Ultimate Ontario Fall Colour Lookouts
If you need a little incentive to embark on a nature outing, Ontario’s fall season delivers just that.
From climbing old fire towers to hiking rocky mountain cliffs, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views lit up by a colourful medley of greens, ambers, golds and reds at these lookout spots.
For your safety and to preserve sensitive landscapes, follow signage and instructions on all trails, boardwalks and lookouts in Ontario and check weather conditions prior to departure.
Head to Foley Mountain Conservation Area in the Rideau Valley for a fantastic viewpoint atop a protruding granite ridge. The showstopping view includes the Upper Rideau Lake and the village of Westport 50 kilometres (31 miles) south of Perth in eastern Ontario. There are five marked trails, including the wide, crushed stone, low-grade Mobility Trail that allows for wheelchair access to the lookout point. The conservation area lies within the Frontenac Arch, one of four UNESCO designated World Biosphere Reserves in Ontario and part of Ontario’s Amazing Places program.
Location: 105 Foley Mountain Ln, Westport, 55 kilometres (under an hour drive) north of Kingston.
Where to stay: Soak up small-town hospitality at The Cove Country Inn overlooking the lake in Westport.
Nearby: about an hour’s drive south is another highlight within the biosphere. A remarkable view of the 1000 Islands and St. Lawrence River awaits from the 122 metre (400 foot) high observation deck at the top of the 1000 Island Tower. Note: This attraction includes an elevator.
The Scarborough Bluffs is a natural geological lakeside landmark in Toronto’s east end between the eastern Beaches and East Point Park, the result of sedimentary deposits over 12,000 years ago, as well as wind and water erosion. The 15 kilometre (9.3 mile) escarpment features dramatic cliffs that plunge down into Lake Ontario below. There are eleven designated park areas along the escarpment with extensive trails, recreation facilities and mythic views. Bluffer’s Park provides access to the beach below, another great vantage point from which to admire the splendid fall colour.
Location: 1 Brimley Road South, Scarborough district of Toronto, Bluffer’s Park can be accessed by can on Brimley Road, with very limited parking. Seasonal, weekend public bus (175 Bluffer’s Park) transportation service is available between Kennedy Station and Bluffer’s Park between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Where to stay: There’s an accommodation option to suit every style and budget in Canada’s most cosmopolitan city. But if it’s views you’re after, check out the vista from Hotel X, Toronto’s waterfront oasis.
Just northeast of Wiarton in Grey County, on an extension of the Bruce Trail, you’ll find a massive rock jutting out of the landscape that looks a lot like Pride Rock in the Lion King. The full Skinner’s Bluff Trail system is 19 kilometres (12 miles), but you can beeline from the parking lot to the lookout spot in just 15 minutes. Take care over the rocky terrain and steep drops along the way. The best views are from the east and north sides of the escarpment overlooking the forest below and the shinning waters and islands dotting Colpoy’s Bay, a scenic inlet of Georgian Bay.
Location: 502729 Grey Road 1, east of Wiarton, 75 kilometres (under an hour drive) south of Tobermory and 95 kilometres (just over an hour drive) northwest of Blue Mountain.
Where to stay: Waterview Resort is the closest waterfront accommodation, just outside nearby Wiarton (home of Canada’s most famous groundhog). Or book one of the getaway packages offered at Scandinave Spa Blue Mountain.
Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area in Milton is beautiful in every season, but in fall, it is nothing short of breathtaking. With sheer cliffs, cave systems and rock crevices, this spot is a mecca for rock climbers. The park features several trails of varying levels of ease, including the Buffalo Crag Trail. It begins at the parking lot and follows along the edge of the Niagara Escarpment cliffs to stellar lookout points of the Nassagaweya Canyon below and countryside beyond.
Location: 7200 Appleby Line, Milton, approximately 60 kilometres (45 minutes drive) west of downtown Toronto.
Note: reservations may be required to visit select Conservation Areas during busy periods, check in advance and make your booking online.
Where to stay: Treat yourself to the height of luxury, elegance and hospitality at Langdon Hall Country Hotel & Spa in Cambridge.
Nearby: lesser-known Mount Nemo Conservation Area also features a ribbon of exposed rock face with equally amazing views from the top. In fact, you can see the Toronto skyline on a clear day. Keep an eye out for mighty turkey vultures soaring by.
The hike begins at Calabogie Peaks Resort with an easy 1.5 kilometres (just under a mile) walk up a slow incline to the 120 metre (394 foot) high cliff-top for a spectacular bird’s eye view of the wilderness below. Or opt for the longer 9 kilometre (5.6 mile) Manitou Mountain trail that passes three other mountain vistas before leading up to the money shot at Eagle’s Nest Lookout.
