Often the best road trips take place in fall – this is when the scenery is beyond compare, the air is crisp (and the bugs light), but the sun is still high enough to give you a fleeting rear-view glimpse of summer’s warmth.

This fall head out on an epic five-day road trip that takes you from the shores of the Ottawa River, west through the small towns of Lanark County, and across the Canadian Shield territory of Lennox & Addington, Frontenac County and Hastings County before ending in the hills of Haliburton Highlands (you can also reverse this route if you are coming from the west). 

Expect adrenalin-spiking hikes to fabulous fall views, warm comfort foods to refuel at the end of the day, and cozy accommodations beneath the brilliant fall foliage. 

Looking for the maximum of fall colours in Ontario? Check out the Ontario Parks online Fall colour interactive map before you head out.

5-Day, 4-Night Cross Country Autumn Road Trip

Start Here: Haliburton Forest & Wild Life Reserve

Your first stop is a beautiful, 100,000 acre nature reserve where you’ll find 400-kilometres of trails to travel, and vistas to survey. If you have the time add on an extra day, consider spending the night right here in the forest and waken to the beauty of fall, right at your doorstep.

*Note there are three complimentary trails offered here, otherwise a property access pass must be  purchased to access the property’s trails and amenities.

• A must-try is the Haliburton Forest Canopy Tour, the longest canopy boardwalk of its kind in the world, which runs until mid-October. This tour will take you deep into the fall foliage for a new perspective on the season. Book early as this experience fills up quickly. https://www.haliburtonforest.com/book-online/book-canopy-tour/ 
• Book an outdoor experience from Yours Outdoors, like their Introduction to Wild Edible Mushrooms. 
• Hike the expansive network of trails that crisscross the forest here and circle beautiful Kennisis Lake. 
• Have you worked up an appetite? Sake it at Boshkung Smokehouse, right in Haliburton Forest. 
• Have an extra day? Get cozy in one of Haliburton Forest’s lakefront cabins(booking must be made in advance), sleep beneath the stars in one of their campsites, or book an overnight stay in a Cabinscape cabin right in the forest and experience solitude and serenity of the forest here.

Time Spent Here: Plan on at least four hours here, especially if you will be doing the canopy tour, which can take between three and four hours alone.

Next Stop: Sir Sam’s Ski/RIDE

What better way to get a bird’s eye view of the fall foliage than at the top of a mountain? We start our itinerary here to give you a sneak peek of the amazing sights you can expect on this journey.

• Climb the 60-foot Eagle View Tower & Observation Deck to get a bird's eye, 450-foot view of Eagle and Moose Lakes. You can also take the chairlift to the top of the mountain. 
• Relax on the on-site patio (open weekends from noon to 5 p.m. until after Thanksgiving) to savour more than just the colours.
• Plan your visit to fall over Thanksgiving weekend and take part in the ski hill’s Fall Festival. 
• Push yourself on two wheels over a carpet of colourful leaves while mountain biking on Sir Sam’s mountain. Lift passes available so your ride could all be downhill. 

Eagle Lake
Haliburton County
From Toronto: 266km • 2 hr 52 min From Ottawa: 298km • 3 hr 30 min

With a rich history in the Haliburton Highlands area, Sir Sam's Ski/Ride is every adventure's dream in both the summer and winter.  This picturesque ski hill overlooking Eagle Lake is perfect for mountain biking for every skill-level, with a walk-on, walk-off covered lift perfect for beginners.  You can ride, run, or hike over 100 acres of ancient Canadian Shielf and hardwood forest.

Time Spent Here: Plan to spend three-to-four hours here.

End Your Day: The Rockcliffe – Moore Falls

You’ll love the vibe as much as the view at The Rockcliffe – Moore Falls! These folks host some amazing live music here, so check the schedule to plan your stay here to coincide with one of their performances.

• Before settling in to your room, explore Minden a little bit, and see why the community is considered one of the most popular destinations in Ontario’s Highlands. 
• Choose from one of the hotel’s seven boutique rooms, each uniquely decorated and appointed, and with a guaranteed phenomenal night’s sleep. 
• Missed supper? Make a reservation at the on-site restaurant, specializing in seasonally inspired fine dining and specialty cocktails. The restaurant is open until 10 p.m. Thursday to Saturday, and 9 p.m. on Wednesday and Sunday. They are closed Monday and Tuesday.

Haliburton County
From Toronto: 190km • 2 hr 33 min From Ottawa: 310km • 3 hr 45 min

Paddlers will love the Minden Wild Water Preserve.  With 100 acres, the park includes campsites with picnic tables and firepits.  When you're not canoeing or kayaking, take advantage of the 3-kilometres trail system on foot or on your bike.

