*This post on finding the best fall colours near Hudson Bay, Saskatchewan is created in partnership with the Town of Hudson Bay. But as always, experiences and opinions are genuinely and authentically my own.
The town of Hudson Bay is a location in the province that has a lot to offer – in every season. I’ve spent that last few years travelling northeast to explore the incredible outdoor adventure opportunities in the region. This year, I wanted to see the town in all its splendour of the fall season.
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In Search of Golden Larches in Saskatchewan
Autumn isn’t over until the larches say it’s over.
Many people think you have to escape to the mountains and Alberta’s famous Larch Valley to see the golden hues of these trees. But Saskatchewan is home to some pretty stunning spots to catch the turning colour of the larch needles.
Which is actually what makes them so cool.
Larches are a really unique tree in that they look like an evergreen but they aren’t. Although they have needles and cones (which makes them conifers like fir, cedar and pine trees) they’re deciduous. This means their needles not only fall off, but they change from green to a nearly fluorescent golden yellow in the autumn.
Larches start to change colour once the rest of the leaves on other trees have fallen – which give us an extended autumn season here in the Prairies.
While larches are obviously found in the forest, they are more specifically found in wetlands and peatlands scattered across the landscape of the north. Which makes Hudson Bay a top area to seek them out.
**Interesting Fact: Larches are also commonly called Tamarack. Either name is correct and can be used interchangeably.
When to See The Larches Turn Colour
The best time to see larches in Saskatchewan is within the last week of September and the first two weeks of October. To view them, it’s as easy as driving through the northern forested region of Saskatchewan – which is literally half (52.7% or 34.3 million hectares) of the province. More than 90% of that is Crown forest which means there are a LOT of places you can go.
This is why Hudson Bay is in a great location. On the edge of the forestry line, the town offers the perfect mix of accessibility and adventure in terms of leaf-chasing.
Hudson Bay Community Development Director and Night Photographer Jeanine Holowatuik and I spent three days travelling around finding gorgeous patches of larches to take photos of.
Where to Go to See the Best Fall Colours Near Hudson Bay
I could easily answer where to go to see the best fall colours near Hudson Bay with “anywhere in the forest!” But to be more specific if you choose to head northeast to Hudson Bay, here are four places that are easy to access and a great road trip for views of both the forest and the hills.
**Please be aware that there are active logging roads around Hudson Bay which means an encounter with semis on paved and gravel roads is highly likely.
**Cell service outside of the town is extremely limited or non-existent. If you intend to explore down roads you’ve never been before, make sure to leave a trip plan with someone you know or carry a Garmin In-Reach or Spot Satellite Messenger with you. Full fuel tanks and a spare tire in the vehicle are also recommended.
1. Brocklebank Hill & Highway 980
Brockelbank Hill is located on Highway 980, north of the Woody River Recreation Site. At 810 metres (2700 feet) above sea level, the best views can be seen facing north. It’s the highest point in the Porcupine Hills with sweeping views of the Red Deer River Valley lowlands east of the Pasquia Hills. Keep an eye out if you’re travelling south as it’s easy to miss how much elevation you’ve gained while driving.
There is a pull out on the east side of the road and a monument for the Honorable John Hewgill Brockelbank whom the hill is named after. The hill is a perfect example demonstrating that Saskatchewan has a diverse topography.
2. Bainbridge Hill & Highway 9
Bainbridge Hill is located on Highway 9 north of Hudson Bay near the junction with Highway 55 and offers just as amazing views as Brockelbank Hill but in the Pasquia Hills. Mountain Cabin recreation site nearby is a great place to stay overnight if looking for camping options.
During the autumn, the side roads, bridges and pull-off points on this highway also offer great views of the forest as well as the trees along the highway. There’s a camera set up by the government to keep an eye on road conditions but also a great way to see the autumn colours if you can’t be there in person.
3. Hudson Bay Trout Pond
Only two miles east of Hudson Bay on Highway 3 is Trout Pond. This is a great stop for a picnic lunch and a short walk around the little lake. Larches are scattered on the shoreline amongst other deciduous trees and make for some gorgeous photos on calm days. For those who like fishing, the lake is stocked with rainbow trout and there’s even a geocache hidden nearby. At night, it’s an ideal location to set up for night photography.
4. Viewpoints along the Red Deer River
The Red Deer crosses Highway 9 south of town and is a historically important waterway connected to both the fur trade and early logging history. It’s also a popular river for canoers and kayakers in the summer months.
With high, sandy banks there are numerous locations that make for a great photo op. Jeanine and I headed south from town across the bridge to a great viewpoint on the river (directly across from the Weyerhauser mill). We also visited another point near the local airport. When water levels are low later in the season, it’s a great place to hop rocks in search of fossils.
