Cooler days and milder weather make autumn ideal for hiking in Northern Ontario, but the real reason most people hit the trails in fall is the vibrant and colourful landscape.
In fact, Northern Ontario’s flashy fall colours have always attracted those eager to see the marvels of wild Ontario firsthand. A.Y. Jackson, Lawren Harris and Tom Thompson of the famous Group of Seven all painted in the Algoma region, while several movies have also featured the rugged landscape.
But if hiking is at the top of your to-do list this autumn, grab your camera and boots, and head out to the countless lookouts and waterfalls across the province. There is something for everyone, whether you want a casual stroll or a good workout. Here are eight Northern Ontario hikes that you should explore this season.
Sleeping Giant Provincial Park
Address: RR1, Pass Lake, ON
At Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, you can enjoy vistas of orange and yellow against the bright blue water of Lake Superior and smaller ponds, depending on which trails you pick. This Ontario provincial park features over 100 kilometres of hiking trails, ranging from an easy 0.3-kilometre walk to a 74-kilometre loop that would take multiple days to complete.
Top of the Giant Trail, for example, will lead you to an iconic Canadian lookout view from one of the tallest cliffs in Ontario. The trail is rated difficult, and the distance from the parking lot to the view and back is 21.8 kilometres. But. if you are up for the challenge, you can gaze out over the peninsula’s edge through towering rock faces, surrounded by green evergreens and autumn hues.
Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park
Address: Kakabeka Falls, ON
If you are looking for a shorter hike leading straight to a beautiful scene, Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park’s Boardwalk Trail is a great choice. It is less than a kilometre long and is wheelchair accessible, with viewing platforms where you can admire Kakabeka Falls. Mountain Portage Trail is also accessible and offers the same waterfall view.
The waterfall is the second highest in the province at a whopping 40 metres. The boardwalk section is wrapped around the top of the cascade so you can look down upon the water rushing through a gorge. In autumn, golden leaves add some colourful magic to the already stunning location.
Killarney Provincial Park
Address: 960 Hwy. #637, Killarney, ON
Expansive landscapes featuring mountain ridges, sapphire lakes and tree-covered hills await in Killarney Provincial Park. The specular wilderness in this area is so stunning that it inspired paintings by members of the Group of Seven.
One of the best times to visit the park is in the fall to view the bright Ontario colours as the maples, oak and birch leaves change colour. Multiple moderate hikes will lead you through forests to stunning vistas, including Granite Ridge Trail. The two-kilometre trail is the shortest option in the park, providing views of the La Cloche Mountains. The route takes you through old fields and forests up to a ridge where you will find two breathtaking lookouts. You can also surround yourself with the mountain cliffs on the popular six-kilometre trail named The Crack.
Restoule Provincial Park
Address: 8818 Hwy. 534, Restoule, ON
This provincial park boasts jaw-dropping fall colours, according to Ontario Parks. There are several hikes to choose from, including Fire Tower Trail, which is considered the “must-do” trail in Restoule. Navigate through mature forests, across boardwalks and rock ridges, passing a historic fire tower to two lookouts. There is a rest area at Amber Lake where you can enjoy the view and an epic view over Stormy Lake from atop the bluff. There are also paddle routes so you can kayak or canoe past ancient trees and admire the vibrant colours from below. Add a visit to the park to your early autumn to-do list, as it closes for the season in mid-October.
Cup And Saucer Nature Reserve
Address: 4097 ON-540, Sheguiandah, ON
Explore up to 12 kilometres of hiking trails within this island nature reserve. The Cup and Saucer Trail is a well-known hike on Manitoulin Island that will have you exploring rock crevices and admiring endless views of blue water and colourful trees. As one of the more difficult trails on the island, prepare for a bit of a workout.
You will climb up to a cliff lookout and admire the expansive scene of autumn colours against the sparkling blue of the North Channel and Lake Manitou (that connect to Lake Huron). Just a 15-minute drive away from this nature reserve you will find Bridal Veil Falls, where you can keep hiking or take a short trail directly to a magical waterfall.
Killbear Provincial Park
Address: 35 Eddie Ramsay Pkwy., Nobel, ON
At Killbear Provincial Park, you can wander past vibrant trees of orange, red and yellow in the fall on trails that lead to rocky shorelines and sandy beaches. All four hiking trail options lead to water views, and you’ll see many windswept pine trees that seem to dance on rock islands.
Lighthouse Point Trail is the shortest one at 800 metres, and it brings you to Killbear Point, where there are unique rockscapes and a lookout over Georgian Bay. Recreational Trail is a six-kilometre path where you can also bike, ending at Lighthouse Point. You’ll catch even more beautiful colours if you hike during golden hour and watch the sunset over Georgian Bay. Note the park closes from early November to early January each year.
Pukaskwa National Park
Address: Hwy. 627, Heron Bay, ON
This gorgeous park boasts lush forests, sandy beaches, rock faces, crystal water and a suspension bridge. There are a variety of trails to choose from, ranging from easy to difficult, most of which lead you to the water’s edge and past tones of yellow and orange leaves in the autumn.
The easy and moderate-rated trails feature boardwalks and stairways to help you navigate over wet areas and cliff sections. The Southern Headland Trail, for example, extends over Lake Superior, where you can catch a glimpse of Hattie Cove and Horseshoe Bay. If you plan on experiencing the White River Suspension Bridge, don’t expect a simple stroll, this adventurous trek via the Coastal Hiking Trail totals 18 kilometres long. The bridge hangs 23 metres above waterfalls you can admire as they rush through a gorge. It’s a three-season park which closes in November, so get those early and mid-fall hikes in.
Pancake Bay Provincial Park
Address: 12729 Hwy. 17 N, Batchawana Bay, ON
Pancake Bay Provincial Park boasts a three-kilometre sandy shore that parallels Lake Superior but go before it closes for the season in mid-October. The classic fall leaf colours are sprinkled amongst the green, highlighted against the white sand and blue water. There are two main hiking loops to enjoy a leisurely 3.5-kilometre stroll or a 14-kilometre adventure.
The Lookout Trail totals 14 kilometres, but you can shorter it to seven kilometres if you head straight to the lookout and back. This trail shows some of the best views of Pancake Bay, and you’ll be able to gaze out to “the graveyard of the Great Lakes,” where the ship Edmund Fitzgerald sunk in 1975.