Time Spent Here: If you have time to explore Minden you won't regret it! 

Start Here: The Rockcliffe – Moore Falls

Wake up and get moving early because you have a full day ahead of you.

• Get on the road early as there is another full day ahead of you! 
• Stop at Molly’s Bistro & Bakery in Minden and have a breakfast of champions to get you started off on the right foot.

Next Stop: Haliburton

The charming village of Haliburton is the next stop on your travels, but be prepared to want to dally here for a while to try and fit everything in.

• Wander in Haliburton Sculpture Forest and enjoy outdoor art beneath a canopy painted by Mother Nature herself.
• Fall is so much better with a full belly. Take the Sip, Swill and Savour Brewery Tour to tickle your taste buds with some warm flavours.
• Don’t miss the phenomenal lookout at Skyline Park, overlooking the colourful treetops in Haliburton. Tip: You’ll want to bring a camera for this one.
• Pick up a lunch from Hook, Line & Sinker Fish Fry or Poquito Loco for an al fresco picnic at the lookout.

Haliburton County
From Toronto: 215km • 2 hr 55 min From Ottawa: 285km • 3 hr 15 min

In addition to its' stunning scenery, Haliburton is home to a thriving arts community.  With plenty of galleries dotting the countryside, a must-visit is the renowned Haliburton Sculpture Forest, a unique outdoor collection of sculptures by Canadian and international artists.

Time Spent Here: You will need to plan on three hours here, or longer if you wish to linger for a while.

Next Stop: Harcourt

Hwy 118 takes you close to the southern point of Algonquin Park along winding, tree-lined roads that are simply breathtaking when the fall colours are at their peak. Relax and savour each moment of the drive; remember half the journey is the getting there.

• Disconnect and discover the many layers of connection with waterfalls at Gaia’s Den: Spirit of the Waterfalls, a 74-acre property with three private waterfalls.
• Have a romantic water adventure with Deep Roots Adventure by booking one of their pre-booked experiences like the popular High Falls Paddle, Explore & Dine.
• See the forest from the back of a horse with a guided equine trail ride by South Algonquin Trails.

Haliburton County
From Toronto: 250km • 3 hr From Ottawa: 255km • 3 hr 10 min

 Depending on whether or not you book one of the experiences in the Harcourt area, you could take the whole day to experience this phenomenal region. 

End Your Day: Harmony Resorts

You might want to book an extra day at this resort! Located on the shores of Benoir Lake and on the southern edge of Algonquin Park, the blazing forests of Haliburton Highlands will be in full glory here. 

• Make the three minute drive to get take-out from AM/PM Gourmet for dinner and make sure you have some fixings for a hearty breakfast tomorrow.
• You can book one of the resort’s tiny cottages which are picture perfect and small enough to encourage you to spend more time in the great outdoors in fall.
• If you’d prefer a little more space, a spacious cottage is another excellent option, especially if you have a number of people in your group.
• Rent a canoe or kayak to explore the lake and get a different perspective on the reflection of the fall foliage.

Time Spent Here: If you want to do some exploring of the area make sure you arrive early.

Start Here: Harmony Resorts

Waken with the birds and get started early because there is another full day of fall’s beauty to bask in today.

• Watch the sun rise over Benoir Lake and savour the beauty of the area that inspired the creation of Algonquin Park in the late 1800s.
• Did you miss one of the experiences in Harcourt from the day before (like horseback riding, paddling the York River)? This is your chance to try and squeeze it in before leaving the area today. 

Next Stop: Bancroft

Pay close attention to the scenery as you head north-east from the resort – you will be driving along the southern shore of South Baptiste Lake and the views will be phenomenal. If you didn’t make something to eat at the resort, you’ll be ready to fuel up for the day ahead and there is an awesome spot to break your fast en route.

• If you waited for breakfast, the local favourite, Café B.C. is the place to go for an amazing breakfast. You can’t go wrong with their eggs benedict. 
• Learn more about the heritage of the area at the Bancroft North Hastings Heritage Museum. 
• Play a quick nine at Bancroft Ridge Golf Club.
• For more fall colours make the short hike to the lookout at Eagle’s Nest Park right in Bancroft. The view from the platform is an amazing way to see the fall foliage from up high.
• Bancroft is known as the mineral capital of Canada and is a popular spot for rockhounding. Purchase a permit from Kauffeldt’s General Store to try your hand at rockhounding and dig in an open-pit quarry nearby. 
The Granite is a nice spot to stop for lunch or dinner.

