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From Vancouver Island to P.E.I.: Where to spot the most spectacular fall foliage

CTVNews.ca,
Emily Chan,
October 7 2015

From Vancouver Island to Prince Edward Island, trees across Canada are erupting in colour as summer gives way to cooler temperatures.

According to Parks Canada spokesperson Omar McDadi, only about 14 per cent of the world's forests put on fall colour displays. And, luckily, some of the most spectacular autumn views are found in Canada.

With fall in full swing, here's a round-up of some of the best spots to enjoy the changing leaves:

Vancouver Island, B.C.: Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites

Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse are exceptional West Coast spots to view fall colours, McDadi says.

Because the sites are part of a unique Pacific ecosystem, the foliage is different from the iconic maples in Eastern Canada, he said. Here, it's the low lying shrubs that change colour, while most of the surrounding trees, which are mainly evergreens, remain green.

But the fall colours are "stunning," nonetheless, McDadi says.

"It's a lot of the shrubs and the plants that grow in that rare ecosystem that provide a real striking contrast with the forest," MCDadi said in a phone interview with CTVNews.ca "Plants like the Nootka Rose and flowering currants and the bark of the Arbutus tree, which is just beautiful."

Insider's tip: Try lounging on the red chairs at Fort Rodd Hill. These spots are some of the best places to sit back and enjoy the scenery, and maybe even spot a red-tailed hawk.

"(From the chairs) you get really stunning views across the Strait (of Juan de Fuca) to the Olympic Mountain Range, which is in the State of Washington," McDadi said. "You can also see the Esquimalt Harbour off in the distance."

Rocky Mountains: Banff, Yoho, and Kootenay National Parks

Straddling the B.C.-Alberta border, these three Rocky Mountain parks contain some of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, but also some of Canada's best-kept secrets.

In the fall, the parks' famous glacier-fed lakes are surrounded by Golden Larches, coniferous trees with needles that turn yellow for a few weeks in fall, providing a warm contrast to the turquoise and emerald lake waters.

"Banff, Yoho, and Kootenay together make up for an incredible experience this time of year for people to view the Larch trees," McDadi said. "It's famously referred to as the 'Larch March.' "

Insider's tip: If you want to visit the popular Lake Louise or nearby Moraine Lake, aim to visit on a weekday before 9 a.m., McDadi says. Or, if you're feeling more adventurous, escape the crowds and visit Banff's Twin Lakes or Arnica Lake, or hike up to Floe Lake in Kootenay National Park.

"Floe Lake is quite the striking colour of turquoise blue," McDadi said. "It's definitely a bit of a hike to get there, but there'll be far fewer crowds and it's definitely worth it." Saskatchewan: Batoche National Historic Site

Less than an hour's drive from Saskatoon, McDadi describes Batoche as an "iconic national historic site," where visitors can take in the fall leaves while strolling along the banks of the South Saskatchewan River.

"You can really feel the crunch of the leaves there beneath your feet as you take in the scenic riverbank on the paths of Metis history," he said.

Insider's tip: Adventurous kids will love the park's "Seek and Scamper Geocaching Challenge." The outdoor treasure hunting game challenges young explorers to use a GPS to find secret caches in the park. Successful geocachers earn a souvenir Batoche Geocoin.

Greater Toronto Area: Rouge National Urban Park

According to McDadi, the Greater Toronto Area's Rouge National Urban Park is "spectacular" this time of year.

"There are so many trails where you can see Maple Trees and Beech Trees in stunning shades," he said. "The Rouge Valley is home to 1,700 species of plants and animals, and all this is in close proximity to Canada's largest metropolitan area."

Insider's tip: The park is hosting a series of free, family-friendly walks this fall.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, guides from Parks Canada and guest educators from the Royal Ontario Museum and Toronto Zoo will lead six walks a day, with themes such as "Biodiversity: Plants and Fungi," and "Ontario Nature's Reptile and Amphibian Atlas."

Quebec: La Mauricie National Park

McDadi calls La Mauricie Park "one of the more stunning places in the country to view fall colours."

The park also boasts ample picnicking grounds and hiking trails that range from leisurely strolls to more challenging expeditions.

Insider's tip: Try "glamping," or, glamourous camping, in an "oTENTik." These accommodations are a cross between a tent and a prospector's cabin, and McDadi says they're ideal for those who prefer some extra comfort after a day of fall hiking.

Prince Edward Island: Green Gables National Historic Site

In Atlantic Canada, McDadi recommends an autumn trip to the picturesque farmhouse where Lucy Maude Montgomery's character Anne of Green Gables daydreamed and fretted over her red hair.

McDadi says fans of the book will be drawn to the restored house and grounds, and locales from the novel such as the "Haunted Wood" and "Lovers Lane."

Insider's tip: For the best fall view, stand on the front porch and look out at the "Babbling Brook."

"One of the best autumn views that you can experience from Green Gables is when you stand and look out from the porch of the house," McDadi said. "You'll see vivid orange and yellow (leaves) that line the small stream in front of the house."

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