Fall in Canada might objectively be the best time of year for an outdoor adventure: the bugs are gone, the temperatures are pleasant, the crowds have dispersed and the forests are putting on an incredible colour show. New Brunswick’s provincial parks offer pristine wilderness to enjoy majestic fall colours and to recharge before switching gears to winter.
Mount Carleton Provincial Park in north-central New Brunswick is a perfect choice for a leaf-peeping stop, with mixed forests that include the gold standard (pun intended) for fall colours: sugar and red maple, beech, yellow and white birch, fir, black spruce and red pine. In the heart of the province’s mountains, you can hike to the top of Mount Carleton, the highest peak in the Maritimes, and take in incredible sweeping views of the explosion of autumn colours in all directions, as far as the eye can see. People who love natural history will appreciate the opportunity to spot rare plants like Alpine blueberries and Bigelow’s sedge on the hike up. This region has the highest animal biodiversity in the province and is prime for moose sightings in the fall, in addition to being home to over 100 birds and 30 mammals, including owls, grouse, grosbeaks, lynx, martens and porcupines. Camp or rent a heritage cabin on Nictau and Bathurst Lake. Enjoy slow, crisp, quiet mornings drinking your coffee or drift out onto the smooth-as-glass lake in a canoe through the morning mist.
Mount Carleton is also the start (or end, depending on which way you're going!) of the Sentier Nepisiguit Mi'gmaq Trail, a nearly 150-kilometre trail largely following the Nepisiguit River to the coastal salt marshes in the town of Bathurst. With tent platforms, teepees and cleared primitive tent sites along the way, the entire hike usually takes six to 12 days to complete.
Sugarloaf Mountain near Campbellton is another excellent option to take in stunning fall colours. Sugarloaf is an extinct volcano formed more than 400 million years ago. Hikers can take the Sugarloaf Mountain Trail to the summit, which is a steep, difficult trek that is only about two-kilometres return. It leads to a steel lookout platform providing incredible panoramic views. After the sun sets, spend cozy nights around the campfire in the Sugarloaf Mountain Campground, listening to the leaves rustle in the cool fall breeze.
A third option to experience New Brunswick’s fall colours that is more accessible from southern cities like Saint John and Fredericton is Mactaquac Provincial Park along the Saint John River. Check out the Beaver Pond Trail in Mactaquac, a 1.3-kilometre wheelchair-accessible loop. The woodland trail circles the beaver pond and offers excellent opportunities to watch and listen to birds and wildlife like frogs, ducks, geese, herons and, if you’re lucky, beavers in their natural habitats as they prepare for winter.
Stay in a provincial park and embark on day hikes to see the orange, crimson, copper and red tapestry of trees enveloping New Brunswick in colour this fall. From seaside trails laced with leaves in New River Beach Provincial Park to coloured foliage framing Hopewell Rocks Provincial Park, New Brunswick has no shortage of autumn adventures for hikers. Additional hiking trails for majestic fall colours include the Bog Boardwalk Trail at Kouchibouguac National Park, the summit of Turtle Mountain near Grand Bay-Westfield and the lovely trek to Wallace Falls near Sussex.