It’s that brief but beautiful time of year again – when the verdant forests of Saskatchewan turn yellow, orange and even a bit red for a short window during autumn in September.
With 53% forest making up the province, there are thousands of places to go to see the fall colours in the province. To help guide you on the best places to go, I’ve made a list of some of the top locations to drive to and check out the views of the changing colours in Saskatchewan.
*If you’re looking to add hiking onto your road trip, here are 10 of the best hiking trails to see the autumn colours in Saskatchewan – many of which are in the parks mentioned below.
When is the Best Time to See Fall Colours in Saskatchewan?
Conditions vary from year to year depending on temperature, rain and wind – which cause the trees to lose their leaves more quickly. But roughly, the best time to go leaf-peeping in Saskatchewan is from mid-September until early October.
The last several years, the peak of autumn colours seems to be the week of September 17-23. In the north, the golden larch hang onto their needles a little bit longer. This extends the autumn season, often into the first weekend of October. In the south, most trees lose their leaves quickly due to the high winds. Occasionally you can still find subtle autumn colours tucked low in the hills and coulees sometimes as late as Thanksgiving.
Where to See the Fall Colours in Saskatchewan?
A road trip to see the colours of the autumn foliage is the perfect reason to get out for a change in scenery. Here are 8 fall-inspired road trips to see the best autumn colours in Saskatchewan.
1. Prince Albert National Park Scenic Route
One of the most iconic road trips to take in Saskatchewan (in any season) is the scenic route along Highway 263 into Prince Albert National Park. This narrow, single-lane 63-kilometre section of road is where the forest transitions from aspen parkland to boreal forest. This means it’s the perfect location for bright photo ops of the vibrant mix of golds, yellows and greens that make autumn so wonderful.
Three of my favourite spots to stop in Prince Albert National Park are the bridge at Kinowa Lake, the bridge along the Spruce River between Spruce River Highlands Trail and Freight Tait Springs Trail and the short walk up the Height of Lands viewing tower. All three of these locations are in the southern part of the park and offer spectacular views. But don’t let that stop you from exploring along Waskesiu Lake up to the Narrows Peninsula, along the Waskesiu River and hiking up to the Spruce River Highlands tower. (My favourite PANP autumn hiking trails are here.)
If you’re looking for a really epic adventure during the autumn months, consider travelling over to the west block of Prince Albert National Park. I recommend heading out on a multi-day trip on horseback with Sturgeon River Ranch.
2. West Block, Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park
Bordering both Alberta and Saskatchewan, Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park is a diverse blend of mixed grasslands, lush forests and open prairie. It’s all part of the erosional plateau that rises 1,468 metres above sea level. It’s also the highest point in Canada east of the Rocky Mountains.
The best drive through the park can be found in the West Block. Follow highway 271 south of Maple Creek. Where the highway turns south to Fort Walsh, continue heading west on the gravel road. A stop at the Conglomerate Cliffs drive-up lookout point is spectacular with elevated views of the fall colours overlooking Adams Lake. Then continue your drive towards the equestrian and West Block campgrounds. The hill down to this area of the park reveals some of the most spectacular views of the forest. At the end of the road is a hike I highly recommend.
3. Narrow Hills Provincial Park Scenic Route
Narrow Hills is fast becoming one of the most popular parks in the province for hikers due to the Gem Lakes trail. The golden larches in this area don’t disappoint. But there’s a specific road and viewpoint that are perfect for driving up for a view of the autumn colours.
The 19-kilometre round-trip Narrow Hills Scenic Route is a gravel road that follows along a push moraine. This high ridge is part of the dramatic contours of the park that were left behind when the glacier receded 10,000 years ago. There are interpretive signs that go into more detail along the way. They lead up to a viewpoint facing south over the Grace Lakes. The road continues all the way to Love, Saskatchewan. But you’ll know you’ve reached the scenic point turnaround when you come to an open meadow with a snowmobile shelter.
Please note: The road is rough and bumpy and can be tricky to navigate in wet conditions. People often bike or hike along the road, so travel with caution.
4. Meadow Lake Provincial Park
Meadow Lake Provincial Park is one of the largest parks in the province at 1600 square kilometres. On the edge of Saskatchewan’s agricultural belt, the park falls within Canada’s boreal zone. It’s made up of spruce, pine, larch, poplar and birch trees – perfect for viewing the changing colours of the leaves.
The park is long – nearly 100km from the eastern park gate to the Cold River campground in the west. You can actually hike the entire length of the park along the 135 km Boreal Trail, Saskatchewan’s longest through hike for an up-close and personal experience with autumn amongst the trees. But the views of the forest along the grid road are also spectacular.
