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Sep 20, 2018

6 min. read

As the days get shorter and the air, crisper, our attention turns to all things autumnal: cozy sweaters, pumpkin spice and nature’s showstopper, the changing of the leaves. While peak viewing is hard to predict—it’s dependent on the weather—leaves generally turn vibrant yellow, orange and red from the end of September through mid-October.

Fortunately, if you’re in the GTA, you don’t have to travel far to experience the best of leaf-peeping season. Fall colour reports (like the one from Ontario Parks) can keep you in the loop for prime viewing. While there are literally hundreds of options, here are five of our top picks.

Rouge National Urban Park, Toronto

As the largest urban park in Canada, Rouge National boasts nearly 80 square kilometres of wilderness between Lake Ontario and the Oak Ridges Moraine. There are several ways to soak up the fall hues in this city oasis. You can hike one of its many trails or drive north of Highway 401 to scenic lookouts, such as Glen Eagles Vista, that provide panoramic views of the Rouge River and surrounding tree-lined hills ablaze with colour.

Crawford Lake Conservation Area, Milton

Sitting atop the Niagara Escarpment, surrounded by lush forest, Crawford Lake is home to one of Canada’s rare meromictic lakes. Walk the 1.4-kilometre elevated boardwalk that encircles the lake to see the vibrantly coloured trees reflected on its glassy surface. Alternatively, get your heart pumping on the Nassagaweya Canyon Trail. It leads to neighbouring park Rattlesnake Point, which offers expansive views of the leafy canyon below.

Mono Cliffs Provincial Park, Orangeville

Located northeast of Orangeville along the Niagara Escarpment, Mono Cliffs is a day-use park criss-crossed with eight hiking trails that are carpeted with crunchy leaves in autumn. There’s also a kettle lake, crevice caves and some of the oldest white cedar forests in eastern North America. Hike to the lookout point for views of rolling forest and farmland from atop 30-metre-high cliffs.

Lake of Bays, Muskoka

There are plenty of ways to experience this township’s signature red maples, including hiking its extensive trail system, canoeing or kayaking its waters, or taking a scenic drive (or, for the adventurous, embarking on an ATV or helicopter tour). Top Lake of Bays spots include the observation deck of the historic Dorset Scenic Lookout Tower, which provides 360-degree views of the region, and the Oxtongue Rapids Trail, which highlights the area’s rugged natural forest.

Niagara Parkway, Niagara-on-the-Lake to Fort Erie

The historic 56-kilometre Niagara Parkway winds its way along the Niagara River from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Fort Erie. Take in the fall colours with a meandering afternoon drive along the parkway, or hike or bike the accompanying recreational trail. Perhaps the prettiest stretch in autumn is between Niagara-on-the-Lake and Queenston. Lined with colourful maple trees, this section of the parkway has several scenic lookouts where you can snap photos and soak up the atmosphere.

Want more ideas to fill your fall weekends?

While you’re day tripping, keep a lookout for these Ontario waterfalls. Plus, hiking enthusiasts should check out these five stunning hiking trails within commuting distance of Toronto.

Image credit: istock/DieterMeyrl

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