Fall Colours in Ontario's Algonquin South

It has become a good family tradition to spend a second weekend of October in nature. What is so special about the second weekend of Octobe...

It has become a good family tradition to spend a second weekend of October in nature. What is so special about the second weekend of October? This is when Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving Day, and with extra Monday off people can enjoy a long weekend.

In 2015, the weather was particularly warm and sunny. Daytime temperatures reached above +20 C, and the nights were still warm with +10 C.
Many Canadians would agree that this is a perfect weather to go camping.
This year we drove about three hours north of Toronto to the southern part of Algonquin Provincial Park. This park is one of the oldest and most famous Canadian parks and is on every adventurous traveler's bucket list. While open year around, this parks sees the majority of its visitors in July-August for summer activities such as camping, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, biking, fishing, and from the last week of September until the first two weeks of October when the fall colours are at their peak.
I have to say though that Algonquin Provincial Park is a victim of its own popularity which is the case for many beautiful parks in North America. While we have accurately chosen the southern part of the park, most visitors drive where their GPS navigators send them - along the Ontario's Highway 60 corridor. But it gets really busy on fall weekends. A good friend of mine told me that him and his friends got stuck in a huge traffic jam about 15-20 kilometers before the park's main entrance, and no one knows how much time they would have spent waiting to enter the park had they not turned back.

Algonquin South was the opposite. We almost had it to ourselves with very few fellow visitors.
Fall in Ontario is the best time of the year! First, it's still warm, usually dry and sunny. Second, with some planning you can beat the crowds and reserve a good camping site in a much wanted place. Third and the most important for many people, there are no mosquitoes, no black flies, no deer flies, and whatever else is flying and trying to bite you and suck your blood. And last, but definitely not least - the fall colours! Sure, I like mountains and the ocean, but only few places beat Ontario in the fall with its red, orange and yellow maple trees, evergreen pines and blue skies, rivers and lakes.
There is only one hiking trail in southern part of Algonquin Provincial Park accessible without canoe or kayak - High Falls Trail. The trailhead is somewhat hard to find. It's located some 50 meters off the Peterson Road where it crosses a branch of Elephant Lake via a small bridge. Here are the exact coordinates of the parking lot: 45.1944123,-78.1483388.
The trail is linear, about one kilometer each way. With a normal pace you can make it in 1 hour round trip. But why would you want to rush? Stop, listen, admire the view, feel the forest.
By the way, did you know that conifer trees also loose their leaves-needles? Not as often as deciduous trees, but they still do.
For the first 15-20 minutes the trail follows an old dirt road through a relatively young red pine plantation.
Then the dirt road becomes a narrow footpath and shortly reaches the York River.
The forest now is mostly hardwood or deciduous.
From now on the trail follows the York River upstream.

The trail is quite rocky so it can be slippery when wet.
There is a portage for those traveling by canoe or kayak.
By the way, if you really want to see the southern part of Algonquin, you need to paddle a canoe or kayak. Other two trails are only accessible from the water. There is a small campground at nearby Kingscote Lake which you can use as a base camp for a day or three-day trip to the park's interior.
The difficulty of this trail is rather moderate, however you have to watch out for cracks and caves like this one below:
There are a couple of small waterfalls, mostly rapids before you reach High Falls.

Beautiful High Falls

There are many places like this one close to Toronto you can visit as a day trip in the fall. The fact is that you have to have a car, otherwise the majority of the Ontario's parks are not accessible to you. But if you manage to get to a place like Algonquin Provincial Park, your trip will be memorable and rewarding.

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