Fall is indeed the year’s loveliest smile. It’s a time when the air is crisp, the coffee is warm, and the camera is ready; a time when a relaxing hike is a perfect way to immerse yourself in the wonder of autumn. Thankfully, York Durham Headwaters is home to some unbelievable fall colour viewing. From the heights of the Niagara Escarpment and the rolling hills of the Oak Ridges Moraine to the Trail Capital of Canada, there are lots of beautiful provincial parks, conservation areas, and other photograph-worthy, fall colour-filled spaces. Here is a sampling of some of our favourite places to take in the year’s loveliest smile. There are many more outdoor activities that will provide you and your family with some stunning views. Bring the kids, leave behind their iPads.
Albion Hills Conservation Area
Just a short drive from Toronto, Albion Hills offers visitors a few ways to experience the fall colours. Mountain bike on over 50 kilometres of single and double-track trails, take a leisurely fall hike or do some riverside camping with the whole family. With 11 picnic sites located throughout the park, Albion Hills Conservation Area can accommodate groups of nature lovers, both large and small. With 1,200 acres of forested land, you will be surrounded by the full fall colour palette!
In the middle of Aurora, just off Highway 404, you’ll find this tree lover’s paradise. The Aurora Community Arboretum stretches through 100 acres of parkland. They have a volunteer-driven community to thank for the growth and maintenance of the wide variety of trees and shrubs displaying their changing colours. Bring your bike or your walking shoes and come out to explore the beauty at the Arboretum! Collect all the different rainbow coloured leaves with the kids. The stresses of the big city will surely melt away with a stroll through the trees. colours. Bring your bike or your walking shoes and come out to explore the beauty at the Arboretum! The stresses of the big city will surely melt away with a stroll through the trees.
Greenwood Conservation Area
In the fall, Greenwood turns bright with the hues of autumn. Located in Ajax, the conservation area provides an escape to nature along the banks of Duffins Creek. Hiking trails allow you to explore the forest or the steep-sided river valley. There are picnic tables available, perfect for a fall picnic. With a six-kilometre trail along the waterfront and two leash-free areas for dogs, it is the ideal stop to take in the fall colours in the GTA.
Belfountain Conservation Area
Over the years, Belfountain has become a must-visit for photographers (and others) who enjoy the spectacular fall colours of the Niagara Escarpment. Belfountain Conservation Area is situated just south of Orangeville, in the valley of the west branch of the Credit River. Spend the day walking along cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment and find freshwater springs flowing down limestone cliffs. Be sure to visit the “Belle” fountain, suspension bridge and Yellowstone Cave. Heavily treed woodlands of cedar, oak, maple, and birch provide the full spectrum of fall colours. The forest is home to a variety of wildlife – songbirds, rabbits, flying squirrels, ruffed grouse, and white-tailed deer may join you on your fall hike! What kid doesn’t love Bambi? Show them the real deal!
Bruce’s Mill Conservation Area
Escape the city and let nature be your guide on the trails at Bruce’s Mill. Located in Stouffville, just a short drive from Richmond Hill and Markham, you can step onto a winding boardwalk that leads you directly into the fall colours of the forest canopy. Zipline with Treetop Trekking to add some adrenaline to your fall day trip. There is something for all ages, so bring the kiddos and make some lasting memories. If you are looking for a truly immersive and adventurous fall experience, this is for you.
Ganaraska Forest Centre
Just a short drive from Oshawa, you will find hundreds of kilometers of hiking, mountain biking, off-road vehicle and horseback riding trails right in our backyard. Set within 11,000 acres of the majestic Ganaraska Forest, it makes for a fantastic fall escape. Their walking trails are designed to appeal to all abilities of hikers and pass through a scenic landscape of rolling hills and mixed forest. You may see a variety of wildlife while hiking including white-tailed deer, wild turkey, birds of prey, and songbirds.
Make it a weekend getaway and stay in their new facility. Cozy up around the fireplace in the Great Hall while enjoying indoor accommodations. If a more traditional outdoor experience is what you’re after, consider renting the camping area, complete with a picnic shelter and a fire pit to gather around and tell spooky stories to your kids to get them prepped for Halloween. You can add some adrenaline here too with Treetop Trekking Ganaraska. They have six exciting courses with over 70 innovative aerial games to get your heart racing!
What better place to experience the fall colours than the Trail Capital of Canada? With an extensive and growing network of trails throughout the township, you will get the most out of your fall viewing in Uxbridge. The trail network boasts hundreds of kilometres of forest and urban trails, with over 8,000 acres of protected green space.
There are trails for all abilities, ages, and interests – walkers, serious hikers, cyclists, and runners. The trails take you through a wide variety of natural habitats – rolling meadows, wetlands, dense woodlands, and ponds, as well as some housing developments and historic streets.
Terra Cotta Conservation Area
Just a short drive from Brampton, the Terra Cotta Conservation Area covers 250 hectares of rugged terrain on the Niagara Escarpment and includes numerous trails. Whether it’s the brief flash of a white-tailed deer bounding into the woods, the sound of a pileated woodpecker finding its insect meal or the peace of sitting by a quiet pond, you will enjoy the natural beauty and opportunities offered at Terra Cotta Conservation Area.
Happy Valley Forest Trail
Centred in King Township, the Happy Valley Forest is one of the largest remaining intact hardwood forests on the Oak Ridges Moraine. It is a 2,850-acre natural area consisting of an upland forest on steeply rolling topography, old field habitats, several creek valleys, various wooded swamps, and wetland areas.
Elora Cataract Trailway
Once an abandoned CP rail corridor, the Elora Cataract Trailway was formed by Credit Valley Conservation, Grand River Conservation, and the Elora Cataract Trailway Association. This area is a linear trail way between Elora and Cataract. There are two parking and access points. The Trailway is three-metres wide with a stone screened surface suitable for walking with strollers, wheelchairs, or cycling. The trail is open year round and can provide four-season recreation, such as cross-country skiing, horseback riding, hiking, biking, or snowmobiling. Please note some sections of the trail have limited recreational uses. Please refer to the map for detailed information.
If fall is the year’s brightest smile, these hikes will keep you smiling. Rolling hills, abandoned railway lines, and treed-in pathways are home to this perfect fall getaway in York Durham Headwaters. Explore some new terrain this fall. Show your kids the beauty of the outdoors and marvel at some of the most picturesque natural settings in Ontario. Happy hiking!
Keep in mind that due to COVID-19 precautions, some of the activities may not be fully available, as well, you may need to purchase tickets online – make sure you check the locations website for more information to ensure a safe visit for all.