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Algonquin Park Fall Colour Report

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Fall colour in Algonquin Park on September 28, 2016

Image above: Fall colour near Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park on September 28, 2016 (click to enlarge).

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Summary

Now is the time for fall colour viewing in Algonquin Park! At the current time, Algonquin Park’s Sugar Maple canopy colour is "near peak" with excellent maple viewing throughout the Highway 60 Corridor. The overall landscape remains a blend of green, yellow, orange, red, and purple (see Recent Images below). The maple understory (still protected from cold temperatures and frost) is a blend of yellow and green, with the scattered vibrant red of Red Maples.

A warm fall is resulting in later than average fall colour change in Algonquin Park. For example, during the past 40+ years, the Sugar Maple canopy in the western portion of the Highway 60 Corridor has had an average peak colour date of September 27. The Sugar Maple canopy is not yet at peak as this year's mild temperatures will likely extend the best maple viewing into early October. The record late date for the peak of Sugar Maple colour in Algonquin Park is October 9 (1996).

Fall colour is subject to numerous environmental variables such as daylight length, moisture, temperature, frost, wind, heavy rain, etc., so the exact peak of fall colour is difficult to determine in advance. High winds, rain, or even snow can sometimes quickly result in fragile leaves being knocked off the trees increasing what is called leaf fall.


Live Algonquin Park Webcam

Algonquin Park Webcam: Live Views of Algonquin ParkFor real-time video, plus daily panorama images of Algonquin Park, watch the Algonquin Park Webcam broadcasting from the roof of the Algonquin Park Visitor Centre. It should be noted that this location is dominated by poplar and birch species that show their best yellow-orange colour in early to mid October, after the peak of the Sugar Maple forest. Thus we would not recommend using this live webcam as indicator of peak Sugar Maple colour in Algonquin Park.


Current Status of Algonquin Park's Fall Colour

Below is the current status of Algonquin Park's fall colour change. Please check back throughout fall for more detailed updates as conditions warrant.

Current Algonquin Park Fall Colour Status

Report Date:
Current Status Category: NEAR PEAK
Percentage of Colour Change: 90%
Percentage of Leaf Fall: 5%

Current Maple Colour Status in Algonquin Park

Current Poplar and Birch Colour Status in Algonquin Park


Recent Images of Algonquin Park

Below are recent images of Algonquin Park. Click to enlarge the images and see the captions for the image date and location. For live video see the Algonquin Park Webcam or The Friends of Algonquin Park's Facebook page for additional images.

Fall colour in Algonquin Park on September 28, 2016 at km 26 of Highway 60

Image above: Fall colour near Track and Tower Trail in Algonquin Park on September 28, 2016 (click to enlarge).

Fall colour on September 28 at km 7 of Highway 60 in Algonquin Park

Image above: Fall colour near Whiskey Rapids Trail in Algonquin Park on September 28, 2016 (click to enlarge).

Smoke Lake in Algonquin Park on September 26, 2016

Image above: Fall colour near Source Lake Road (km 20 of Highway 60) in Algonquin Park on September 26, 2016 (click to enlarge).

Algonquin Park fall colour on September 20, 2016 at km 16

Image above: Near km 26 in Algonquin Park on September 26, 2016. (click to enlarge).

Smoke Lake in Algonquin Park on September 26, 2016

Image above: At km 10 of Highway 60 in Algonquin Park on September 26, 2016 (click to enlarge).

Smoke Lake in Algonquin Park on September 26, 2016

Image above: Fall colour near km 12 of Highway 60 in Algonquin Park on September 26, 2016 (click to enlarge).

Smoke Lake in Algonquin Park on September 26, 2016

Image above: View from near km 15 of Highway 60 in Algonquin Park on September 26, 2016 (click to enlarge).

Smoke Lake in Algonquin Park on September 26, 2016

Image above: At the Track and Tower Trail in Algonquin Park on September 26, 2016 (click to enlarge).

Smoke Lake in Algonquin Park on September 26, 2016

Image above: Highway 60 at the Whiskey Rapids Trail (km 7) in Algonquin Park on September 26, 2016 (click to enlarge).

Smoke Lake in Algonquin Park on September 26, 2016

Image above: Fall colour near Smoke Lake in Algonquin Park on September 26, 2016 (click to enlarge).

