Cross-Canada Color Touring
Golds in the West, brilliant reds in
the East theres nothing like a sunny fall
By Wendy & Rob Lindsay
Spectacular! Vibrant! Invigorating! Its
a clear, sunny fall day in Canada. Its time to
enjoy crisp breezes, new fall sweaters, the fresh crunch
of apples, picnics and to take a drive in the
country to see the leaves. From coast to coast, there
are fall fairs, farmers markets and oodles of
scenic drives. Weve chosen some lesser-known autumn
drives and invite you to try those closest to you. And
dont forget your camera!
Covered bridges of Kings County
The Cabot Trail, along Cape Bretons shore in
Nova Scotia, may be the most popular drive in the Maritime
provinces, but another outstanding route offers the
grey, weathered wood of covered bridges and autumn colors.
New Brunswick has 66 wooden covered bridges, including
the Hartland Bridge, billed as the longest in the world
(391 metres). But Kings County, in the southern part
of the province, has the largest collection of covered
wooden bridges 16 with most still in use.
The Drive: Leaving the Trans-Canada Highway at Sussex
in Kings County, we follow the covered bridge signs
to the Salmon River Bridge and the Tranton Bridge, located
on Side Road 890. Further along, between Sussex and
Peticodiac, 890 winds through lush dairy farm country,
the fields a contrast with the flaming colors of the
En route, the Kissing Bridges Gift Shop, located on
a farm, is well worth a visit if you are interested
in covered wooden bridges. Proprietor Bob Alston knows
every bridge in the county, and was instrumental in
helping get many of them saved and put on a little touring
map which he hands out for free. Apparently,
covered wooden bridges will last for 80 to 100 years,
while uncovered bridges begin to rot after only 18 to
20 years. Alston was happy to give directions to nearby
Oldfield Bridge, which is featured on Canadas
125th celebration commemorative quarter. You can circle
back to the Trans-Canada or use Alstons map to
hunt down even more covered bridges on a sunny fall
The Eastern Townships of Québec encompass approximately
3,100 sq km, hugging the border with Vermont and New
Hampshire. In autumn, enjoy a vivid patchwork of green
pastures and flaming sugar maple woods nestled in the
dazzling foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, providing
some of the most spectacular fall scenery in Canada.
Fortunately, the area also has the densest network of
secondary roads in Québec, providing great fall
road trips amid dairy farms, lakes, pristine villages,
charming country inns, bounteous vineyards and orchards,
plus a mix of English and French culture.
The Drive: East of Montréal, we take Highway
104 to Lac-Brome and the elegant Victorian village of
Knowlton, which just happened to be holding Duck Days
(Le Canard en fête) when we were there, an annual
event celebrating the world-famous Brome Lake duck and
the areas cuisine. Scarlet maples contrast with
the fine old white houses, and wares from craft and
antique shops tumble out onto the street for the festival.
South of Austin, a striking steeple rising above the
scarlet foliage turns out to be the Benedictine Abbey
of Saint Benoît-du-Lac. Established in 1912 but
rebuilt after a fire, the modern buildings look magnificent
amid the scarlet and russet of the old maple trees.
The modern architecture seems a marked contrast to the
age of the ancient order, founded by Saint Benedict
before AD 547. Hiking trails on the property give even
more views of the magnificent fall colors of this area.
Visitors are welcomed at vespers, sung in Gregorian
chant that echoes and soars through the abbey church.
A basement gift shop sells the Abbeys famous cheese
Next, it was on to North Hatley, where we made Manoir
Hovey our base for exploring the central townships.
Innkeeper Stephen Stafford steers us to the most spectacular
view of all! We drive south on Highway 143 to the Dufferin
Heights Golf Club. Located on a hilltop, even the view
from the parking lot is great, but theres more.
Above the 10th tee, you look out over a vast panorama
of undulating scarlet-sprinkled forests and fields,
and the blue Appalachian Mountains in the distance.
At the club house, we ask for directions to the First
and Second World Wars memorial cairn. The road, once
visible, is now hidden amidst the trees. Near the cairn
is a lookout platform in memory of area pioneers. In
the centre of the platform is a marvellous brass map
where you simply line up the site with the scenery on
the scale model to discover a mountains name,
its height and the distance away. Even the nearby lakes
and rivers are named. Its a truly unique and useful
memorial, with an absolutely splendid view of Quebecs
vibrant fall colors.
Wellington and Waterloo Counties
Like Québec and New Brunswick, it is difficult
to choose just one location in a large province like
Ontario, which has so much gorgeous fall color. But
the counties of Wellington and Waterloo offer a cornucopia
of fall fairs and festivals, as well as splendid rural
The fabulous farmers markets in Guelph, Kitchener/Waterloo
and St. Jacobs offer a great incentive for an early
start to a Saturday morning. If you are into antiques,
the village of Aberfoyle, just south of Guelph (take
exit 299 off Highway 401 west, go north on Highway 46),
has the oldest antique/flea market in Canada every Sunday
until the end of October. Kitchener/Waterloo (take Highway
85 to 86) also hosts Canadas Thanksgiving parade
as part of its Oktoberfest celebrations, the largest
festival of its kind outside of Germany.
Its fun just to explore the small rural roads
with one of the above destinations in mind, passing
through picturesque rolling farmland sprinkled with
vibrant autumn woodlands, fine old barns and stone buildings.
The red maples, russet oaks and yellow poplars that
line the country roads invite photo stops. You may even
see Old Order Mennonites driving a horse and buggy,
just as they did 100 years ago, but respect their wish
not to be photographed.
