes. In consultation with the Ministry of Transportation and the Ontario Provincial Police, Algonquin will stop selling permits once we reach capacity along the Highway 60 Corridor during busy fall colour weekends.

If you arrive at either the East or West Gate and we have reached capacity, 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 post weekend capacity updates via Twitter.

4. 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.

5. 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.

As well, there will be construction on Hwy 60 between Huntsville and the West Gate, adding to more potential delays.

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, Algonquin North is the perfect spot for some autumn solitude. Why not plan a trip to Achray, Kiosk or Brent Campgrounds?

You could also 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!

6. 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

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

Payment lanes will be in place at the West Gate. Visitors should ensure that they have their payment ready and remain in your vehicle. Credit, debit and cash are accepted. Please note that Amex cards are no longer accepted.

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.

If you are also exiting the park via the West Gate, please be advised westbound traffic will not be able to enter the parking area and should not plan on using these washrooms as they leave the park. Instead, plan to use washrooms located elsewhere in the park before leaving.

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

During busy fall colour weekends, park staff will post regular updates on traffic and conditions on Algonquin’s Twitter .  You can also follow the park’s Facebook page  for general fall colours updates.

For information on your drive to the park, the 511 travel information service offered by MTO (Twitter or online) 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.

8. 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.

9. 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

10. 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.

Note: The Hardwood Lookout Trail will be closed on five weekends, including some Fridays, in 2020: Sept. 12-13, Sept. 19-20, Sept. 25-27, Oct. 2-4, Oct. 9-12, Oct. 17-18.

11. 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. The theatre and restaurant remain closed.

To address overcrowding and promote physical distancing in the Visitor Centre, we will continue to limit occupancy. If the building is at capacity, you will be required to wait in line for entry.

12. 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 (which features 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.

Note: the restaurant in the Visitor Centre is closed this 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.

13. 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 citizen science apps), and camera.

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

14. How much does it cost?

Entry fees are charged at a rate of $18.00 / day / vehicle (discounts available for seniors and Ontarians with disabilities. ID required).

On weekends and statutory holidays between September 7 and October 31, entry fees are charged at a rate of $21.00 / 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.

Payment lanes will be available to process daily vehicle permit purchases 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 Highway 60 in minutes and avoid potential line-ups at the West Gate permit office.

15. Can I stay overnight?

Absolutely. The campgrounds on the east and north side of the park – Achray, Brent, and Kiosk – are open until October 25.  Along the Highway 60 corridor, Canisbay and Rock Lake are open until October 18, Lake of Two Rivers is open until November 1 and Mew Lake is open year-round.  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 – Bonnechere Provincial Park (1 hour from Algonquin’s East Gate), Mikisew (1.5 hours from Algonquin’s West Gate) and Lake St. Peter (30 minutes from Algonquin’s East Gate).

AlgonquinPP Pumpkin on campsite for Halloween event

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

16. 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:

17. 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).

18. 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

19. Other questions?

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

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. 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 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, picnic ground parking lots and museums.

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