 

Algonquin Park fall colour on September 20, 2016 at km 16

Image above: Near West Smith Lake in Algonquin Park on September 23, 2016. (click to enlarge).

Algonquin Park fall colour on September 20, 2016 at km 16

Image above: At Pitcher Plant Pond in Algonquin Park on September 23, 2016. (click to enlarge).

Algonquin Park fall colour on September 20 near the West Gate

Image above: West of the West Gate (km 0) in Algonquin Park on September 20, 2016 (click to enlarge).


Algonquin Park Autumn Day Use Guide

When Should I Visit Algonquin Park?

A trip to Algonquin Park between mid-September and mid-October is best for observing Algonquin Park's fall colour, but more precision regarding an exact date depends upon what species of tree you are interested in observing.

Red Maple in Algonquin ParkAlgonquin Park is home to 34 native species of trees. Of these species 10 are classified as conifers (cone bearing) and will retain their leaves (needles) year-round and are often referred to as "evergreen". The only exception is the Tamarack that changes to golden yellow colour before dropping its needles in preparation for winter. The other 24 species of deciduous trees change colour at different times, depending upon the species, their location in Algonquin Park, and the specific environmental conditions in that area. No tree happens to grow in a location, rather they struggle against great odds and hazards for a place in the sun and each species is subtly equipped to do better than its competition in certain conditions. Therefore the mosaic of forest types in Algonquin Park is no accident but is determined by soil type, moisture, climate, etc. resulting in the amazing blend of green, yellow, orange, red, and purple colours makes Algonquin Park's fall colour so special.

Traditionally, Algonquin Park's fall colour occurs earlier than surrounding areas because of the Park's higher elevation, up to almost 600 metres above sea level. This can mean the best colour is observed several weeks (or more!) prior to leaf colour change in places like Ottawa (70 metres above sea level), Toronto (75 metres above sea level), or or even communities just outside Algonquin Park's boundaries. Algonquin Park’s high elevation, thin soils, and cooler temperatures results in a shorter growing season for all plants including its trees.

Mid-September to Early October

Fall Colour in Algonquin Park

If visiting Algonquin Park during mid-September to early October, you will observe the colour change of the Sugar Maples and Red Maples. This fall colour covers hills in orange and red colours and is best observed at locations with expansive views such as trails and views across water. During the past 40+ years, the earliest Sugar Maple peak recorded was September 15, 1982 and the latest October 9, 1996. During 2015, the peak Sugar Maple colour was determined to be October 8 (almost record late), as a result of warm fall temperatures and a late frost. The average peak of the Sugar Maple canopy in the western portion of the Highway 60 Corridor is September 27. See the current status of Algonquin Park's colour change above.

Early to Mid-October

Large-toothed Aspen in Algonquin Park

An Algonquin Park visit between early to mid October (including Thanksgiving) will observe the yellow-orange colours displayed by poplar and birch species, plus the orange colour of the Sugar Maple understory. This time known as the "Golden Encore" generally occurs after the Sugar Maple and Red Maple peak colour, but offers great landscape views in poplar and birch dominated areas. The eastern portion of the Highway 60 Corridor and the Park's East Side is a great location to view this colour.

Once leaves have fallen from the tops of the Sugar Maples, the understory changes colour at ground level as it was previously protected from cold temperatures by the blanket of overhead leaves. A hike along an interpretive trail dominated by maples is a great way to see understory fall colour up close.

Mid to Late October

Tamarack

A mid to late October visit showcases Tamarack at their peak yellow colour before dropping their needles in preparation for winter. The Tamarack is Algonquin Park's only cone bearing tree that changes colour and drops all its needles in preparation for winter. Search for Tamaracks in wetlands and bogs including the Spruce Bog Boardwalk, the Mizzy Lake Trail, or along the Opeongo Road. By late October or early November (depending upon environmental conditions) all deciduous trees are bare and prepared for winter.

How Long Will the Fall Colour Last?

Upcoming weather conditions (including wind, rain, and snow) will determine the end of the fall colour viewing season. In some years, the best colour is short lived as a result of high winds for example. In other years the best viewing will remain for weeks. Environmental conditions control the duration that various species of trees will retain their fragile fall coloured leaves.