Two of our favorite fall destinations are within an
hour of Toronto: Hockley Valley (Airport Rd. north,
southwest on Highway 9 to County Road 18) and the narrow
country roads near the Forks of the Credit River (Highway
10 north, southwest on Highway 24 or west on Highway
136). Another beautiful drive is the one to the McMichael
Gallery in Kleinburg (Highway 400 north, west on Highway
25), which displays the largest collection of works
by the Group of Seven. Partly situated atop a cliff,
the McMichael is artfully designed so you can gaze at
paintings and, a few feet away, look out huge windows
at vibrant valleys of fall color much like the paintings
Elk and moose bugling
One of the most spectacular autumn drives in Manitoba
is through Riding Mountain National Park, north of Brandon.
North of Neepawa Regional Road 357 and Highway 10, there
is a panoramic view of the prairies as you climb the
height of land leading to the parks southern gate.
Within the park, the boreal forest, aspen parkland,
deciduous forest, and open grasslands and meadows are
part of a 2,978 sq km biosphere reserve. It is also
home to a herd of buffalo and numerous other wildlife,
large and small, often glimpsed from the road during
the fall months (after most of the summer tourists have
Each autumn, the park rangers organize a car cavalcade
and lead visitors deep into the forests, frequently
on roads not normally accessible to the public, to hear
rutting moose and elk bellowing. However, you must pre-register
since there are a limited number of cars allowed per
Closer to Winnipeg, Oak Hammock Marsh is a popular birding
spot in the fall. Hundreds of thousands of migrating
birds stop by the award-winning nature centre on their
way south. At times, it seems like a grey mist hangs
in the air over the fields, but its just a huge
flock coming in to land in the marsh.
History by the river
Between the city of North Battleford and the town of
Battleford, the North Saskatchewan River valley is broad
and majestic. One of the best fall scenes in Saskatchewan
is from the north looking south. The optimum vantage
point is from the old stone wall on the Saskatchewan
Regional Hospital grounds looking down across the valley
to the arched bridges. The silvery bridges used to be
the only highway connection between North Battleford
and Battleford on the south bank. A new concrete bridge
now spans the valley further west, but the view just
isnt the same. And the frail, old bridge will
soon be closed to all but hikers and cyclists.
The sun breaks through the clouds and the valley is
bathed with color the yellow of the poplars,
red and oranges of the saskatoon, pincherry and chokecherry
bushes, and silver highlights of the wolf willow and
green spruce. Little wonder that, in 1878, Battleford
was chosen as the seat of government for all of the
Northwest Territories (then encompassing part of Manitoba,
all of Saskatchewan, most of Alberta and all of the
Canadian North). However, the confluence of the Battle
and North Saskatchewan Rivers, the telegraph lines coming
through in 1874 and the North West Mounted Police establishing
Fort Battleford in 1877 likely had more to do with the
choice than the splendid prairie scenery.
After touring Fort Battleford, the gallery of local
Cree artist Allen Sapp and the fascinating Western Development
Museum, we head for our lodging at Harvelle House B&B,
located on a Clydesdale horse farm south of Battleford.
To our delight, it is nestled in the Eagle Hills, affording
an impressive panoramic view of the surrounding countryside,
with the Battlefords in the distance across the colorful
fall patchwork of fields and bluffs.
The beaconing foothills
One of many beautiful fall drives in Alberta lies south
of Calgary. Take Highway 2 out of the city to 22, driving
south through Turner Valley and Back Diamond. At Longview,
head west on Highway 541 into Kananaskis Country until
you reach Highway 40. From here, you can drive north
to the Trans-Canada Highway, then loop back to Calgary.
En route, the prairie becomes rolling foothills and,
finally, the Rocky Mountains. The yellow of aspen, poplar
and birch mingles with dark green pine, spruce, balsam
and cedar. Until a puff of wind carries away its needles,
the vibrant orange/yellow tamaracks accent the fabulous
fall colors. And, in the distance, the blue mountains
beckon until you are surrounded by their grandeur.
Awesome Okanagan Valley
The red, gold and russets that attract fall visitors
to the Okanagan Valley are apples, not leaves. Although
the foliage may lack the flaming red of the sugar maples
of Eastern Canada, the valley compensates with a much
longer summer. The senses are rewarded with acres of
orchards and more than 50 wineries bringing in the harvest.
The Drive: Many drivers prefer the faster Trans-Canada
or the Coquihalla highways, but the most spectacular
drive from Vancouver is still the winding Highway 3
from Hope to Princeton through Manning Park. It will
bring you into the southern end of the Okanagan Valley,
where the lure of gold first brought people to the Princeton
and Hedley area. A gold seeker with a different method
was outlaw train robber Billy Miner, whose exploits
are displayed at the Princeton Museum. Next is the town
of Keremeos, the fruit stand capital of Canada.
A little further north, the Okanagan Valley opens out
before you, a green ribbon stretching 161 km on either
side of Lake Okanagan. Here, fall scenery is unusual.
Brown, parched rolling hills are scattered with sagebrush
and cactus, but below, where irrigation is plentiful,
all is green, with the burnished trees of the orchards
and rows of vineyards adding contrast.
Since the introduction of irrigation in the 1800s,
fruit-growing flourished. Now, one-half of Canadas
pear and cherry crop, one-third of its apples and one-fifth
of its peaches are produced in the valley between Osoyoos
and Vernon. More recently, the wine industry has been
thriving, and the valley celebrates with seasonal wine
festivals. The Fall Wine Festival, with more than 100
events throughout the Okanagan, runs every year for
10 days leading up to the Thanksgiving weekend in October.
To complete the autumn tour, drive north toward Vernon.
On a sunny day, the roadside lookout as you approach
the city gives a spectacular view of Vernon surrounded
by three beautiful lakes Kalamalka, Swan and