Dorset Scenic Lookout Tower - fall colours Algonquin Park

This article will discuss the best places to see the fall colours in Algonquin Park. In general, fall in Ontario is a great place to visit, but Algonquin Park is iconic for having vibrant autumn leaves.

As you may know, Algonquin Park is a large area, and it can be hard to know where to drive to find the colourful fall leaves. Additionally, Algonquin Park is a far distance for most people; therefore, you want to ensure that the long journey is worth it and that the leaves are at their best.

Thankfully, resources online will tell you the progress of the Algonquin Park leaves changing colour, such as the Algonquin Park webcam and its Algonquin Park fall colour report.

It is also worth knowing that you will also have a good chance of seeing the best fall colour viewing opportunities if you travel to Algonquin Park between mid-September and mid-October.

I lived in Ontario, Canada for nearly four years, so I became closely acquainted with the Ontario fall colours well. In addition, I have been to Algonquin Park around five times, but visiting Algonquin Park in autumn is a highlight of mine.

In this article, I will list the five best places to see peak fall colours in Algonquin Park. Plus, I will give information on how to buy park permits in advance, which are now required to enter the park due to high demand in the fall season.

I will also go deeper into information about when is the best time to see the autumn leaves change colour, depending on the type of tree and the crowds.

Many people will tell you that there are several other better places to see the fall colours in Ontario, but I think seeing Algonquin Park in autumn is worth doing and I will help you to achieve this.

Read on to find out where I recommend where to see the best fall colours Algonquin Park.

Where are the 5 Best Places to See Algonquin Park Fall Colours?

Spruce Bog Boardwalk in Algonquin Park with yellow tamarack trees
Spruce Bog Boardwalk

One of the best fall activities in Ontario is to be outside in nature. Here are my five favourite ways to see the fall colours in and around Algonquin Park.

  1. On the Drive to Algonquin Park
  2. Highway 60 Corridor
  3. Hiking Trails
  4. From the Lakes
  5. In the Backcountry
  6. Deerhurst Resort

1. On the Drive to Algonquin Park

Fall colours on the drive to Algonquin Park - yellow trees through car window

There is no doubt that Algonquin Park is the main attraction during autumn. But if you keep a look out during the drive to Algonquin Park, you will see a spectacular display of fall colours that will deepen the further north and more rural you go.

If you are driving from the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), the trees on the highway around Muskoka are impressive.

As you arrive in the Lake of Bays area, the scenery turns even more remarkable. However, due to the amount of private property surrounding the lake, it is difficult to stop and get closer to the lake.

Therefore, you could aim to visit some hiking trails in Muskoka, such as those listed on Discover Muskoka’s website. 

You will need a car to get to Algonquin Park because it is not accessible by public transportation. Some companies offer bus services to Algonquin Park from Toronto, such as Parkbus. However, they operate on a slim schedule.

Therefore, if you do not have a car, I suggest you rent a car.  

Dorset Scenic Lookout Tower

Peek-a-boo Lookout at Dorset Scenic Lookout Tower - colourful autumn leaves
Peek-a-Boo Lookout

To get an incredible view of fall colours in Muskoka on the drive to Algonquin Park, I recommend a stop at Dorset Scenic Lookout Tower.

This lookout tower near Algonquin Park will provide fantastic photographic opportunities and a chance to use the portable bathrooms after the long drive up.

Going up the Dorset Scenic Lookout Tower is the best lookout to see the colours in the area.

During the peak fall colours period, you must book an advanced ticket for the Dorset Tower, if you would like to visit on the weekend during peak fall. The entrance fee is $17.50 per car when booking the tower online

You do not need to make an advanced booking if you visit on a weekday (except for Thanksgiving Monday). You can visit the Dorset Tower’s Facebook page for updates on opening days and times. 

When I visited in 2019, I was required to pay for the entrance in cash. They may accept card payments now.

I visited during the week, which meant it was not busy. During the peak period of the changing colours, there can be a long wait to climb the Dorset Scenic Lookout Tower. Plus, it can be more challenging to find a parking spot.

Dorset Scenic Lookout Tower with leaves framing
Dorset Scenic Lookout Tower

The scenic lookout tower stands at 142 metres high and allows you to climb to the top. The climb is not for the faint-hearted. I only managed to climb halfway before deciding the view was good enough and my knees buckled in from my nerves.

A sign at the bottom of the steps, “Do not climb during strong winds”, but windy weather can be expected in October.

You can feel the wind when you get higher up the tower. Also, looking down through the gaps in the metal stairs may be enough to make you want to turn back immediately.

