As the long hot days begin to cool down, the changing of the leaves is a sure sign that autumn has arrived. Ontarians are fortunate that we often have a long fall season and a varied burst of golds and reds – and Niagara is no different. Hiking is one of the best autumn things to do in Ontario to truly enjoy the season! With thed Niagara Escarpment as your backdrop, there’s no shortage of spots to admire the fall colours in Niagara!
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7 Best Spots For Fall Colours in Niagara
While the season can vary from year to year, the best time to see fall foliage in Ontario is typically within the last week of September until the middle of October. It’s not uncommon for the colours to be in full swing during the Thanksgiving weekend! To top it off, the Niagara Region is often the last to lose its leaves so keep this in mind when planning your fall adventure.
From leisurely trails perfect for the kids to hilly tracks overlooking Lake Ontario, you’ll certainly get your fill of foliage. Now, let’s get to the list of top destinations for fall colours in Niagara!
INSIDER TIP: Every year, Ontario Parks shares its fall colour report here. While it only updates the foliage for Ontario provincial parks, it will give you a sense of what the colours look like for the area.
Beamer Memorial Conservation Area in Grimsby
Address: 28 Quarry Rd, Grimsby, ON L3M 4E7
Parking: Free Parking Lot
Enjoy a gentle stroll along the Niagara Escarpment for some incredible panoramic views across the region as well as of the Escarpment and Lake Ontario. For the best views, be sure to climb the lookout platform! The trails form a loop from the parking lot that can be completed in approximately one hour.
This is also one of the best spots to catch the sunrise in Niagara. If you’re an early bird, you won’t want to miss it! If you’re looking to extend your visit, you can also hike to Beamer Falls. For full details, check out my Beamer Memorial Conservation Area guide.
Ball’s Falls Conservation Area in Lincoln
Address: 3292 Sixth Ave, Lincoln, ON L0R 1S0
Parking: Price varies as it’s $13.75 per vehicle (including driver) with $4.75 for each additional passenger in peak season from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, a flat rate of $13.75 per vehicle outside these hours during peak season & $8.50 in the off-season
Located within the stunning Twenty Valley in Lincoln, Ontario, Ball’s Falls Conservation Area is easily one of the top places to see the fall colours in Niagara. You’ll be treated to incredible views of two waterfalls as well as plenty of golds and reds within over 200 acres of forest!
Most visitors head to this Niagara conservation area to check out the Upper and Lower Balls Falls. First, you’ll want to take the Cataract Trail to Upper Balls Falls to admire this stunning curtain waterfall. Along the way, you’ll pass some fascinating ruins from when this area was first developed in the 1800s. Then you’ll want to make your way to Lower Balls Falls via the Village Trail. This will take you through what’s been preserved of the ghost town known as Glen Elgin. It looks even more quaint surrounded by the stunning fall colours.
However if you really want to get your dose of fall fun, I’d recommend taking the Forest Frolic Trail. It’s the most dense for foliage and will offer those epic bursts of colour as the trees tower above you!
This conservation area has lots to offer so get the full details and plan your visit with my guide to Balls Falls Conservation Area.
Rockway Conservation Area in Lincoln
Address: 2021 Pelham Rd, Lincoln, ON L2R 6P7
Parking: Free Parking Lot
Another beautiful destination along the Niagara Escarpment, Rockway Conservation Area is one of the lesser known spots in Niagara. A part of Ontario’s longest hiking path, The Bruce Trail, visitors will be treated to incredible views as they admire the stark cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment.
However, the highlight of this area means you have to venture a little off-trail. Head a little north of the white blazes in the direction of the parking lot once you have made your way down the trail from the parking lot. Follow Fifteen Mile Creek upstream where hikers will enjoy the sights and sounds of Rockway Falls!
RELATED: As you’ve probably guessed, we have a number of waterfalls in Niagara and if you’re looking for more of them to check out, I have them rounded up along with the best route to see them here on the blog!
Her flow will be low in the autumn months, but it doesn’t diminish the autumn beauty. If you wish to see her as more than a trickle though, I recommend visiting right after a fall rain storm.
For more tips, tricks and how exactly to get to Rockway Falls, check out my guide to the Rockway Conservation Area!
Short Hills Provincial Park in Pelham
Address: 193 Roland Rd, Ridgeville, ON L0S 1M0
Parking: Free in the three lots around the park
Say hello to the only provincial park in Niagara! Established in 1985, Short Hills Provincial Park is 660 hectares (approximately 1630 acres) in size. There are seven hiking trails at Short Hills Provincial Park of all lengths and skill levels. It’s easy to spend an hour, an afternoon or even a full day exploring! Plus it’s classified as a non-operating provincial park meaning only passive activities such as hiking are available here. However, that means it’s also free to visit! These are just a few of the reasons why Short Hills Provincial Park is a popular hiking destination in St Catharines.
While you’ll find Ontario’s famous Bruce Trail once again, there are a number of other features to look out for in Short Hills Provincial Park. The biggest draw is Swayze Falls off of the Palaeozoic Path. A tributary of Twelve Mile Creek tumbles 14 metres down the Niagara Escarpment to create the stunning ramp waterfall. However, it’s not uncommon for her to run dry so in order to see her, you’ll want to visit after some rain.
