Fall is the perfect time to pedal in Ontario. Back-to-school season means less traffic on the roads, parks and attractions are typically quieter, and cooler temperatures keep climbs from becoming sweaty slogs. Plus, if you’ve been riding all summer, you’re in top cycling shape for that longer bucket-list tour. And you won’t run out of fuel—fall is harvest season, providing riders with endless fresh produce and farm-to-table delicacies. But there is one absolutely indisputable reason fall is the best season for biking: Leaf peeping.
From mid-September to late October, the shorter days and crisp nights of autumn in Ontario trigger one of the most spectacular transformations anywhere on Earth. First to change are the province’s beautiful hardwood forests—warm amber, fiery orange, and brilliant crimson burnish each leaf until the entire canopy is aflame with the colours of fall. In Northern Ontario, the golden tamarack forests are next—these unique members of the pine family are the only Canadian conifers that shed their needles each year.
This list takes the guesswork out of where to experience the most vivid fall colours, but you may still need a bit of help timing your tour to coincide with peak leaf change. Fortunately, Ontario Parks’ Fall Colour Report offers weekly updates on how the leaves are changing across the province. The report provides a map of current fall foliage conditions at 62 parks and surrounding areas, with key viewing criteria like dominant colour, percentage of leaf change and leaf fall. Discover the best Ontario Parks for autumn rides.
Find more fall cycling routes at Ontario By Bike.
Take the Road Less Travelled
For the finest fall colour road routes, look to Ontario's mixed hardwood forests.
The Muskoka region offers an intoxicating combination of twisty back roads and fiery red maples, highlighting panoramic views of oranges and yellows. Add a bluebird sky and the emerald spires of Muskoka’s hallmark pines, and you have a pedalling paradise. Check the region’s detailed fall colour report for the best places and times to visit, and then choose from a dozen popular cycling routes.
The views and the hills are equally breathtaking in the Haliburton Highlands, where Technicolor forests cradle deep blue lakes. A smattering of pretty villages are linked by meandering roads that lend themselves to looping day trips or even a weekend adventure. Local cycling group Cycle Haliburton produces a map of recommended routes, as well as resources for visiting cyclists.
Just east of Sault Ste. Marie, St. Joseph Island is renowned for its maple syrup producers, which should tell you something about the scarlet sugar maple canopies that adorn the island in the fall. The Great Lakes Waterfront Trail makes a 70-km circuit of the island, with plenty of opportunities to get off your bike and savour the sights and tastes of St. Joseph’s friendly communities. Discover more island rides here.
Ride the Rails
For an intimate view of the changing leaves, Ontario’s widespread network of former railways converted to recreational trails are perfect for casual cyclists or families. Even avid riders will appreciate not having to jockey with vehicular leaf-peepers in bustling hot spots like Algonquin Park.
There's a reason thousands of people flock to Algonquin Provincial Park in autumn each year. The red and sugar maples shine brightest from mid-September to early October, followed by the “golden encore” of aspens, birch, and beech, with the tamaracks wrapping up the display in mid to late October. Escape the traffic jams on Highway 60 and witness the rolling hills of colour from your saddle on the park’s Old Railway Bike Trail, which runs 16 km from Rock Lake Campground to near Cache Lake. Bicycle rentals are available near the trail’s midway point at the Lake of Two Rivers Store. For comprehensive, real-time updates and fall colours viewing tips, check the Algonquin Park Fall Colour Report.
Following along the southern shore of Georgian Bay, cyclists on the 35-km Georgian Trail enjoy lake views on one side and the jewel-toned steeps of the escarpment on the other. Autumn also brings brilliant red apples—and tasty apple-infused treats—to the orchards and country markets straddling the trail between the towns of Meaford, Thornbury, and Collingwood.
Not a rail trail, but deserving of a mention here, is Sault Ste. Marie’s Hub Trail, which takes cyclists on a stunning fall colour tour without leaving the city. This scenic 23-km circuit links the city’s waterfront, downtown and historic districts with its greenbelts and forest parks. A leafy oasis in the northwest corner of “the Soo,” Fort Creek Conservation Area offers some of the finest viewing.
Carving through the trees on a mountain bike is an exhilarating, up-close way to experience the fall colours.
Minutes from downtown Sudbury, fantastic trail networks in Kivi Park, Lake Laurentian Conservation Area, and the Walden Trails weave through a magnetic landscape of Precambrian shield outcrops, sparkling lakes, and hardwood forest. The bare-rock riding here is addictive, so be sure to take a break at numerous trailside panoramas.
Cross-country riders will find over 50 km of fast and flowy singletrack just north of Sault Ste. Marie at the Hiawatha Bike Trails and Stokely Creek and Algoma Highlands Conservancy. Algoma’s rugged topography and extensive maple forests create a breathtaking autumn backdrop, offering something for riders of every level with trails ranging from easy to technical. In the Soo, Vélorution rents top-of-the-line bikes to get you trail ready.
In Muskoka, fall is the perfect time to fall in love with Georgian Bay Islands National Park. Most visitor facilities are located on Beausoleil Island, accessible by Parks Canada’s DayTripper boat from Honey Harbour. Rent a bike at the island’s visitor centre or bring your own to explore over 20 km of pleasant trails through mature maple-beech forest, or more challenging riding to windswept pines, lake vistas, and granite shores. Secluded campsites and waterfront cabins allow cyclists to extend their park visit overnight.
Join a Tour or Event
Participating in a cycle tour or special event is a fun, social way to enjoy great fall riding while learning about a new area and meeting new people with a shared interest.
Manitoulin Island’s all-inclusive Alvar Cycle Tour explores nearly 300 km of country roads and island attractions on a five-day tour with four nights at lakeside lodges and cottages. Two tours in early and mid September coincide with Manitoulin’s changing leaves and early autumn harvests.
See the best of beautiful Bruce County on a guided and fully supported six-day cycling tour along Lake Huron and Georgian Bay with Humdinger Bicycle Tours. This late September tour visits beaches, lighthouses, and villages, wrapping up on the Bruce Peninsula beneath the white cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment. Or experience the peninsula’s finest gravel back roads and secret trails on the one-day Bruce Peninsula Gravel Gran Fondo, held in 2020 on October 6. Route options from 30 km to 80 km skirt the shoreline between Lions Head and Cabot Head lighthouses, boasting panoramic lake vistas and canopy-draped roads painted with fall colours.
East of Haliburton, Ontario’s stunning high country—and fiery fall canopy—continues into the often overlooked Hastings Highlands and Madawaska Highlands. This means quiet pavement and deserted gravel for roadies who aren’t deterred by the undulating topography. Join Madawaska Kanu Centre’s Fall Colours Cycling Retreat for one to four days of gorgeous riding and campfire camaraderie. Each day you’ll choose from various road or mountain biking routes, then return to MKC for a delicious meal and comfortable room or cabana.
Avid cyclists who prefer punishment to pampering will want to sign up for the Hastings Highlands Hilly Hundred, billed as Ontario’s Toughest Century Ride. Whether you select the classic 160 km century or the Canadian 100 km century ride, you’ll face nearly 1,000 metres of elevation gain while spinning through the colourful hardwood forests, small lakes, steep hills and peaceful river valleys around Bancroft. Sensible cyclists can also enjoy a shorter 40 km fun circuit. Event date for 2020 is Saturday, October 3.
GRAB YOUR BIKE AND GO
When the leaves begin to change, grab your bike and roll into fall on these colourful cycling tours. Autumn is one of the best seasons to enjoy mountain bike trails and cycling on roadways and bike paths.