It’s a crisp morning in early October and the shades of orange and red leaves cascade through the branches and hazel bark of the maple and oak trees. The leaves scatter across yellowing-grassy forest floors, littered with muddy footprints. As animals retreat to their dens and the cold winter approaches, we leave our homes after humid days to welcome a new season of cool fresh air. Autumn in Ontario begins.
Living on the outskirts of a big city, I always yearn for nature and being outdoors. Summer hikes are fun, but mosquito bites and burned skin is not my cup of tea. I prefer fall and spring hikes. I love walking on trails and seeing the radiant colours of the trees and the cozy feeling of sweaters and jackets. I welcome you to check out a few of my favourite places to hike in the fall in Ontario.
Pink Lake Trail (Gatineau Park, Chelsea, Quebec)
This hike is actually in Quebec, however, it is so close to the border of Ontario and Quebec and one of my favourite places that I had to include it. This trail loops around Pink Lake which is a small lake in Gatineau Park. This park is situated on the ancestral lands of the Anishinabe. During the early 17th century, it was used as an area for agriculture by European settlers, however, the rocky soil of the area proved difficult to sow plants, so the area was used for resource-based activities, such as hunting, forestry, mining, and fishing. In 1938, the area officially became Gatineau Park and an area for conservation and recreation. This trail is just one of many trails that flow through the expansive grounds of the park.
Rouge Hill National Park (Toronto, Ontario)
As someone from North Toronto, I have to mention Rouge Hill National Park which is a massive park on the outskirts of the city. It’s extraordinary to see a beautiful area so close to a bustling city. Rouge Hill National Park is home to many hiking trails and I’ve only had the pleasure of walking on a few! The trails vary in length, some are shorter and will take less than an hour, while others are much longer and can take one to two and a half hours. The park is situated on the ancestral lands of many first nations including the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee, the Mississaugas of the Credit, and the Wendat peoples. Rouge Hill Park is home to diverse ecosystems and wildlife. Its uniqueness of being within city limits helps make it an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Ferris Provincial Park (Campbellford, Ontario)
Ferris Provincial Park is situated on the ancestral lands of the Anishinabewaki, Mississauga, and Wendake-Nionwentsïo peoples. This park houses a pedestrian suspension bridge over the Trent River Gorge and has a lookout over Ranney Falls. The River Gorge Trail, as its name describes it, is a trail that runs beside the river, through the forest, and also meanders through a meadow of wildflowers. On this trail, you get a little bit of everything and it is a refreshing bit of scenery. It is situated close to a small town called Campbellford, where you’ll find quaint antique stores and Dooher’s Bakery, a local treasure.
Algonquin Provincial Park (Ontario)
This is an area that I frequented in my youth, however, I haven’t had the pleasure of going recently. Algonquin Provincial Park is on the ancestral lands of the Algonquins of Ontario and was the first provincial park in Ontario. Currently, the area of the park is 7,653 km2, with over 2400 lakes. There are 14 trails in and around the park that follow the path of many lakes and forests. This area is a transition zone between the deciduous forests typical of southern Ontario and the coniferous forests of northern Ontario, making it a home for many birds and animals. There is also a map that shows the location of transitioning leaf colours, so you can drive to the best parts of the park to really absorb the scenery during the fall.
I hope you discover how beautiful Ontario can be through these trails and the incredible ecosystems they follow. Fall is a time of reflection as bright green leaves turn yellow, red, and orange, slowly cascading to the forest floor. As I’m writing this it’s the peak of summer in Toronto, but I can’t wait until I feel the cool air on my cheeks and the crunch of the leaves beneath the soles of my boots.
As the spring buds turned into summer blossoms,
eventually becoming autumn harvest,
and cups of cocoa warm frozen fingertips.
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