Hastings County
From Toronto: 245km • 2 hr 50 min From Ottawa: 220km • 2 hr 35 min

Bancroft, the Mineral Capital of Canada, is a rockhounders' dream. Must stop locations for all rock-lovers includes the Bancroft Mineral Museum and the Princess Sodalite Mine. Or take a trip down The Miner's Loop and walk in the shoes of miners long ago.

Time Spent Here: You’ll want to plan for a half day in Bancroft. 

Next Stop: Madoc

Known as the location of the first gold rush in Ontario, Madoc is worth a visit en route to your next stop.

• The sight of a winery in fall is not something you want to miss. Make a detour to Potter Settlement Winery to sample some of their award-winning wine. 
• Wander at Kings Mill Conservation Area, a former grist mill and dam for more fall colours in a different setting. 
• Have one of 7/62 Craft Brewery’s loaded charcuterie boards with a sampling of beer on their patio to take advantage of the last of the warm weather. 
• Grab an ice cream produced by nearby Kawartha Dairy (or a meal) from Madoc Dairy – Burnside’s Casual Dining, a local favourite.
O’Hara Mill Homestead is a great spot to stop for a picnic or stretch your legs. Check out the covered bridge which is particularly scenic in fall.

Hastings County
From Toronto: 210km • 2 hr 30 min From Ottawa: 195km • 2 hr 20 min

A trip to Madoc isn't complete without a stop to the Hidden Goldmine Bakery for a delicious cinnamon roll or butter tart.  Get a flavour for Madoc's gold rush history at this quaint bakery nestled on the historic main street.

Time Spent Here: You can pass on through Madoc or stop for an hour or two, depending on your schedule.

Next Stop: Flinton

The micro-community of Flinton is small enough to miss if you’re not paying attention to signs. Located on the Skootamatta River, this community’s claim to fame is the stunningly beautiful Flinton Falls waterfall which will be even more impressive in fall.

• Explore the Lennox & Addington Forest Trails on foot or by mountain bike to explore rugged Canadian Shield landscape over six kilometres of trails.
• Visit the Flinton Conservation Area to check out the Flinton Falls up close. Formerly used to power mills in the region, the Skootamatta River is dammed at Flinton Falls which creates the falls, and the powerful water flow was once used to turn two turbines. Bring your camera for this one! 

Lennox & Addington
From Toronto: 240km • 2 hr 55 min From Ottawa: 175km • 2 hr 5 min

The village of Flinton was built to house Billa Flint's employees, working at his mill on the river.  Ruins of the mill can be seen at the famous Flinton Falls and swimming hole at the Flinton Conservation Area, nestled in the corner of the village.

Time Spent Here: There isn’t much to do in Flinton proper, but you could easily spent a couple of hours on the trails or at the falls.

Next Stop: Sharbot Lake

You won’t be in Sharbot Lake for long, just long enough to pick up something to eat for dinner before heading on to your next stop.

• Pick up a locally-inspired take-out meal from Belong Sharbot Lake or Cardinal Café + Shop (their homemade donuts are a good item to pick up for savouring later in the day at your next stop).
• If you would prefer a sit-down meal, head to The Crossing Pub at the Sharbot lake Country Inn, where you will be spending the night.
• You can check into your accommodation (see below) while you wait for the sun to set.
• Watch the sun set over the lake at Sharbot Lake beach.

Sharbot Lake
Frontenac County
From Toronto: 290km • 3 hr 20 min From Ottawa: 120km • 1 hr 35 min

Time Spent Here: You can stay here until the sun starts to get low on the horizon so you don’t miss your final stop of the day (hint, it will be a celestial experience).

Next Stop: North Frontenac Dark Sky Preserve or Lennox & Addington Dark Sky Viewing Area

Fall is one of the best times to stargaze – the air is crisp and clear but the evenings are warm enough for you to sit for hours without getting too chilled. From Sharbot Lake you can choose between two dark sky viewing areas located in some of the darkest skies in Ontario – the North Frontenac Dark Sky Preserve or the Lennox & Addington Dark Sky Viewing Area.

• Whichever viewing area you are heading to, make sure you get there early enough to grab a prime spot, then spread a blanket or set up a lawn chair and sit back to take in the show. This is when those donuts from Cardinal Café will come in handy!

Time Spent Here: Spend as long as you like before heading back to Sharbot Lake to your accommodation. 

End Your Day: Sharbot Lake Country Inn

This cozy inn is a hidden gem in Sharbot Lake. Every room has a phenomenal view of the lake and a deck to get cozy on in the early morning with a steaming cup of coffee to watch the sun rise.

Start Here: Sharbot Lake

Your time in Sharbot Lake isn't over yet, you still have time to bask in the beauty of fall in North Frontenac.

