Fall Colours on Superior's Shore

Fall colours on the Nor'wester Mountain range in the Slate River Valley along Highway 61



Autumn in Thunder Bay and the Northwest Ontario region along the north shore of Lake Superior is a magical, brilliantly colourful time of year. Check out the fall drive, photography, and hiking opportunities!

Dazzling Autumn Colours

Starting in late August, autumn’s dazzling colours begin to transform the landscape making the fall a great time to visit the Thunder Bay area.  At first it’s a lighter shade of yellows on poplar trees and smaller shrubs as the shortened days rob leaves of the chlorophyll needed to sustain the rich green colours that we associate with the warmth of summer.

Birch Trees at Kingfisher Lake
The yellows of the  tall birch reach for the sky at Kingfisher Lake.
 

Then, as September progresses, the full fall colours slowly take over.  This can start as early as mid-September or as late as the end of September.  But be warned.  Some years the change can happen quickly and can be short-lived.  All it takes is a little bit of frost and a few windy days to blow it all away.

There are several great places to go in the Thunder Bay and Lake Superior region to view the fall colours, enjoy a romantic walk under the golden canopy of autumn or drive along a country road and watch in your rear view mirror as the fallen leaves whip into the air behind you.

The entire Nor’Wester Mountain Range, which stretches from Mount McKay in Thunder Bay to the Canada - U.S. Border at Pigeon River, comes alive with brilliant yellows, oranges and reds from maple trees, poplars and tamaracks.  Take a short drive off Highway 61 to Little Trout Bay Conservation Area, Mink Mountain Resort or stop in at the Pigeon River Tourist Centre and take a walk along the trail behind the Centre to the shore of Lake Superior.

Hurkett Cove Cedars Fall leaves blanket the trail by massive cedars at Hurkett Cove Conservation Area near Dorion, Ontario
 

East of Thunder Bay, a drive to Ouimet Canyon, Sleeping Giant Provincial Park and east along Highway 17 and the Lake Superior shoreline around RedRockNipigon, Schreiber and Terrace Bay will be awash with the fiery fall colours as will Highway 11 along the Palisades between Nipigon and Beardmore.  

Here’s a spectacular fall ride into Northern Lights Country southwest of Thunder Bay that is highly recommended:  from the city travel south along Highway 61, almost to the border, then turn up Highway 593 to Highway 588.  You may want to consider a lunch break at the historical Silver Mountain Station Restaurant, or you can turn east toward Nolalu and follow the road all the way to Stanley.  You may want to stop in at the Stanley Hotel overlooking the Kaministiquia River for one of their legendary Stanley Burgers.  

Just past the Stanley Hotel, Highway 588 ends at the Trans-Canada Highway where you can make a left turn and carry on a short distance to Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park. The mist of the falls, on cold mornings can cause an early frost along the shore of the Kaministiquia River, making the park a great spot to snap pictures of fall colours.

For hikers, popular vantage points to see autumn’s colourful palette are Silver Falls Road off Highway 102, Kingfisher Lake about 30-km north of Thunder Bay on Highway 527.

Maple Trees in Thunder Bay The bright colours of the Maple tree are abundent in the Nor'Wester Mountain range south of Thunder Bay.
 

Within the City of Thunder Bay there are many parks where you can enjoy a short walk among the falling leaves:  Centennial Park, Cascades Conservation Area, Boulevard Lake and Chippewa Park.

In the City of Thunder Bay, Hillcrest Park offers an excellent vantage point for viewing the change in seasons as the fall colours first appear at the top of the Nor’Wester Range off to the south, and then gradually make their way down the hillsides. 

For the artistically inclined, there is no better season for photography or plein air painting than autumn.  Prime time is from approximately mid-September to the end of September.  Unfortunately, Mother Nature makes no guarantees after that.  

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