Camping is usually associated with hot summer months. However, the arrival of fall doesn’t mean you have to pack your camping gear away just yet. Smaller crowds, absence of bugs and mild weather make fall a great time to get outside and enjoy nature. Evenings may be getting chilly but it can be easily fixed with a bowl of hot soup and roaring campfire. Plus, a gorgeous display of fall colours makes up for any inconveniences. So pack up you camping gear and some warm sweaters and head for the forest.
Here is a list of great Ontario Parks to visit in the fall.
Algonquin Provincial Park
Algonquin is a fall colours mecca that draws large crowds of daytime visitors, especially during weekends. It may result in longer than normal wait times for a permit so make sure to arrive early or better yet stay overnight at one of the campgrounds. Canisbay Campground is best for fall foliage but can be hard to book on a short notice. However, even though the other campgrounds are located in a primarily pine forest, there are lots of other ways to enjoy fall colours. Hike one of Algonquin’s numerous trails, explore one of the three bike routes or go for a paddle. An excellent Visitor Centre, Art Centre and Logging Museum are all great places to visit on a rainy day.
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Killarney Provincial Park
Killarney is beautiful in any season but the white quartzite ridges and clear blue lakes look particularly striking framed by bright fall foliage. Numerous hiking trails take visitors to various lookout points that offer spectacular views of La Cloche Mountains, Georgian Bay and inner lakes. The Crack Trail is the most challenging and the most rewarding: the views are stunning, especially in the fall. Canoeing is another great way to explore the park. Dozens of interconnected lakes offer hours, if not days, of paddling through some of the most beautiful vistas in Ontario.
Arrowhead Provincial Park
Located in the heart of Muskoka, Arrowhead is a great alternative to its usually more crowded neighbour – Algonquin Provincial Park. Arrowhead’s display of colours is just as impressive, and it offers large, private campsites and a variety of outdoor activities. There are 15 kilometres of hiking trails and two mountain biking trails in the park. You can also go canoeing on Arrowhead Lake or down the Little East River that will take you to the picturesque Stubb’s Falls (The Falls can also be accessed on foot). Make sure to visit the Big Bend Lookout for a spectacular view of the Big East River nestled amidst the Muskoka forest.
Restoule Provincial Park
This park’s location away from major highways and the fact that it is usually overlooked by campers make it an excellent spot for a quiet getaway. However, the fact that the campgrounds are not tightly packed does not mean the park lacks in beauty or things to do. Restoule boasts some incredible vistas, including spectacular views from the 100- metre-tall Stormy Lake Bluffs. The Bluffs can be accessed via a hiking trail that also features a historic fire tower. In addition to the Fire Tower Trail, there are other trails in the park, two of which are bicycle friendly. Restoule, Stormy and Clear Lakes and the Restoule River are all great places for canoeing.
Charleston Lake Provincial Park
Located in Eastern Ontario, this provincial park is an excellent fall camping destination. It boasts a beautiful rocky lake, numerous hiking trails, and, of course, golden fall foliage. Most of the park’s trails are short and easy to complete, and feature the geological and human history of the area. Two longer trails take hikers deeper into the park. Try a challenging Blue Mountain Trail where on a clear day you can see the Adirondack Mountains in New York State. Charleston Lake with its numerous bays and coves as well as Killenbeck and Redhorse Lakes accessible through short portages are all excellent paddling destinations.
Silent Lake Provincial Park
You can’t go wrong with Silent Lake Provincial Park where you will find beautiful fall foliage, tranquility and solitude, over 19 kilometres of hiking and biking trails, and a quiet, motorboat-free lake. If you are up for a challenge, hike the 15-kilometre-long Lakeshore Trail that will take you around the lake through hardwood forests, beaver meadows and swamps. Silent Lake offers calm and relaxing paddling and is perfect for novice paddlers. For additional privacy and solitude, book one of the walk-in sites available in the park.
Bon Echo Provincial Park
Bon Echo is famous for its 100-metre-high sheer rock that rises above Mazinaw Lake and features over 260 Aboriginal pictographs. The rock looks even more beautiful in the fall with streaks of orange and yellow added to its surface. Hike the Cliff Top Trail for spectacular views of the fall forest from the top of Mazinaw Rock. For a more challenging hiking experience and a feel of backcountry, trek one of the three loops of the Abes and Essens Trail. Canoeing on Mazinaw Lake is a great way to explore Mazinaw Rock and pictographs. Joeperry and Pearson Lakes are motorboat-free and, therefore, offer a quieter paddling experience. If you are up for it, take on the 21-kilometre-long Kishkebus Canoe Route.
Lake Superior Provincial Park
Fall colours combined with stunning views of Lake Superior, inland hills and valleys, numerous lakes, rivers and waterfalls make this park a great fall camping destination. The park’s hiking trails range from a short 0.5 km trail that takes you to the Agawa Rock Pictographs site to a challenging, multi-day trek along the coast of Lake Superior. Canoeists and kayakers will enjoy paddling on numerous inner lakes and rivers, and, of course, Lake Superior if the waters are calm. (Please exercise caution when paddling on Lake Superior as the weather can change abruptly). The area’s rich natural and human history is featured in a beautiful Visitor Centre located on the shore of Agawa Bay.
Sleeping Giant Provincial Park
Located on the shores of Lake Superior, Sleeping Giant Provincial Park features some of the highest vertical cliffs in Ontario. Accessible via a number of hiking trails, the views from the cliffs are spectacular, especially when bathed in the bright fall colours. A few of the trails are also bike friendly. If you are not up for a long, challenging hike, do one of the shorter trails, go canoeing on Marie-Louise Lake, visit the nearby community of Silver Islet or stop by the Visitor Centre to learn more about the Sleeping Giant Legend and the area’s history. Wildlife viewing opportunities in the park are excellent.
Quetico Provincial Park
A famous wilderness canoe tripping destination, Quetico is best explored by water. The tranquility and solitude of its lakes, streams and rivers nestled amidst thick, mixed forest is what attracts people to this park in north-western Ontario. However, you don’t need to venture into the backcountry to appreciate this beautiful park. You can stay at the Dawson Trail campground on the shore of French Lake. In addition to excellent canoeing, the park features over 35 km of hiking trails ranging from barrier-free to moderately difficult. On a rainy day, stop by the Information Pavilion and John B Ridley Research Library where you can learn more about the park, read or play a board game.
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This list is no way complete or exclusive. There are so many beautiful parks in Ontario that it is hard to cover all of them. Visit Ontario Parks website for more information about these and other parks as well as the fall colours report.
By Oleksandra Budna, an outdoor enthusiast and nature lover from Ontario. She documents her outdoor adventures in her blog Gone Camping