Thankfully, even if you do not feel like climbing the tower, there is a stunning lookout point where your feet stay firmly on the ground. It is called Peek-a-boo Lookout, and it is a few strides away from the tower.

To see how the fall colours are doing, you can have a look at the live Dorset Tower webcam. You need to scroll down the page a little to see the webcam.

2. Highway 60 Corridor

Orange and yellow leaves on walking trail in Algonquin Park

The road that leads you to Algonquin Park from both the east and the west is called Highway 60.

The corridor of Highway 60 that passes through Algonquin Provincial Park is called Frank MacDougall Parkway. It received its name as a dedication to Mr MacDougall for being the Superintendent of Algonquin Park and for his involvement in creating the provincial park system in Ontario.

Highway 60 will be the first viewpoint in Algonquin Park for all visitors since you need to drive through it to enter the main part of the park. The bright colours along the corridor are stunning, offering a breathtaking view of the vibrant autumn leaf display.

Nonetheless, you are not allowed to stop along Highway 60 unless it is at a designated parking bay. Even if you see other visitors stopping along the road or if you see some wildlife, do not copy the other vehicles, since it is forbidden to stop.

There are plenty of places to stop along the route to see the leaves up close and take photographs, such as Oxtongue River, Tea Lake, Canisbay Lake, Lake of Two Rivers, and Algonquin Visitor Centre.

Algonquin Park has some of the most spectacular fall leaves in Ontario. But I encourage you to learn about Algonquin Park’s cultural history to give you a greater meaning of the park.

For more ways to learn about the history of Algonquin Park, you can visit the Algonquin Logging Museum near the East Gate. Find out the opening times on the park events calendar.

I stopped at the beach of The Lake of Two Rivers to check out the view, but it was not my favourite view of the park. However, the lake is close to Mew Lake campground, where it is possible to camp year-round. You can also access the Old Railway Bike Trail from Mew Lake campground, which can be enjoyed all year round. 

Use this Highway 60 Corridor Map to see the different stops and the trails along the road.

Do I Need a Permit to Drive Through Algonquin Park?

You must reserve a Daily Vehicle Permit (DVP) for the Highway 60 Corridor to drive through Algonquin Park. You can arrange your permit five days prior on the Ontario Parks website. 

You need to book the Highway 60 Corridor Algonquin permit if you want to drive along the road and stop at different lake accesses with facilities, such as bathrooms. 

If you want to use the Booth’s Rock trail near the Rock Lake access point, you should book the specific Booth’s Rock permit. You can buy this pass in combination with the Highway 60 permit on the Ontario Parks website.

3. Hiking Trails to See Fall Colours in Algonquin Park

Hardwood Lookout Trail with a view of Smoke Lake in autumn
Hardwood Lookout Trail with a view of Smoke Lake

Algonquin Park offers a range of hiking trails that provide excellent opportunities to immerse yourself in the vibrant fall foliage. Here are best Algonquin trails for fall colours:

Hardwood Lookout Trail

  • This is a shorter trail that offers a rewarding experience. It takes approximately 20 minutes to complete, covering a 1 km loop. It is rated moderate.
  • At the trail end, you will be treated to a stunning view of Smoke Lake, where the autumn colours are abundant.
  • Be aware that this trail can close during peak weekends, as shown in this article.

Lookout Trail

  • This trail offers a short (2.1km) but steep hike with a rewarding view at the end. It is rated difficult.
  • If the car park is full, you can park at the Big Pines Trail parking lot and follow the signs to reach the trailhead. Avoid walking along the highway for safety reasons.
  • Lookout Trail is on the east of the park and is not to be confused with the Hardwood Lookout Trail.

Track and Tower Trail

  • For those seeking a more challenging adventure, the Track and Tower Trail is a 7.5 km loop featuring a spectacular lookout over Cache Lake.
  • This trail offers a more physically demanding hike and takes around 4 hours to complete.
  • Be prepared for a busy car park on weekends and a notably long staircase along the way.

Booth’s Rock Trail

  • To hike Booth’s Rock Trail during autumn, you must book this trail specifically.
  • The trail is 5.1 km and is rated difficult. Booth’s Rock Trail has an excellent viewpoint.
  • It is located near Rock Lake, but access is subject to the car park’s capacity. Even if you have a permit for this trail, you may not be able to access it if the parking lot is full.