• Before leaving Sharbot Lake, visit Sharbot Lake Provincial Park and hike the half-kilometre Ridge Trail to a lookout of the lake in fall.  
• The K&P runs right through Sharbot Lake and makes the perfect spot for a fall bike ride.
• Warm up with a coffee and a donut at Cardinal Café + Shop.
• See what’s in season when you pick up some take-out for an impromptu picnic today from Belong Sharbot Lake.

Time Spent Here:  Expect to spend a minimum of two hours at the provincial park and Sharbot lake proper.

Next Stop: Lanark Highlands

The winding roads of Lanark Highlands will be a pleasure to drive when the fall colours are in all their glory. Take your time here and stop when the urge strikes you.

• The hike to the top of Blueberry Mountain will be worth the effort when you see the view overlooking the colourful canopy of the forest.
• The Fall River Café and gallery in Maberly is a great spot to stop for an early lunch en route to the hike at Blueberry Mountain.
• If you didn’t stop for lunch in Maberly, the local favourites in Lanark village, Lanark Pizzeria and Fitz’s Fries can help you out. 
• Have you ever walked a llama? Try it at Serendipity Farm & Sanctuary, not far from Blueberry Mountains.
Ferrier’s Scotch Line Farm is a great spot to stop when the fall harvest is in! Experience their hay wagon rides or pick out your perfect pumpkin or squash, right from the field. 

Lanark County
From Toronto: 325km • 4 hr 10 min From Ottawa: 80km • 1 hr 5 min

Time Spent Here: You will want to plan for at least two hours at Blueberry Mountain.

Next Stop: Almonte

There’s so much to see and do in Almonte you will be hard pressed to fit it all in today!

Baker Bob’s is a must-visit in Almonte and you can pick up a cup of coffee and a sweet treat for the road, which is win for everyone.
Sivarulrasa Gallery features phenomenal works of art of renowned Canadian artists and is worth a tour.
• If you think crepes aren’t just for breakfast, The Mill Street Crepe Company has a crepe with your name on it.
• Have a picnic in the gazebo at the iconic waterfall in Almonte. A sandwich from Baker Bob’s would be a perfect fit here.  
• Stroll along the pathway at Metcalfe Geoheritage Park and learn more about the geological history of the area and the Mississippi River.

Lanark County
From Toronto: 360km • 4 hr 30 min From Ottawa: 52km • 50 min

Dr. James Naismith, the founder of basketball, was born in Almonte, where the original homestead still stands today.  Visit the Dr. James Naismith memorial statue on Mill Street, and get your picture taken with this Canadian legend.

Time Spent Here: Keep an eye on the time here, Almonte is such a fun town it’s easy for a quick visit to turn into an all-day affair! 

End Your Day: Calabogie Peaks Resort

The drive from Almonte to Calabogie will be one of the most beautiful of your trip. Plan your route to take you through Blakeney and Pakenham to keep the Mississippi River front and centre in your travels. The fall foliage through here will be spectacular.

• Check into your room and explore the resort to stretch your muscles after your hike.
• If you haven’t had dinner yet, stop at Canthooks Restaurant, right at the resort.
On the Rocks is just a short drive from the resort and has a phenomenal waterfront locations that’s even more beautiful in fall.

Ottawa Valley
From Toronto: 372km • 4 hr 40 min From Ottawa: 102km • 1 hr 15 min

Referred to as 'the funnest small town in Canada' by CBC's comedy series, Still Standing, Calabogie more than lives up to the name.  From indoor activities like restaurant hopping, to outdoor adventure in watersports, backwoods play, and skiing Ontario's vertical drop at Calabogie Peaks, there's plenty of fun to be had at this outdoor paradise.

Time Spent Here: You can arrive just in time for bed or early enough to explore the community. This is your last night on this trip, so make it a good one!

Start Here: Calabogie Peaks Resort

You have the full day to explore Calabogie before ending your fall journey so take your time and really experience the beauty of autumn in this resort town.

• Take the ski lift to the top of Calabogie Peaks for stunning scenery of the Ottawa Valley in Autumn. The fall colours chair lift runs the first three weekends in October; tickets are required and can be purchased at the resort on the day of your arrival. 
• Lunch in the valley is not something you want to miss. Stop in at Redneck Bistro right in the heart of Calabogie for an amazing meal.
• For maximum fall colours, hike the nine-kilometre Manitou Mountain trail to find inspiring autumn vistas like Eagles Nest, Manitou Mountain and Red Arrow Rock. 
• Rent a canoe, kayak, or SUP from Mad River Rentals and explore Calabogie Lake. 
• If you have enough time, book an ATV adventure from Tom Irwin Adventures.

Time Spent Here: Calabogie is another spot that will suck you in for the entire day. Plan to drag yourself away with enough time to make the drive home.