Mornings have changed. Summer’s humid, muggy air is giving way to a slight chill with a hint of fog. Autumn weather transitions us into cozy knit sweaters, warm beverages in hand. I’m eager to witness the brilliant autumn colours on fall hiking trails—are you?
Here are the top five lookouts in Algonquin Provincial Park for explosive fall colours:
Conveniently located within 10 minutes of the West Gate in Algonquin Provincial Park is Hardwood Lookout trail. It is a short one-kilometre jaunt that will introduce you to the lush hardwood forest Algonquin is well known for. After about 25 to 35 minutes of uphill hiking, a couple of high vantage points of Smoke Lake will reward you for your efforts.
Track & Tower
Although not as short as the one mentioned above, Track & Tower is perfect for a hiker who likes to spend an extended time on the trails. An average hiker can complete this hike in under four hours. At kilometre 25 of Highway 60 you will find a small parking lot. This trail is quite popular, so I suggest visiting earlier on in the day to avoid disappointment. The 7.5-kilometre hiking trail is a beauty, taking you through long stretches of the boardwalk, a mini waterfall and a phenomenal lookout point over Cache Lake. Not only is it a fantastic spot to soak in the bountiful crimson red and brilliant oranges of the changing autumn leaves, but it’s also a good time to pull out snacks and take a break.
If the above trails are busy and the parking lot is full, do yourself a favour and check out Hemlock Bluff, which is right beside Track & Tower along Highway 60. A less popular trail, this 3.5-kilometre trek takes hikers through mixed forest and a few wooden staircases. My favourite part is by far the elevated views of Jack Lake. Typically a deep, dark lake, with the change in season, the water lights up with the colourful treeline mirroring off the water. On a beautiful autumn afternoon, the explosive orange and vivid reds of the leaves will melt away any tension and the cool fall breeze will fill your heart with wonder.
Further into the park at approximately kilometre 40, there’s a small parking lot to the left for Lookout Trail. This hike is suitable for hikers who can handle steep inclines and rugged terrain; however, there are rest stops along the way that offer park benches. Besides its obvious trail name, this trail showcases several eye-catching lookout points at the top. It’s a 2.1-kilometre rugged loop hike.
Another trail not for the faint of heart, Centennial Ridges hiking trail will take the brave up several steep inclines with various elevations to many marvelous lookout points. This includes vantage points of golden-yellow birches and poplar trees along two high ridges. Certainly, this is a trail that would satisfy any explorer chasing views. When driving from the West Gate, look for a road at kilometre 37.6. Turn right and park at the trailhead where you will start your 10.4-kilometre hike.
Alternatively, if you find yourself on Centennial Road you can drive past the Centennial Ridges parking lot and make your way to Booth’s Rock Trail. Much shorter than its neighbouring trail, this 5.1-kilometre loop trail isn’t one to miss. It brings hikers through Algonquin’s glowing landscapes, gradually increasing in steepness leading to two lakes and, of course, a wonderful lookout point overlooking Rock Lake. You can return via an abandoned railway. I think this is the most underrated hiking trail in the park and because i'ts tucked away from all the rest of the trails, it is much quieter.
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