Spruce Bog Boardwalk

Spruce Bog Boardwalk in Algonquin Park - yellow tamarack trees
Spruce Bog Boardwalk
  • Spruce Bog Boardwalk offers a unique view compared to some of the other trails, with a great view of tamarack trees.
  • the Spruce Bog Boardwalk is a lovely 1.5km accessible option that takes about 20 minutes to complete.
  • The trail is accompanied by informative booklets that share stories and insights about the natural surroundings, enhancing your hiking experience.

After seeing the Algonquin Park live webcam stream, I wanted to find its view, which is at the Algonquin Visitor Centre.

Unfortunately, the day I visited the visitor centre was closed due to a power outage, meaning I could only walk to the Fire Tower Trail (less than a 5-minute walk), and the view was less impressive than other trails due to its lack of visibility. But the trail is accessible.

For more information on Algonquin Park and its hiking trails, you can visit the Ontario Parks website.

4. From the Lakes

Exterior of The Portage Store in Algonquin Park with red tree leaves
The Portage Store

One of the best ways to avoid the crowds when trying to see the fall colours in Algonquin Park is by going out on the water. You can rent a canoe (or bring your own) and spend the day exploring Algonquin from the various lakes.

Canoes are available to rent from the Portage Store on Canoe Lake, the Lake of Two Rivers Store, and the Opeongo Store (operated by Algonquin Outfitters) at Lake Opeongo. These stores are open until Canadian Thanksgiving (the second Monday in October).

You can speak to the shop employees for advice on where to take the canoe at this time of year. You can also call ahead of your rental to get some advice beforehand.

There are also guided canoe tours if you prefer to go with a local expert.

5. In the Backcountry

Yellow autumn leaves in Algonquin Park

As I mentioned in my Algonquin backcountry camping guide, autumn is a great time to go camping for several reasons.

Firstly, many common flying insects, such as mosquitos or black flies, have gone (compared to summer camping).

Additionally, there is a better pick for some of the more preferred campsites because it is a quieter time of year for camping. The backcountry trails will be quieter than the drive-in ones.

Although the temperatures will be cooler in September and October, this may be a welcome relief for some campers.

It can be hot in the summer months, and you will not have to worry about getting burnt or heatstroke – which is a common problem for me. Also, your canoe trip meals will stay chilled or frozen for longer.

However, the main reason for backcountry camping in fall is to see all the incredible colours from different angles. You will be able to combine several of the above methods for seeing the fall leaves.

You can take your canoe onto the water by portaging to various lakes. You will see the leaves along Highway 60 as you enter the park. Plus, you can find some hiking routes, such as when camping at Rock Lake.

Rock Lake and Magnetawan Lake are available to book on Ontario Park’s reservation system until late October.

Learn what to pack to stay safe while backcountry camping here.

6. Deerhurst Resort

Deerhurst Resort and Peninsula Lake in autumn with red and orange leaves
Deerhurst Resort

While not technically in Algonquin Park, Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville is the perfect place to stay for an overnight visit to see the Algonquin leaves changing colour. It provides a convenient base for exploring the area surrounding Algonquin Park, given that it is a 30-minute drive from the park.

Not only are there some walking trails around the resort but there is also the most beautiful view across the Peninsula Lake just in front of the hotel. The view is even more spectacular on a sunny day as the sunlight bounces off the lake onto the trees to make the autumn leaves turn a beautiful golden colour.

Big Muskoka Chair in Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville

While walking around the trails near Deerhurst Resort, I saw several maple trees with taps, which was interesting.

The hotel is quite basic in its decor and rooms are tired, but the location and scenery are impressive. So that is why I recommend staying at Deerhurst Resort to see the fall colours in Algonquin Park.

There is a small range of accommodation in the area, so there are not bountiful luxurious options.

Deerhurst Resort also features on my article of best winter getaways in Ontario.

When is the Best Time for Fall Colours in Algonquin Park?

Vast forest of orange and red tree leaves in Algonquin Park

The best time for fall colours in Ontario is different to the best time for fall colours in Algonquin Park because the park has a different climate to many residential areas of Ontario.

The colour change of the leaves in Algonquin Park occurs earlier than in places like Toronto or Ottawa due to its cooler temperatures and higher elevation, making mid-September to mid-October the prime period to witness this spectacular transformation.

Therefore, do not use the above cities as a baseline for the leaf colour change in Algonquin Provincial Park. The best time for fall colours in many parts of Ontario is usually late September to mid-October.

The Red Maples and Sugar Maple leaves typically show between mid-September and mid-October. Aspen leaves are an orange colour and typically appear in early to mid-October. Lastly, the Tamarack trees have a gorgeous yellow colour in autumn, and its peak is from mid to late October.