What Else to do in Hudson Bay in Autumn
For those that love outdoor adventure, there are limitless activities to do that include hiking, boating, fishing, camping, paddling, mushroom picking, finding rare plant species and hanging out at the lake (as Saskatchewanians do) to name a few.
There are also a variety of other activities to check out in and around town throughout the fall season.
1. Chase the Northern Lights
If you’re looking to be awed and inspired by Saskatchewan’s night skies, Hudson Bay is a great place to be. Autumn is the ideal season for night photography as there are fewer bugs and the daylight hours are shorter but it’s not as cold as winter.
Jeanine spends her nights out capturing inspiring images including the northern lights, the Milky Way and noctilucent clouds. She shares her photos on her Instagram account @jeanine.holowatuik. Her top tip is to head outside of town to limit light pollution and see the darkest skies possible.
2. All-Season Walking Trail
In town is a 7-kilometre hiking trail that winds its way from the north end, along the western edge and into a forest of jackpine trees. It’s a great hike to feel in the forest while still being within walking distance of town. The trail is pet-friendly and has bench seating to enjoy a little forest bathing.
For those in search of some serious hiking, check out the Rice River Canyon 100 kilometres north of town.
Geocaching is a modern-day treasure hunt. The free Geocaching app guides geocachers to hide-and-seek containers filled with treasures in locations all around the world. In Hudson Bay, there are more than 30 hidden in different locations within cell service.
The last time I visited, I geocached near Ruby Lake. This time, I headed out to Greenbush Recreation Site west of town in search of a geocache hidden past the remains of the old townsite and an Indian Burial Site.
This is also another great spot to stop overnight for camping.
4. Corn Maze at Hudson Bay Heritage Park
In the last several autumns, the Hudson Bay Heritage Park has opened a corn maze in September and October. Admission is only $5 and supports the park. At the end of the season, they celebrate Halloween with their annual Fright Night and a haunted park scavenger hunt.
It’s the perfect way to celebrate and enjoy autumn when visiting.
Where to Stay in Hudson Bay
Fir River Ranch
If Giraffe Manor in Kenya has been on your bucket list but outside your budget, considering visiting Fir River Ranch instead! The B&B is an active ranch where the horses are allowed to roam anywhere in the yard. Don’t worry, they’re all very friendly!
But the REAL experience comes when owner Audrey Stauber opens the side door in her living room in the morning, hands you a CRATE of carrots and her eight horses come running straight to the house for their morning snack.
The next best experience is the amazing meals you’ll enjoy while staying here as Audrey is a trained journeyman chef. It’s not unusual to be welcomed into the house with Audrey brandishing a tray of homemade creampuffs and donuts as you step inside. She also makes her own wine and of course, her famous homemade jam.
There are cozy cowboy-themed rooms available in the house but there are two cabins that can host large groups. There are also two hot tubs, an on-site sauna and her cabins are pet friendly.
Where to Eat in Hudson Bay
Railway Avenue Pub
The Railway Avenue Pub has been on my bucket list for the nearly two years it took owners Jordan and Christine to bring their stunning concept to life.
The couple salvaged, thrifted and reclaimed local items to incorporate in the design of the former Acklands building. They wanted the dining experience in the restaurant to be interactive with a story in every corner.
Influence of the local region is seen throughout the space including the old copper plumbing from the building as a display over the bar, handcrafted tables built from reclaimed wood and even a train crossing centred in the room.
This place is a true piece of history and art and their food and drink menu is fantastic.
Lynn’s Drive Inn
If you stop in at Lynn’s Drive Inn (which is a local institution in town), order a burger and an ice cream. But not just any burger. The most popular choice on the menu – and what Lynn’s is known for – is a mushroom bacon cheeseburger. Some people get a double patty while others add pickles. All that matters is it’s worth the hype.
The soft serve choices rotate every second day, so you’ll either have vanilla or the surprise flavour which could potentially be strawberry, pistachio, coconut, orange, cherry, blackberry or classic chocolate.
The Drive Inn is seasonal and usually closes mid-October and opens back up mid-April.
The Pines Restaurant
If you head to The Pines Restaurant on Churchill Street (the main street in town, despite the actual Main Street being two streets to the west), make sure to take note that it’s on a partial one-way street. The street switches from one-way to two-way heading south at 2nd Avenue.
The restaurant is a classic-small town joint enjoyed by the locals and a great spot for a quick lunch or a hearty supper. It’s also located in the historic Desrochers Hotel which is a heritage building more than 100 years old.