How to go hiking and see the fall colors in the Thousand Islands Ontario.
It’s that time of the year again! The apple pies are baking, the pumpkin spice lattes are flowing, and leaves are changing to vibrant hues of red, yellow, and orange. As the air gets a little crisper and the weather cools down, there’s really no better time of year for a hike. With the fall colors in full force, it’s time to hit the trails to admire the beauty. The Thousand Islands National Park is a beautiful natural space to explore and be at one with nature. Allow me to whisk you off to the Thousand Islands Ontario to show you how to hike one of Canada’s smallest national parks.
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National Parks in Ontario
Have you had the chance to visit the Thousand Islands National Park or any of Canada’s national parks? There are six national parks in Ontario, including the Thousand Islands National Park. The other national parks in Ontario include: Bruce Peninsula National Park, Georgian Bay Islands National Park, Point Pelee National Park, Pukaskwa National Park, and the Rouge National Urban Park in the Greater Toronto Area.
Facts About the Thousand Islands National Park
The Thousand Islands National Park, established in 1904, consists of 20 islands and three mainland properties. Even though it’s one of the smallest national parks in Canada, you’re truly spoiled for choice when it comes to outdoor adventures. Many areas of the national park are only accessible by boat, whether you’re kayaking, canoeing, or traveling by a powerboat to reach the islands. 1000 Islands hiking is more accessible through the three mainland trail systems at Landon Bay, Mallorytown Landing, and Jones Creek.
The Thousand Islands in Ontario are part of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve with one of the highest regions of biodiversity in Canada. The Frontenac Arch is an ancient granite ridge. The space where this ridge intersects with the Saint Lawrence River and the Great Lakes forms the Thousand Islands. The landscape consists of rugged shorelines, enchanting pine tree forests, and the peaks of ancient mountains that actually form the numerous islands. Animals that live at the Thousand Islands National Park include deer, coyotes, porcupines, foxes, beavers, skunks, rabbits, raccoons, turkey vultures, and many more. The region is home to many threatened species, like the black rat snake (Canada’s largest reptile), the osprey, the great blue heron, and a small heron known as the least bittern.
How to Hike in the Thousand Islands Ontario
There are many ways to experience the beauty of the Thousand Islands National Park. Hiking is such a wonderful activity to explore natural spaces in a peaceful and serene way. There are numerous opportunities for 1000 Islands hiking, both on the mainland and the islands themselves. While it’s such an adventure to take a kayak or canoe to the islands of the national park, there are places where you can go hiking right off the main roads near Gananoque.
Map of the Thousand Islands National Park
If you’re thinking about planning to hike around the Thousand Islands Ontario, I recommend heading to the official website to check out their maps. There is also a visitor’s center at Mallorytown Landing if you’d like to discuss your hikes with the experts and pick up some maps. You can go hiking at the following islands of the Thousand Islands National Park:
- Kingston Islands
- Admiralty Islands
- Lake Fleet Islands
- Navy Islands
- Middle Islands
- Grenadier Island
- East Islands
If you’re looking for an easy day hike to admire the fall foliage, I recommend planning to hike at one of the mainland properties (Mallorytown Landing, Jones Creek, or Landon Bay). There are many trails and loop trails at all three spaces to check out. I decided to hike the trails at Landon Bay because they didn’t seem too difficult. It was my first hiking trip after breaking my ankle and I wanted to ease back into hiking. I was also intrigued by the “Lookout Trail” as this usually means that there will be a good view.
Hiking at Landon Bay (Thousand Islands National Park)
To reach the Landon Bay section of the Thousand Islands National Park, take exit 647 from Highway 401. The actual address of this section is: 302 Thousand Islands Parkway, Lansdowne, Ontario, K0E 1L0. Put that address into your GPS and you’ll be there in no time.
As I visited in mid-October (after Canadian Thanksgiving), the main gate in the driveway to the national park was closed. However, that’s not a problem. Simply park your car across the street from the main entrance in the large space facing Halsteads Bay. You might want to walk down to the waterfront and admire the views at Halsteads Bay before your hike. It’s very pretty.
Take care as you cross the road to access the trails at the Thousand Islands National Park. This road is very busy and cars do travel really fast here, so be careful as you navigate your way across it. You’ll walk past the main entrance and there won’t be any fees to enter at this time of the year. You’ll discover the entry point to the trails on your right. There will be a rock archway at the start of the Donevan Trail (the blue trail on the map).
Hiking the Donevan Trail to the Lookout Trail
There are several hiking trails at the Landon Bay area of the Thousand Islands National Park. You can spend a couple of hours here hiking all of them. The Donevan Trail is the largest of them all (the blue trail) and it connects to several other hiking trails: the Bay Trail (orange trail), the Halstead Creek Trail (also marked in orange), the smaller Moran Trail and Riverview Trail (both marked in red), the Garden Trail (in gray), and the Lookout Trail (the yellow trail). I hiked sections of the Donevan Trail and the Lookout Trail.
The Donevan Trail winds through the forest, so it’s a great space to be in the middle of the fall colors. The trail is an easy hike and it’s relatively flat the entire way. There are many trail markers featuring the color of the trail that you’re hiking, so it’s easy to navigate your way around the park. I highly recommend that you hike up the steeper Lookout Trail to the top. It’s really not that difficult of a climb, and it won’t take you that long to hike to the top. There are amazing views at the top of the Lookout Trail of the national park and its waterways. It’s one of the best places to check out the fall foliage of the Thousand Islands Ontario from above.
