Algonquin 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:
- 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 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.
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.
As well, there will be construction on Hwy 60 between Huntsville and Dwight, 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.
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.
Here are three recommended routes for a stellar fall colours tour:
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.
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 Highway 60 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.
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.
The 511 travel information service offered by the MTO (Twitter @511ONEastern or https://511on.ca/) 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.
Park only in designated parking lots and pull-outs along Highway 60 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 six weekends, including some Fridays and the Thanksgiving Monday in 2019: Sept. 14/15, Sept. 20/21/22, Sept. 27/28/29, Oct. 4/5/6, Oct. 11/12/13/14 and Oct. 18/19/20.
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 weekends for day use, and featuring a comfort station with flush/vault toilets), as well as East Beach (picnic pavilion open on weekends, however, no cooking, pets or smoking), 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.
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.
Don’t forget to grab a park Information 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.
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 14 and October 20, 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+) $16.75, and Ontario residents with a disability $10.50.
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 Highway 60 in minutes and avoid potential line-ups at the West Gate permit office.
Consider purchasing a Seasonal Day Use Vehicle Permit (either Annual or Summer), in advance to avoid the line-ups.
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:
- Arrowhead Provincial Park (2.5 hours north of Toronto, just north of Huntsville)
- 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.
Visit the park’s webpage and social media feeds, or call the park directly at 705-633-5572.
A word from our team at Algonquin
The 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.