Story by Jennifer Merrick
“Get out of the car!”
This is Jeff “Foliage” Folder’s top tip for making the most of nature’s annual fall show.
Explore new places, stop at a farm stand, check out fall festivals, hike, drink apple cider, or take some pictures. It doesn’t matter what you do, he says, you’ll have a better experience on two feet than on four wheels.
“There’s been a lot of sun, which makes for happy leaves that stay on the branches longer,” he says. There are no guarantees, of course, and he explains that factors, such as rain and frost, can affect the colours. One thing he is sure about, however, after leaf peeping for many years, is how to plan a fall foliage trip.
Here are his top four tips for the season:
1. Think about your interests when choosing a location. Whether you’re into antiquing, history, trains, food, or wine, there are destinations that cater to your interests. Choose wisely, and you’ll have a weather-proof vacation where the brilliant fall hues are the icing on the proverbial cake.
2. Consider ski resorts. Ski lifts are great ways to get eagle-eye panoramic views of the flaming forests, and resorts often offer discounted rates and incentives during this shoulder season.
3. Timing is everything. Fall foliage spans from mid-September up north to the end of October farther south. Many sources, such as the Weather Channel and tourist websites (Ontario Parks, Ontario Fall Colour Progression Report) have fall foliage updates online and even web-cams to help choose your dates and destination.
4. Forget about “The Peak”. “The peak is a myth,” says Folder. He believes that some foliage enthusiasts spend too much time and effort in the quest for peak colours. He recommends getting this notion out of your head, and instead, relax and enjoy the vacation.
Keeping these tips in mind, here are three destinations for an unforgettable leaf-peeping vacation.
1. Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
The fresh scent of harvested grapes, which laces the crisp air, is the smell of autumn in the Niagara Region and it’s almost as good as the wine itself. All the senses are indulged here in this enchanted corner of Southern Ontario.
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Feast your eyes on the blazing hardwood groves along the country roads as you follow the wine routes from Queenston to Niagara-on-the-Lake and up through Jordan and Beamsville. Listen to the cascading waterfall at Twenty Mile Creek in the Balls Falls Conservation Area, a scenic place to hike or picnic. Last, but not least, treat yourself to a glass of the wine region’s renowned Riesling, Pinot Noir, or ice wine.
2. Fjord-du-Saguenay Park, Quebec
The deep fjord, and the 200-metre cliffs that rise above the glacially sculpted waterway, are stunning at any time of year, but truly extraordinary in autumn when the surrounding hills blaze with the fiery reds and oranges of the maples and the golden yellows of the birch and beech. One of the best ways to experience its grandeur is kayaking on the fjord. OrganisAction, a local outfitter, offers three-hour excursions out of this 319-square-kilometre park. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot the Peregrine falcons who nest here and the seals who bathe in the sun below.
[box_light]Learn More About the Beauty of Saguenay[/box_light]
Also at the park are camping sites, rustic shelters and 100 kilometres of hiking trails, including a challenging trek to Cap Éternité, which takes visitors up to a 7-metre statue of the Virgin Mary. Placed here at the top of the towering cliffs by a travelling salesman who credited his close escape from death to her divine intervention, the much-loved landmark has greeted ships and visitors since 1881. Visit the Saguenay region website for more details.
3. Agawa Canyon, Ontario
In the early 20th century, the Group of Seven, Canadian artists whose bold, dramatic style defined this nation’s art, used these railways to bring them to their muse — the vast wilderness with its deep blue lakes, glacial rocks, hardwood forest and wind-swept pines. The scenery is virtually unchanged now, almost 100 years later, still pristine and inspiring. Its spectacular beauty is what passengers on the Agawa Canyon Train Tour have travelled from all parts of the world to see. And autumn is naturally the tour’s busiest season. This one-day excursion begins in Sault Ste. Marie and chugs 185 kilometres north to the Agawa Canyon, one of the oldest rock formations in the world, created 1.2 billion years ago. Here the train stops and passengers disembark to picnic and take pictures. Cameras work overtime, capturing images of the 70-metre Bridal Veil Falls, and the panoramic view of the canyon from the Lookout Trail.
[box_light]Read How to Savour the Colours of Agawa Canyon[/box_light]