What is the Peak Season for Fall Colors in the 1000 Islands?
While the Thousand Islands Ontario are lovely to visit all year long, the fall foliage puts on an amazing display through September and October. The peak season for fall colors changes each year. It’s a safe bet that you’ll view the best fall foliage when visiting the Thousand Islands in October.
All of the photos you’ll see in this blog post were taken in mid-October. Even though I visited in the middle of October, you can see that many of the trees are still green. You might want to consider planning your trip for late October for the maximum amount of fall colors.
I realize that the Thousand Islands National Park isn’t a provincial park, but Ontario Parks has a fabulous fall foliage map that updates throughout the season. Even though you won’t see the 1000 Islands listed on there, you can get an idea of the fall colors by looking at the forecasts of nearby provincial parks. If you see that Frontenac or Charleston Lake have brilliant fall colors, chances are that the Thousand Islands Ontario will also be in its peak foliage season.
Fall Activities in the 1000 Islands
Aside from 1000 Islands hiking, there are many fall activities in the Thousand Islands region of Canada. If you don’t mind the crisper and cooler weather, you can do many of the same activities that you’d do during the summer months. Visiting the Thousand Islands in October is such a treat: the region is at its prettiest with the fall colors, and it’s not crowded at all. When I visited on a Friday in October, there were hardly any other people around.
1000 Islands Tower
The 1000 Islands Tower is open during the fall season and provides some of the most spectacular views of the region. Take the elevator all the way to the top of the first observation deck and enjoy the 360 degree panoramic views. You can enjoy breathtaking scenery from three observation decks. Please note that the 1000 Islands Tower operates until the third weekend of October. Check the official website for opening dates and times to avoid disappointment.
1000 Islands Cruises
Looking to take in the scenery of the 1000 Islands by boat? Why not take a 1000 Islands cruise to drift past the rugged shorelines and spectacular island landscape. You can cruise along the St. Lawrence River to the 1000 Islands on a boat tour from downtown Kingston. Looking to combine your tour into a grand adventure? Check out this incredible 3 day tour from NYC: hike the canyon at Watkins Glen, visit Niagara Falls, tour around Toronto, and take a cruise at the Thousand Islands.
Kayaking at the Thousand Islands Ontario
If you don’t mind wearing warmer clothing, kayaking at the 1000 Islands is an amazing adventure. You have the freedom to explore many islands that are only accessible by small boat. You can kayak to several islands that are part of the Thousand Islands National Park for day hikes. There’s also the possibility of extending your stay by spending the night at an oTENTik cabin. It’s a bit like glamping as it’s a cross between a rustic cabin and a tent. You’ll find oTENTik camping accommodations on McDonald Island, Gordon Island, and on the mainland at Mallorytown Landing.
Helicopter Tour of the Thousand Islands
For a grand adventure of viewing the fall colors at the Thousand Islands Ontario, take a helicopter tour of the 1000 Islands. A helicopter tour is an exhilarating and unforgettable adventure. Viewing the fall foliage from up above is one of the best things to do in the Thousand Islands. You can choose from a 10 minute, 20 minute, or 30 minute helicopter to admire the forests and castles of the 1000 Islands.
Visiting Pumpkinferno, the Pumpkin Lantern Festival
While Pumpkinferno is a little bit of a drive from the Thousand Islands Ontario, it’s possible to make a day trip of it all. I drove from Toronto (from my home in Mississauga, Ontario) for a 1000 Islands hiking trip, checking out Pumpkinferno at night, and returning back home all in one day.
After hiking at Thousand Islands National Park, I stopped for a quick bite to eat at the Spitfire Cafe in Brockville, Ontario. This sweet little cafe is also very vegan friendly. I ordered a vegan ham and cheese toasted sandwich, a vegan chocolate peanut butter brownie, and an Americano. Everything was lovingly prepared and super yummy.
Next, you’ve simply got to check out Pumpkinferno at Upper Canada Village. It’s a dazzling display of carved pumpkin lanterns that’s super detailed and impressive. Pumpkinferno runs from the end of September throughout October on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. Read all about my review of Pumpkinferno and watch the video above to see this pumpkin lantern festival in action.
If you find that it’s a little too much driving all in one day, I suggest staying in Morrisburg or Brockville for the evening. The best hotels in Morrisburg are the McIntosh Country Inn and Conference Centre and the Russell Manor Bed and Breakfast. In the nearby city of Brockville, you’ll find more popular hotel chains like the Travelodge by Wyndham Brockville, the Super 8 by Wyndham Brockville, the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Brockville, and the Comfort Inn Brockville. I recommend checking out all of the hotel reviews in Brockville before you book your overnight stay to the Thousand Islands Ontario region.
I hope that you’re now thinking about planning your fall vacation to the Thousand Islands Ontario. I highly recommend making an entire day of it, whether you go hiking at the Thousand Islands National Park, kayak to hike at several islands, visit the 1000 Islands Tower, book a helicopter tour, or combine your trip to the 1000 Islands with the Pumpkinferno fall festival. If you’re going on a road trip, consider driving a little further to the Hell Holes Nature Trails and Caves.