Location: Calabogie Road (508), about 100 kilometres (one hour drive) west of Ottawa, you can drive to the trailhead on Highway 508 west, 2.2 kilometres page Calabogie Peaks Resort, parking is available on the right side of the road.
Where to stay: Choose from boutique hotel rooms or mountainside condos at Calabogie Peaks Resort.
Note: not to be confused with Eagle’s Nest Bancroft which provides a stunning view of the York River Valley in Haliburton Highlands.
West of Caledon on Olde Base Line Road, and only an hour’s drive from Toronto, lies an amazing geological site so alien looking it could be the set for a Star Trek episode. The undulating rust and red coloured rocks marked by ribbons of white veins is a result of exposed and eroded shale, and the striking colour is due to iron oxide deposits. This sensitive landscape has recently been reopened to the public with new accessible boardwalk and trails. Though not technically a hike up, the scene from the viewing platform in the fall is a spectacle you don’t want to miss – waves of rolling red rock framed by blazing autumn colour.
Plan ahead! Paid parking is available by reservation only.
Location: approximately 65 kilometres (under an hour drive) northwest of Toronto, 8 kilometres outside of Caledon on Olde Base Line Road.
Where to stay: Rejuvenate weary muscles at the Millcroft Inn & Spa, a member of the elegant Vintage Hotels group of properties.
Built in 1922 as a lookout for potential forest fires, this historic structure is strictly a tourist attraction today with an awesome 360-degree view 142 metres (465 feet) above Muskoka’s Lake of Bays. The Dorset Lookout Tower Trail begins behind the Dorset Heritage Museum on Main Street and continues for over two kilometres uphill through mixed forest to the base of the 30 metre (100 foot) tall tower. Catch your breath and climb up. The scene from the top is well worth the effort. Operation season runs May through October, walk-in and parking fees apply.
Location: 1191 Dorset Scenic Tower Road (located off Hwy. 35, just north of the village of Dorset), 40 kilometres (30 minutes drive) east of Huntsville.
Bonus: while in Huntsville, check out Lion's Lookout. A 1.5 kilometre long road accessed via Forbes Hill Drive and Camp Kitchen Road climbs up over the Muskoka River and Fairy Lake, with an overlook offering spectacular views of the city beneath and the surrounding hills. Limited parking at the top, more parking available at the Recreation Centre below.
There are several trails along the Manitoulin Extension of the Niagara Escarpment, including the awesome Cup and Saucer Trail that leads you up the 350 metre (1148 foot) climb to the highest point on Manitoulin Island just past the East Lookout. The trail begins at the parking lot on Bidwell Road and Highway 540 and involves a few ladder and rope climbs on the way to the top of the imposing 70 metre (230 foot) tall cliffs.
Location: Cold Springs, at the intersection of Highways 540 and Bidwell Road, 24 kilometres south of Little Current, north of M’Chigeeng on Manitoulin Island.
Where to stay: The design for The Manitoulin Hotel & Conference Centre was inspired by the beauty of the region and the culture of the Indigenous people of Manitoulin.
About an hour’s drive northeast of Thunder Bay, off the Trans Canada Hwy, lies Ouimet Canyon, one of Ontario’s most dramatic vistas. Located within Ouimet Canyon Provincial Park, the vast 150 metre (492 foot) wide gorge is flanked by 100 metre (328 foot) deep sheer cliff face and extends over 2,000 metres (6562 feet) long. Follow the groomed trail and boardwalk connecting two observation platforms for the ultimate viewing spot. Or join local thrill chasers, Eagle Canyon Adventures, who invite you to cross Canada’s longest suspension footbridge and ride Canada’s longest, highest and fastest zip line.
Location: Greenwich Lake Road, Pass Lake, 85 kilometres east of Thunder Bay, exit onto Ouimet Canyon Road off Hwy 17 (Trans Canada Highway)
About half an hour north of Sault Ste. Marie, Ila’s Loop hike to Robertson Cliffs is one of the many stunning hikes in the Algoma area. Part of the Voyageur Trail Association, the loop is approximately 5 kilometres, starting from the trailhead on Robertson Lake Road, off of Old Highway 17, and is marked with white signage.
Follow the blue trail to reach Robertson waterfalls, before returning to the main trail and climbing up to the top of a 150 metre tall cliff formation. The views of the boreal forest below and Lake Superior beyond are incredible. The yellow marked trail is your best option for your descent as it is not quite as steep a grade.
Location: outside of Goulais River, 35 kilometres (30 minutes drive) north of Sault Ste. Marie on Trans-Canada Highway 17, parking is available on the right side of Robertson Lake Road.
Where to stay: In addition to the luxury rooms and suites, the full spa, whirlpool and pools, fitness centre, grill pub, landscapes gardens and photo gallery, The Water Tower Inn feels more like a resort than a hotel.
Last updated: June 22, 2022