Review 2015 Fall Colour in Algonquin Park

To review the 2015 fall colour season, see the images posted on Facebook or the Archive feature of the Algonquin Park Webcam.


Red Maple in Autumn, Algonquin ParkWhy Does Fall Colour Happen?

Algonquin Park is ablaze with vibrant colours during September and October. In a landscape so often dominated by the green of summer, how does this brief explosion of reds, oranges, and yellows happen in the early autumn? The answer involves a complex process of numerous chemicals and environmental variables. Read more at Why Does Fall Leaf Colour Change Happen?


Where Should I Visit in Algonquin Park?

Algonquin Park Autumn Day Use Guide
Autumn Day Use Guide - EN, FR, DE, ZH, JA, KO
Algonquin Park Autumn Day Use Guide

The "Algonquin Dome" refers to the high elevation piece of the Canadian Shield that underlies the western two-thirds of Algonquin Park. Here an ancient mountain range continues to exist increasing elevation well above that of surrounding areas (primarily outside the Park). These ancient rolling hills covered by soils deposited by a glacier thousands of years ago, creating suitable conditions for the growth of maples. The maples - primarily Sugar, Red and Striped - experience a cooler climate than those outside the Park area as a result of the higher elevation. These cooler conditions and the resulting shorter growing season make for an early fall and thus an earlier fall colour watching season than other locations in southern Ontario. Fortunately for visitors, Highway 60 runs through a large section of Algonquin Park's higher elevation. The Highway 60 Corridor provides easy access to the Park area dominated by these three species of maples for keen "leaf peepers".

Below is a satellite image taken near the peak of the Sugar Maple canopy showing the red/orange colour of the Sugar Maples and the boundary of Algonquin Park. Algonquin Park's West Side including the Highway 60 Corridor is dominated by maples, while the the Park's East Side is dominated by pines that show green needles that do not change colour. This satellite image was taken on October 1, 2012.

Algonquin Park's Fall Colour Seen From Space

Suggested Places for Viewing Algonquin Park's Fall Colour

Below are suggested places for viewing Algonquin Park's fall colour. These locations change according to the date and conditions observed within Algonquin Park.

Recommended Interpretive Walking Trails

Regardless of the exact date, Algonquin Park's Interpretive Trails are a good way to view the fall colour. Trails offering lookouts with wide vistas are especially popular around the Sugar Maple peak and the later peak of poplar and birch species. These day walking trails range in length from 800 metres to 11 kilometres in length. Trails that are suggested for fall walking include:

Side Roads with Foliage Viewing Opportunities

The following side roads connected to Highway 60 offer foliage viewing opportunities with lower speed traffic than Highway 60.

  • Roads leading to Access Points around the periphery of Algonquin Park

Tips for Viewing Algonquin Parks Fall Colour

Fall colour in Algonquin Park

Coming to Algonquin Park to enjoy the best fall colour? Here are a few tips for fall colour watchers.

1. Plan ahead

Know where you want to explore and how to get there. Use official Park information sources such as:

2. Know when to visit

Not all trees change colour at the same time. Traditionally, Algonquin Park's fall colour occurs earlier than surrounding areas because of the Park's high elevation, thin soils, and cooler temperatures results in a shorter growing season for all plants including its trees. This can mean the best fall colour is observed several weeks (or more!) prior to leaf colour change in places like Ottawa, Toronto or even communities just outside Algonquin Park’s boundaries. Algonquin Park fall colour season typically starts in mid-September and concludes in mid-October.

3. Know where to visit

No tree happens to grow in a random location, rather each tree struggle against great odds and hazards for a place in the sun and each species is subtly equipped to do better than its competition in certain conditions. Certain species of trees grow in different locations in Algonquin Park. Therefore, the mosaic of fall colour in Algonquin Park is no accident but is determined by factors such as geography, soil type, moisture, climate, etc. Check the “Where to Visit” section for more information.

4. Get a Park permit

Everyone who uses a provincial park requires a valid permit. Display your permit on your vehicle’s dashboard so Park Wardens can easily see it. Park Wardens issue tickets for failing to display a permit on a parked vehicle.

