Fall Colours on Superior's Shore

Fall drives, photography, and hiking opportunities are numerous in scenic Thunder Bay.

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Autumn in Thunder Bay and the region along the north shore of Lake Superior is a magical, brilliantly colourful time of year. The scenic waterfront city, located about eight hours east of Winnipeg and eight hours west of Sault Ste. Marie is a perfect base to explore everything Northern Ontario has to offer. Check out the fall drive, photography, and hiking opportunities and start planning your own adventure today. 

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 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.

Mountain vistas

The entire Nor’Wester Mountain Range, which stretches south from Anemki Wajew (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

Small Town exploring

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

Waterfall vistas at Kakabeka

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 and left on highway 590 taking you to the village of Kakabeka Falls. You may want to consider a lunch break at the The Metropolitan Moose Bakery or The Eddy.

Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park is located just west of the Village on highway 11/17. 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.

Hiking the lake

For hikers, popular vantage points to see autumn’s colourful palette are Silver Falls Road off Highway 102 and 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.

City Strolls

Within the City of Thunder Bay there are many parks where you can enjoy a short walk among the falling leaves. Definitely check out Centennial, Chippewa, and Boulevard Lake. Another great spot is the Cascades Conservation Area.

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. Mother Nature makes no guarantees!

About Richard Boon

Richard Boon is a Thunder Bay native who spends much of his spare time hiking and doing nature photography.  He is a past member and hike leader with the Thunder Bay Hiking Association and a former broadcaster..

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