Swayze Falls isn’t the only thing you should check out though! The trails in Short Hills Provincial Park will take you through a variety of landscapes and are worth exploring. To plan your route and see what else the park has to offer, be sure to check out my full guide!
St John’s Conservation Area in Fonthill
Address: 3101 Barron Rd, Fonthill, ON L0S 1E6
Parking: Free Parking Lot
It was created to protect the water source at the headwaters of the Twelve Mile Creek and other natural resources in the area. Nestled in the Twelve Mile Creek Valley, the landscape you see was formed by glaciers that once covered this entire area. As the glaciers moved, they eroded the soil to create the hills and valleys you see today! Some parts of the Twelve Mile Creek Valley are filled with over 76 metres (250 feet) of glacial material!
With a collection of short trails and very little elevation, this is one of the best spots for families to see the fall colours in Niagara. Despite being small in size at just 76 acres, it still has lots to offer visitors. Take a look at my guide to St John’s Conservation Area for more details.
Woodend Conservation Area in St Catharines
Address: 1 Taylor Rd, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0
Parking: Free Parking Lot
Any local who grew up in St Catharines has probably spent their fair share of time at Woodend. It was a popular destination for elementary school field trips back in my day meaning the Woodend Conservation Area has a special place in my heart!
Overseen by the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority since 1974, Woodend is located on the cusp between St Catharines and Niagara-on-the-Lake. It offers a tranquil escape for both locals and visitors alike as this area protects a breathtaking hardwood forest. Sprinkled with Carolinian species such as Black Cherry and Sugar Maple, this is where you’ll find those brilliant ruby reds that seem to illuminate the sky!
Hikers can find a fantastic 3 kilometre loop as The Bruce Trail is connected via the Margaret Kalogeropoulos Side Trail. This route does have some elevation change as well as uneven terrain but is easily completed by watching your step. Another great option is the Wetland Ridge Side Trail which leads you to the Niagara College Niagara-on-the-Lake campus’ wetlands. To learn more about this “living laboratory” and how wastewater was brought back to life as well as the area’s hiking trails, check out my Woodend Conservation Area guide.
Niagara Glen in Niagara Falls
Address: 3050 Niagara River Pkwy, Niagara Falls, ON
Parking: Paid parking lot of $5 per hour
Speaking of Carolinian Forest, the Niagara Glen is home to one of the last pristine examples of it. That means plenty of species whose leaves burst into that bold vermillion. Combine this with the stark turquoise of the Niagara River and you have one seriously impeccable autumn scene. This incredible combination is what makes the Niagara Glen the top destination to visit for fall colours in Niagara.
The Niagara Glen offers 8 different hiking trails as well as one bouldering trail. They all intertwine and connect making it easy to create various loops throughout the property. Whether you choose to do a handful or explore all the trails, make sure you explore the River Trail as it leads you along the base of the Niagara Gorge. This is where you’ll find the best fall views in the Niagara Glen!
RELATED: Everything you need to know in order to tackle these trails can be found in my guide to the Niagara Glen.
Honestly, I’d say this is easily one of the best places to see fall colours in Ontario. Seeing as some (aka me) claim that the Niagara Glen is the best hike in the Niagara Region, it’s no wonder this area is a must in the autumn months!
More Spots to Catch the Niagara Fall Colours
While the above are my top picks for leaf peeping in Niagara, there are a number of other trails and parks that light up come fall. If you’ve visited all of these destinations or are just curious to know what other spots there are in Niagara, check out these recommendations.
RELATED: Of course, there are so many great spots in the region that will offer gorgeous views of the fall colours. Check out my guide to the top hikes in Niagara for more ideas of where to hit the trails!
Dufferin Islands in Niagara Falls – This is a fantastic place for families with young children to enjoy the fall colours. The trails are short and flat while still offering plenty of space to frolic. Pack a picnic and soak up the sunny days before winter arrives!
Niagara Parkway in Niagara-on-the-Lake – Spanning 55 kilometres from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Fort Erie, the Niagara Parkway loosely follows the Niagara River. There are a number of pull-offs and parking lots where you can stop to enjoy the fall foliage as well as numerous sites for the history buffs out there!
Mel Swart Lake Gibson Conservation Park in Thorold – As one of, if not the smallest park on this list, it really doesn’t look like much for most of the year. Come fall however, the plants along the boardwalk burst into shades of amber that are unlike any of the other destinations for fall foliage in Niagara.
Decew Falls in St Catharines – Another one of the fantastic waterfalls in the region, DeCew Falls is a picturesque spot to catch the fall colours in Niagara. The hike to the falls so it’s a great spot to add to a Short Hills Provincial Park visit as it’s close by! Check out my DeCew Falls guide for more details.
Merritt Trail in St Catharines – If you’re looking for a spot to catch the leaves near downtown St Catharines, this is the perfect trail to check out. It follows Twelve Mile Creek and is an excellent spot for a leisurely stroll in the heart of the city.
Louth Conservation Area in Lincoln – Located along Sixteen Mile Creek, admire the unique rock formations as you follow the Bruce Trail along the Niagara Escarpment. It’s best to visit after some rain so you can catch a glimpse of Louth Falls. This conservation area is close to Rockway Conservation Area meaning you can explore both in one visit if you’re up for a challenge!
Is there a spot you like to enjoy the fall colours in Niagara that didn’t make this list? I’d love to know so please share in a comment below. Happy leaf peeping, folks!
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