5. Stay locally

Consider staying within Algonquin Park or just outside the Park boundary to avoid entering the Park during the busy late morning or mid-day period.

6. Consider a weekday visit

Fall weekends are always busier than weekdays. If possible consider a mid-week visit to Algonquin Park as all facilities are open 7-days a week during the fall colour season. During 2016, the busiest weekends in Algonquin Park are expected to be September 24/25, October 1/2, and Thanksgiving weekend (October 8/9/10).

7. Arrive early

The West Gate and East Gate open at 8:00am until Thanksgiving*, but day use permits can be purchased at self-serve fee stations at both locations earlier. Permits can also be purchased at the Visitor Centre or Logging Museum as long as you don’t use other Park facilities prior. Another option is to purchase a Seasonal permit that allows an unlimited number of day-use visits either by season or annually. Seasonal permit holders don’t have to stop to purchase a permit on each visit.

* See the Events Calendar for more operating dates and hours

8. Avoid traffic congestion

On the busiest weekends of the year (likely September 24/25, October 1/2, and Thanksgiving weekend of 2016) traffic can become slow or even stopped at some locations in Algonquin Park. Most visitors enter Algonquin Park via the West Gate that can experience traffic congestion during the late morning/early afternoon on peak weekends. Consider entering or exiting Algonquin Park’s Highway 60 Corridor via the quieter East Gate (near Whitney, Ontario).

9. Visit on a cloudy day

Many people avoid visiting Algonquin Park on cloudy or rainy days during the fall colour season. Overcast conditions cut the glare and many people agree that leaf colours appear brighter than on sunny days. An added benefit is that the Park will have fewer visitors.

10. Drive and park safely

If you stop to look at fall colour or wildlife, ensure you pull completely off the traveled portion of the road and watch for traffic. Never stop in a lane of traffic. When parking do so in designated areas only. Never block emergency vehicle or pedestrian access.

11. Get away from your vehicle

Consider getting into a canoe, hiking a longer trail, or heading off the "beaten path" as most fall visitors stay close to their vehicles or hike only the shortest trails. Or for the adventurous visitor or one seeking solitude, head into the Park’s vast backcountry.

12. Keep wildlife wild

Algonquin Park is not a zoo, all animals in Algonquin Park are wild and act accordingly. Never feed or approach wildlife regardless of its size. Feeding, harming or harassing wildlife is illegal in Algonquin Park (and all provincial parks). Use caution with your cell phone camera as getting a closer image may cause you to approach an animal too closely.

13. Take home the proper souvenirs

The removal of natural or cultural objects from Algonquin Park is illegal. All vegetation (including brightly coloured leaves) and other natural features are protected and can not be removed from a Provincial Park. Many Park facilities sell appropriate souvenirs as memories of your visit.

14. Be a responsible pet owner

All pets must be on a leash not exceeding two metres in length and under control at all times. Pets can not produce excessive noise or harass wildlife. Pet owners must also “poop and scoop” in Algonquin Park.

15. Explore beyond the Highway 60 Corridor

Algonquin Park covers 7,630 square kilometres and many backcountry access points around the periphery of Algonquin Park, especially on the Park’s West Side, offer excellent fall colour viewing with fewer people. Algonquin Park’s backcountry accessible by canoe or hiking trail is also a quiet location for those seeking solitude. Check the Algonquin Park Canoe Routes Map or Backpacking Trails Map for route ideas.

16. Don’t litter

Garbage cans plus recycling and organics (compost) facilities exist in most location in Algonquin Park. Garbage serves as a wildlife attractant and is also unsightly to other visitors. Use the provided waste management facilities or “pack out” your garbage.

17. Stay late

The busiest times in Algonquin Park are from late morning to mid-afternoon. If you are planning a day visit, your permit is valid until 10:00pm. Try observing a sunset before heading home or stop by the Visitor Centre that is open until 7:00pm. For your safety ensure you are off any trail prior to darkness. Only registered overnight campers are permitted in Algonquin Park after 10:00pm.


Related Information

Fall Colour and Moose Algonquin Park

Images

Plan Your Visit

Other Resources

 

 

Reserve your developed or backcountry campsite for your next visit.

Share your passion for Algonquin Park by becoming a member or donor.

Special regulations for Algonquin's special fishery.