Fall in Canada is my favourite time of year. It’s time to think about what you can do to take advantage of what I think is the best season in Canada. With a little luck we’ll get loads of sunny warm days, cool nights and no bugs. Described are 16 places to visit and things to do in Canada in fall.
Check out the fall foliage hot spots across Canada this fall
Hit the road or the trails in search of the best fall foliage. Where do you find that? There are fantastic colours all over the country but the best colours are seen in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime Provinces – along with the larches in the Alberta Rockies.
Some of the hot spots to visit include the Laurentians, Eastern Townships and Gatineau Hills of Quebec, Algonquin Provincial Park, Awenda Provincial Park and Mississagi Provincial Parks in Ontario, Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, the Fundy Trail, Kouchibouguac National Park and some of the river valleys like the St. John River and Miramichi River Route in New Brunswick.
Don’t miss a trip to see Miscou Island in New Brunswick to see the bog ablaze in red. In Alberta head to Lake Louise and join the throngs hiking to the Larch Valley, located on the way to Sentinel Pass.
Read: A Complete Guide for the Best Places for Larch Viewing in Alberta
Canada in fall is a top time for grizzly bear viewing
Have you always wanted to see a grizzly bear? With salmon spawning there is no better time to see grizzlies than right now. You can head to Bella Coola on the coast of BC or inland to Chilko Lake. Great Bear Lodge off the coast of Vancouver Island is also an excellent destination.
Read: A Speculator Long Weekend at Great Bear Lodge
Take a mushroom identification course
Can you tell the difference between a poisonous and non-poisonous mushroom? If not why not sign up for a course and spend a day outside mushroom hunting.
There are a number of Mycological Societies across Canada that offer meetings and outings. Terra Nova National Park in Newfoundland hosts a mushroom foray at the end of September. If you’d rather eat them than look for them check out the Sunshine Coast Mushroom Festival in mid-October.
Watch the sockeye salmon spawn
Have you ever been to the Adam’s River in the Shuswap region of British Columbia? From late September to late October you can watch thousands if not millions of sockeye salmon return to spawn on the Adam’s River. Big years are considered to be every fourth year, with 2018 the most recent big year.
To see the sockeye salmon visit Tsútswecw Provincial Park (formerly Roderick Haig-Brown Park). Follow the trails down to viewing platforms by the river. The park is open daily from 9 AM until 4 PM.
Visit Grasslands National Park
Grasslands National Park in southern Saskatchewan is now a Dark Sky Preserve. This is where you can see some of the darkest skies in Canada – and what better time than at night in the fall before it’s too cold outside. Jasper National Park also puts on programs in the fall.
Apart from night sky viewing, fall is a beautiful time to visit for the colours, lack of bugs and beautiful hiking trails.
Catch the Celtic Colours International Festival
The Celtic Colours International Festival on Cape Breton Island takes every year in October. This is your chance to attend a fiddle or square dancing workshop.
Listen to music including Natalie McMaster, a Cape Breton girl. Catch a Gaelic breakfast, try playing the harp or learn how to quilt. There are loads of activities for all ages.
Take a scenic train ride
I remember my grandmother raving about her trip up the Agawa Canyon near Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario on the Algoma Central Railway. It’s a one day trip that transports you through the forests of the Canadian Shield. Fall colours are spectacular especially in the latter half of September and into the first week of October.
Check out the Okanangan Fall Festival
When grapes are ripening in the Okanagan that means the Okanagan Fall Festival is just around the corner. The festival takes place over the first few weeks of October. Take a vineyard tour, eat lunch among the vines or learn about wine and food pairings.
Drink some wine
The annual Niagara Wine Festival takes place over a couple of weeks in late September. It’s the largest wine festival in Canada, boasting over 100 events. Watch the parade, catch some concerts in the vineyards and treat your palate to some amazing wine.
Drink beer and eat bratwurst
Beer and bratwurst are the stars – at least as far as food is concerned at the annual Oktoberfest in Kitchener-Waterloo. This is the largest Oktoberfest celebration outside of Germany. It’s an annual event over nine days in mid-October.
Catch a fall bird migration
If you’re a bird lover than catching one of the fall migrations is what you’ll want to do. In Ontario head for Point Pelee National Park. On the west coast visit the Riefel Bird Sanctuary near Vancouver. Snow geese start arriving in early October in huge numbers – between 50,000 and 100,000 birds depending on the year.
Late in the fall it’s also worth the trip to Goldstream Provincial Park near Victoria to catch the masses of bald eagles that descend on the park. Or consider a hike on the Coastal Trail in East Sooke Park in mid-September to catch huge numbers of raptors before they cross the Juan de Fuca Strait.
Some of the other hot spots for birds in big numbers in Canada include the Witless Bay Sanctuary Ecological Reserve in Newfoundland, Grand Manan Island in New Brunswick, Southern Bight-Minas Basin National Wildlife Area close to Wolfville, Nova Scotia and Lesser Slave Lake and Beaverhill Lake in Alberta.
Canada in fall is prime time for polar bears in Churchill
It may not feel like fall if you head to Churchill, Manitoba but if you’d like to see polar bears then mid-October to mid-November is the time to go. Visit the Everything Churchill website for information on the twelve companies that offer tours.
There’s more to Churchill than polar bears. Birding is excellent. There is also dogsledding and the northern lights displays should be first rate.
Catch the Northern Lights
Head to northern latitudes in search of the northern lights. Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Fort McMurray all offer excellent viewing opportunities. With the Northern Lights appearing by late August you should have little trouble seeing them – and you probably won’t have to bundle up as much as you would in the winter.
Read: Northern Lights Viewing: The Fort McMurray Experience
Go apple picking
Go apple picking in the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia, in the Niagara region of Ontario or in the Eastern Townships in Quebec.
Visit one of the fall fairs somewhere in Canada
Visit a local fall fair and search out the biggest pumpkins and squash. Or go to a farmer’s market and support the local farms. One of my favourites is the Salt Spring Island fall fair where of course there is food, but also sheep dog competitions, a tractor pull and live music. When my mother lived on the island I would go and buy my annual braid of garlic bulbs.
Get outside in Canada in fall – before the snow flies
Get out for one last day in the kayak or canoe. One unseasonably warm and beautiful Thanksgiving weekend we enjoyed a paddle over to Sidney Spit off of Vancouver Island. If Mother Nature offers good weather, take advantage of it.
Go for a bike ride before the snow falls. Le Petit Train du Nord in the Laurentians is a great choice if you go late in September as you’ll bike on a converted rails to trails bed with fall colours everywhere you look.
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