Main photo by Jeff Giller and Kurt Wang
The Greater Toronto Area is golden come mid October, and leaves will linger until the first week of November. If you get out during September many trees will be green but bursts of red emerge on the maples. Fall in the Toronto and Southern Ontario region is a visual feast. Here’s our guide to 6ix of the best spots!
Best Spots for Road Trips and Fall Shoots in Toronto and Southern Ontario:
- Algonquin Provincial Park
- Dundas Peak / Tews Falls
- Halton Hills / Caledon
- Rouge National Park
- High Park Toronto
- University of Toronto
Overview and Notes About this Guide
Our guide is a little skewed toward central and west regions but we’ve included the Rouge National Urban Park which lies in the east of Toronto at the border of Pickering / Durham region. We make no apology for favouring downtown as it’s easiest for us to get to. The west side of the GTA has some special appeal as its hills, ravines and parks are part of the enormous Niagara Escarpment and Bruce Trail system, which stretches from Niagara to Tobermory.
Another geological feature that is key to GTA hiking and recreational activity is the 160 kilometre long Oak Ridges moraine. If you study a map you’ll see that this is a wooded, farm region of hills that stretch from the east to west of the metropolitan region, and there are plenty of spots worth your while in the municipalities that lie in this area: Peel, York, Durham and Nurthumberland.
Before you make plans, make sure you are aware of any Covid related restrictions or protocols. Some parks or facilities may require masks, social distancing or bookings / registration.
In addition we provide some bonus spots all around the fair province of Ontario in the final section called “Alternatives.”
Algonquin Provincial Park
Algonquin is a paradise for hiking, canoeing, and outdoor adventure including camping and photography trips. It’s a best in class ultimate destination for road trips and fall presents one of the best times of year to take those trips. Located 250 km north of Toronto, it’s a massive, must visit spot for fall or any other time of year,
The photos here are captured from the road by Kurt Wang and Jeff Giller. Says Jeff:
“The Algonquin road photo is the main road through Algonquin Park, just past Canoe Lake and was taken during a road trip with some friends on September 27th, 2020. That was also taken with my telephoto zoom lens, (seems to be a theme this year), at 70mm.”
Using a zoom lens, like Jeff describes, allows you to really reach for your shot, whether it’s a vehicle in the distance on the road or a moose off in a bog.
While we recommend backcountry canoe trips or hiking, Algonquin park is amazing because it also offers plenty of campgrounds and trails located close to Highway 60 and main entrances. Through Algonquin, the main highway has been dedicated as the Frank MacDougall Parkway in honour of Frank MacDougall, a forest ranger in Ontario, who helped develop the park system and the use of aviation in park management.
Classics accessible from the main highway include the aforementioned Canoe Lake with the famous memorial to legendary Canadian painter Tom Thomson. A couple of very rewarding hours can be spent exploring this lake by canoe or kayak.
Dundas Peak / Tews Falls
Let’s head to Hamilton, without a doubt the eastern waterfall capital of Canada.
Dundas Peak offers overlooks with fantastic views above the town of Dundas and a rail line winding through the valley. Try to capture a freight train charging through the fall foliage or if you’re brave, take a photo along the heights of the escarpment.
Tews Falls is an epic ribbon waterfall and the tallest in Hamilton at 41 metres in height! Located at the Spencer Gorge / Webster’s Falls Conservation Area in Greensville, its source is Logie’s Creek. Reservations are required and you cannot legally access the bottom of the waterfall.
Halton Hills / Caledon
These neighbouring towns are only 20 kms apart and make for an easy field trip outside the city. One of the benefits of Halton Hills is its proximity to Mississauga. Same is true for Caledon, set in the hills north of Brampton, this rural gem is loaded with amazing outdoor opportunities. For quality hikes try Forks of the Credit Provincial Park – Albion Hills Conservation Area – Glen Haffy Conservation Area. A unique spot in this area for photography is Cheltenham Badlands; the rolling geological features are unique and normally only found in Alberta and parts of western Canada. It’s located conveniently at the half-way point between Halton Hills and Caledon.
Rouge National Urban Park, Toronto
This is the largest urban park in North America. Managed by Parks Canada, Rouge National Urban Park overlaps the cities of Toronto, Markham and Pickering and the Township of Uxbridge. It’s accessible to the urban crowd, and feels remote from the city. According to their website: “Reachable by foot, car, train, bus, subway, bike and even canoe, Rouge National Urban Park invites you to explore your own way!” Our tip: the Metro Toronto Zoo is located a few kilometers away and would make for a great combination day trip.
High Park, Toronto
Located west of downtown Toronto, this sprawling park is like a smaller version of Central Park, replete with its own pond (huge), zoo (small), sports fields and hiking trails. While many explore the west side of the park near Grenadier pond, we recommend the east side as part of your visit. Start at the Oak meadows at Bloor St, east of the main entrance, then go through the forest south toward Spring Road or past the Nature Centre before venturing across to the west side where you can capture the giant maple leaf garden near the pond at sunset.
University of Toronto, St. George Campus
The U of T’s St. George campus is a dominant part of downtown. For the scenic route, walk along Philosopher’s Walk from the Alexandra Gates on Bloor St, past sights such as Trinity College, Soldiers’ Tower, Hart House and King’s College Circle where you’ll find University College and Convocation Hall. Our tip is to time your visit with sunset and shoot looking toward Convocation Hall or toward the CN Tower. Our tip: if you are in the east or west ends of Toronto check out the beautiful Scarborough campus and Mississauga campus, both are situated in woodlands adjacent natural areas full of beauty.
Tdot Shots offers private tours of High Park and U of T, led by curator Mike Simpson. Drop a DM or send an email to ask about rates.
ALTERNATE ROAD TRIPS
Here’s a quick look at some locations we would recommend that didn’t make our list.
GTA East – In addition to the Rouge Park try Scarborough Bluffs, or the amazing waterfront in Ajax, with its long shoreline and beautiful spots near Duffins Creek and Rotary Park.
Northern Ontario – If you are able to travel as far as the 3-hour trip to Algonquin, consider going to the near north. Check out the wilds of Temagami for a rugged wildlife experience with old growth forests far from the bustle of the GTA and southern Ontario.
Get Out and Explore!
Your journey can start and end in the city when the choices are as broad as High Park in the west and Rouge Park in the east, or you can venture north to Oak ridges Moraine towns. For the big adventure we recommend Niagara Escarpment and Bruce Trail locations west of the GTA.
Enjoy your travels and keep your photo trips smart and safe.
Presented by ego ride share
Written by Mike Simpson and Tdot Shots staff