You can see a rough prediction of dates on the Algonquin fall colour report if you are trying to arrange a trip in advance.

Additionally, you can figure out the best time to see fall colours in Algonquin Park by looking at the Algonquin Park fall colours live webcam.

Learn about the other seasons in Ontario here and start thinking about the winter activities to come.

Algonquin Park Fees and Daily Vehicle Permits

To fully enjoy your visit to see the Algonquin fall colours, you should be aware of the park fees and the process for obtaining a daily vehicle permit.

Permit Availability

Algonquin Park operates on a permit system. You can reserve your park permit up to 5 days ahead of your desired visit. However, do not wait until the last minute, as permits can sell out quickly, especially during peak times like weekends.

To stay updated on permit availability and park information, you can check Algonquin Park’s Twitter feed.

Day Use Permits

To explore Highway 60 and its attractions within Algonquin Park, you will need a day-use permit. These permits may be checked, so it is essential to have one when accessing the park’s amenities and scenic routes.

If you have obtained your permit through the online booking platform, there is no need to stop at the Park Office in the West or East of the park.

If you have booked a canoe access point, a cabin, or a yurt for your camping experience, you do not need an additional permit as it is already included.

Algonquin Park’s Visitor Centre is the only place within its boundaries with Wi-Fi access, and mobile service is limited throughout the park. Therefore, it is wise to come prepared with any bookings, directions, or information you may need for your visit.

How Busy is it in Algonquin Park in the Fall?

Hiking trail in Algonquin during fall

It can be extremely busy in Algonquin Park in autumn, but there are suggested times to avoid if you are flexible. The busiest days are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

The best time to visit Algonquin Park to avoid the crowds during autumn is on weekdays, but not Fridays.

It is busier accessing Algonquin Park from the West Gate than it is from the East Gate. So, if you are visiting on a peak day, it is recommended to adjust your directions, even if coming from the GTA, to start your visit to Algonquin Park from the East Gate.

Many of Algonquin’s attractions are located on the east side, such as the Algonquin Logging Museum and Algonquin Park Visitor Centre.

If you are still entering the park from the West, there are bathroom facilities at the West Gate, but these are typically the busiest, so aim to use one further inside the park. The toilets in Algonquin Park can be seen on this map of the park.

Do not be afraid of visiting Algonquin Park on a cloudy or drizzly day, because you can still take great photographs. The grey sky will make a contrasting backdrop for the autumn leaves and cause them to pop. Plus, it is typically less busy on a cloudy or rainy day since most people aim to visit on a sunny day.

What to Wear in Algonquin Park in Fall?

Blundstone 550 boots in classic black

As mentioned previously, Algonquin Park can be much colder than the GTA. Therefore, you should ensure you have suitable layers and accessories.

Wear shoes that are waterproof and have a good grip. I suggest walking boots, such as these Merrell boots that I own – they are comfortable and supportive on the ankle.

Alternatively, you could wear a pair of Blundstone boots that are widely popular in Canada. I own two pairs of Blundstones and wear them almost every day of fall and winter when living in Ontario.

Bring a coat that is warm enough, such as a down-filled, knee-length jacket. However, if it is raining, you may need to wear a raincoat with thicker layers underneath.

Find out more about what to wear in Canada during the cold seasons here.

FAQ – Fall Colours Algonquin Park

Where to eat in Algonquin Park?

Algonquin Park has several dining options, but check the opening hours because they typically close after Canadian Thanksgiving. I ate at the Portage Store Restaurant and they served kinds of food, such as burgers, soups, and salads on the edge of Canoe Lake.

You can also bring a picnic and eat on a bench in the park.

How far is Algonquin Park from Toronto?

The drive to Algonquin Park from the GTA is around 3 hours north to its west entrance gate. The distance is approximately 264 km. Therefore, it is best enjoyed as at least an overnight trip.

What to do in Algonquin Park in fall?

In Algonquin Park in fall, you can admire the vibrant leaves on the drive along Highway 60 Corridor, explore hiking trails, paddle through the colourful lakes by canoe, experience backcountry camping for a serene escape, and consider staying at Deerhurst Resort for a picturesque view of the season’s beauty.

How big is Algonquin Park?

Algonquin Park is an area spanning 7,630 km².

When do leaves change in Algonquin Park?

In Algonquin Park, the leaves change colours from mid-September to mid-October, earlier than in many other parts of Ontario, due to cooler temperatures and higher elevation.

Avoid using cities like Toronto or Ottawa as a reference, and check the Algonquin fall colour report or the live webcam for more accurate timing.

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