From east to west, Canada is a country of staggering beauty. A gorgeous cocktail of lakes, mountains, islands, prairies, and rainforests, it’s a natural wonderland just waiting to be explored. When it comes to The Great Outdoors, Canada is as good as it gets.
While Canada is breath-taking on a year-round basis, nothing beats Canada in autumn. As summer fades, the foliage takes on fiery tints, the sun dials down to a gentle golden heat and the animal kingdom gets up to all kinds of mischief. Go hiking through crunchy leaves on dappled forest floors, see one of the world’s largest salmon runs and watch grizzlies enjoy ‘The Great Fall Feast’.
In short, autumn is a magical time for a Canadian road trip. Grab your walking boots, dust off your binoculars, and go see Mother Nature flaunt her best moves.
Here are our favourite 7 reasons to visit Canada this autumn:
In Canada, autumn is known as the ‘leaf-peeping’ season, and for good reason. It’s one of the best places on the planet to see the leaves turn to fiery reds, oranges, and yellows. Wherever you go, the forest canopies will be aflame with brilliant colours and the trees flanking the roadsides will be putting on a gorgeous display. It’s one of nature’s most incredible natural phenomena, so grab your passport, get on a plane, and go do some leaf-peeping!
In Western Canada, autumn is an unbeatable time to go bear spotting. Grizzlies, black bears, and rare spirit bears all make the most of ‘The Great Fall Feast’ before winter takes its chilly grip. The salmon runs draw them out to the rivers in search of food, making them easier to find. During autumn, they drink and eat non-stop, putting on as much weight as they can before hibernation.
In the Great Bear Rainforest, autumn is your best chance to spot the rare Kermode, or ‘spirit’ bear, with its striking white fur. Right now, there are thought to be only around 400 Kermode bears in existence, so glimpsing one in the wild is an unforgettable experience.
Bears may steal the limelight, but there would be no grizzly spotting without the Canadian salmon run. One of the largest salmon runs in the world takes place during autumn on the rivers of British Columbia and it really is something to behold. Thousands of salmon, some reaching 5 feet in length, return to their native streams to spawn. It’s a mad splashing frenzy that will knock your socks off.
The salmon run draws the bears to riverbanks, where you can see them plunging about in the shallows for a catch. At the same time, bald and golden eagles circle overhead, trying to get in on the action. It’s one of nature’s most incredible events and seeing it first-hand is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
While the rivers are packed with salmon in autumn, the skies above British Columbia are chock-a-block with beautiful bird species. British Columbia lies smack bang in the path of the Pacific Flyway, an important migratory route between Alaska and Patagonia. In autumn, many birds and their young begin their 15,000-mile journey south for the winter. If you’re a twitcher, it’s a rare treat.
From mid-September, huge numbers of turkey vultures, hawks, falcons, kestrels, harriers, osprey, and eagles gather in East Sooke Park on Vancouver Island before crossing the Juan de Fuca Strait. The Sooty shearwaters head south to New Zealand, the sandhill cranes leave the Cariboo Mountains in huge quantities and the Williamson’s sapsuckers abandon the Canadian desert. On top of that, the salmon run has been known to attract as many as 7,000 bald eagles at once!
Winter is NOT the only time to see the Northern Lights in Canada. During autumn, there are several places where you stand a very good chance of seeing the aurora dance across the sky. Banff National Park, Ontario, the Yukon and Elk Island National Park in Alberta are some of the best spots to see the Northern Lights in autumn. Stay in a wilderness lodge, admire the fall scenery by day and watch the sky explode into colour at night. There’s nothing like it.
Traditionally the season of plenty, autumn brings local harvest festivals across Canada. Wherever you go, you’ll find something going on that celebrates the bounty of the fall. Prince Edward Island, in Nova Scotia, stages its International Shellfish Festival, Prince Edward County in Ontario holds its annual Pumpkinfest and Winona, between Toronto and Niagara, puts on a great Peach Festival.
If wine is your tipple, you can’t wrong with Canada in autumn. The Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Canada’s biggest wine-producing region celebrates the grape harvest in October with 60 events over 10 days. On the other side of the country, the Niagara Grape & Wine Festival gets underway.
Autumn is often seen as off-season in Canada. The kids are back at the school, so domestic tourism has dwindled and the campsites are quiet. Most international tourists visit Canada in the summer too, so autumn is an altogether calmer affair. It’s a great time to explore Canada with gentle sunshine and fewer crowds, giving you the chance to feel immersed in the wilderness.