The entry into Greig Lake has a particularly stunning stretch of forest along the paved road. The elevated views just east of the Goodsoil Park gate offer a great vantage point of the autumn leaves. For a quick stop, head to the dock at Sandy Beach Campground and take in the fiery colours reflected in the lake.
There are dozens of hiking trails, campgrounds and viewpoints to see the autumn colours throughout the park.
5. Qu’Appelle Valley – Pasqua to Katepwa Lakes
For those living in the southern half of the province, the Qu’Appelle Valley can’t be beat for epic autumn colours. With the river running more than a third of the way across the province, there are dozens of locations for autumn views of the valley.
In particular, is the 32-kilometre scenic drive from Pasqua Lake in Echo Valley Provincial Park to Katepwa Lake. Notable stops include the valley rim in Echo Valley overlooking Pasqua and Echo Lakes. There is a parking lot north of the Valleyview Campground. It’s an easy walk out to see the sweeping views of the hills bordering the shores of the two lakes. The park has installed a wooden picture frame great for fun family photos. If you’re looking to hike a bit further, I recommend these trails.
The small community of Lebret sits along the shoreline of Mission Lake further down the valley. It’s known for its two uniquely situated churches. The Stations of the Cross and memorial chapel are located on the side of the valley hill. It’s a short but intense hike up. The church overlooks the fieldstone Sacred Heart Church in the centre of town and offers stunning views of the lake and valley beyond.
6. Qu’Appelle Valley – Lumsden to Fairy Hill on Highway 99
The little town of Lumsden might be one of the loveliest communities in the province during autumn (with a variety of things to see and do for every type of traveller). You can paddle, hike or drive from here to see how impressive the autumn colours are in the Qu’Appelle Valley.
But there’s one stretch of road nearby that’s popular with leaf peepers. Head northeast of Lumsden through Craven onto Highway 99. Locals call this road The Seven Bridges Road. Follow the Qu’Appelle River until you reach the intersection of Highway 6 south of Southey. (Please note: although it’s called a highway, this 21-kilometre one-way stretch of road is all gravel).
The highlight of this drive is the kaleidoscope of colours in the coulees contrasted with the grassy hillsides. The colours also pop against the golden grain fields on the valley floor. A popular spot with photographers is the red-roofed Little Church in the Valley (St. Nicholas Anglican Church) tucked into the sloping hills. It’s best seen during golden hour just after sunrise and just before sunset.
7. Duck Mountain Provincial Park
On the eastern border of the province, Manitoba maples work their magic with brilliant displays of orangey-red autumn colours running the length of the Pasquia Hills in the Duck Mountain Highlands. Ski Hill Road offers a birds-eye view of the backcountry. The road winds through the multicoloured hills and wetlands right into the heart of Little Boggy Creek and the encompassing valley.
Bonus: My favourite 300-metre boardwalk in the province can be found here. The Fen Trail has 6 different types of carnivorous plants. They can all be found in the wetland if you look close enough. Walking out to the viewing platform also gives way to an unobstructed view of the forest around you.
8. Hudson Bay
The lure of golden larches beckons locals and travellers alike to the Hudson Bay region during the autumn months. In fact, last autumn I spent three days intent on finding as many golden larches as I could in the latter part of leaf hunting season.
The area is also home to two of the highest points of land in the province, Bainbridge Hill and Brockelbank Hill.
At Bainbridge Hill and the Highway 55 junction by Mountain Cabin recreation site, there are epic views of the low-lying upper Saskatchewan river delta at the northeast tip of the Pasquia Hills. There’s a highway camera set up by the provincial government. It’s meant for updates on road conditions, but it’s also a great way to sneak a peek at the autumn colours if you can’t be there in person.
Brockelbank Hill is 810 metres above sea level. Located on Highway 980, the best views can be seen when driving and looking north. There are sweeping views of the Red Deer River Valley Lowlands east of the Pasquia Hills. There is a pull-out for parking on the east side of the road with a namesake monument for the Honorable John Hewgill Brockelbank.
More Great Views of the Fall Colours in Saskatchewan
For three additional places to enjoy the autumn colours, consider driving out to the Cochin Lighthouse, hiking the trails at Moose Mountain Provincial Park and visiting Anglin Lake and Anderson Point Campground.
The eight locations listed above are only a small snapshot of the incredible views of the autumn colours we have in Saskatchewan. Half the fun of leaf-peeping in the province is getting out on an adventure and finding your own favourite spots.