Fall vistas of Ontario’s northeast

Ah, fall…the weather has cools down, the bugs are gone, and our parks turn into a kaleidoscope of stunning reds, oranges, and yellows.

If you’re a lover of fall hiking, northeastern Ontario is the place to be. The combination of rugged Canadian Shield and spectacular fall colours makes hiking in northeastern Ontario a bucket list item.

Our parks are home to some amazing must-see vistas that are illuminated each year by autumn’s changing leaves. Here are a few of our favourites.

Restoule Provincial Park

Come to Restoule and hike the Fire Tower Trail to the Stormy Lake Lookout, and stand on the edge of a rift valley. Yes, Ontario has rift valleys!

Two people look out on to the lake in the fall
Fall colours spread out beneath Restoule’s 100 m high “bluff”

The Ottawa-Bonnechere Rift Valley is a huge Y-shaped fault in the Shield bedrock that runs from Ottawa to the town of Mattawa. Here it splits, with one arm reaching north under Lake Timiskaming, and the other heading west, forming the Mattawa River Valley.

Cliff with forest with changing leaves

The rift valley formed over 500 million years ago when this region was part of a much bigger continent that then began to break apart.

Mississagi Provincial Park

It’s hard to say which one of Mississagi’s lookouts is the best.

The Helenbar Lookout, above picturesque Helenbar Lake, is probably the most visited in the park. The lookout is also literally the high point of the park’s seven kilometre Helenbar Lookout Trail.

A person sitting to the side of a panorama view of a lake with an brightly coloured forest in the background
A late September evening over Helenbar Lake highlights the changing colours of the forest below

The Brush Lakes Lookout on the longer McKenzie Trail is more remote, but equally as spectacular. We can thank geology again for the many viewpoints and lookouts found along the park’s trails.

Two hikers at a lookout in the fall on a cloudy day
Lower Brush Lake lies far below hikers on the Brush Lakes Lookout

The bedrock was formed about 2.5 billion years ago after sandy beaches along an ancient tropical sea became sandstone. The beach sand had grown so thick that the weight of it cemented the grains together to form bedrock.

Lake and colourful trees on a bright fall day
Helenbar Lookout

Half a billion years later, the bedrock had twisted and folded into a chain of mountains geologists say was as high as the Himalayas. Now just the roots of a once lofty range, the Penokean Hills still provide awesome views.

Killbear Provincial Park

The Twin Points Trail is the perfect way to experience Killbear Provincial Park if you have just an hour or two.

Fall forest with brightly coloured leaves along a sandy shoreline

It passes through forest, over rock barrens, along Killbear’s Georgian Bay shore, and leads to a hidden beach.

The Twin Points in the trail’s name are wide expanses of smooth bedrock that were sanded down by the glacial ice over thousands of years.

Lone red maple + bedrock shore

The trail begins in the park’s day-use area, making it easily accessible for both day trippers and for campers at one of Killbear’s many campgrounds.

Killbear is open until the end of October for camping and day use.  Georgian Bay moderates fall temperatures, and fall colours happen later than further inland.  Peak colours can continue well after Thanksgiving.

Chutes Provincial Park

Named for the log chute that lumberjacks built to bypass the main falls on the Aux Sables River during log drives, this park is centered on a river of waterfalls.

Water fall with autumn forest in the background
Fall colours reflect in the Aux Sables River above the main falls

The Twin Bridges Trail begins at the main falls and viewing platform, and follows the Aux Sables past a series of falls, cataracts and rapids known as the Seven Sisters.

River with fall colour trees

French River Provincial Park

Beginning at the French River Visitor Centre on Hwy 69, the 1.5 km Recollet Falls Trail skirts the edge of the French River Gorge, ending at Recollet Falls.

River with autumn forest in the background and sun setting in the sky
The French River runs silky smooth over Recollet Falls

The visually stunning gorge is formed by one of the many faults in the Canadian Shield that the French River follows down to Georgian Bay. Glacial ice sculpted the bedrock and gouged out the fault lines.

Rocks and water reflecting blue sky overhead

The French River was designated the first Canadian Heritage River in Canada’s Heritage River System. This accolade recognized it for its outstanding natural and cultural heritage, and recreational opportunities.

Fall trees beyond a rushing river

The French River was a key connection in a continent-wide trading network established by Indigenous people. It became a key link in the Fur Trade Era, and was important in the establishment of Canada itself.

Sun setting over river with forest on all sides

At Recollet Falls, there is a short portage that has been walked by a who’s-who of historic names, from 17th century Algonquin Chief Iroquet, to French explorer Samuel de Champlain, to Radisson and Groseilliers who were instrumental in the founding of the Hudson’s Bay Company.

Mashkinonje Provincial Park

Wetlands are important ecosystems that store and filter water as well as provide diverse habitat for plants and animals. Mashkinonje Provincial Park, 60 km southeast of Sudbury, protects a variety of wetland types (marshes, bogs, swamps, fens and ponds), interspersed with undulating granite ridges along the West Arm of Lake Nipissing.

A boardwalk stretches through wetland with forest in the background under blue sky
The Loudon Peatland Trail snakes across one of the park’s many wetlands

The Loudon Basin Peatlands is a provincially significant wetland in the park that from the air, looks like a swirl. It’s a swirl of bedrock ridges with wetlands in-between.

A group of people stand on a view platform looking out at the wetland under blue skies
The barrier-free portion of the Loudon Peatland Trail ends at a viewing platform with panels that interpret the park’s wetland habitats

The first 600 m of the Loudon Peatland Trail is barrier free and leads to a viewing platform at the peatland’s edge. Fall is a great time to go, when even the wetland grasses become golden.

Ready to hit the trails?

Plan your trip to see these once-in-a-lifetime views today! Don’t forget to prepare for the weather.