Top Ten

Five Amazing Fall Drives and Rides within three hours of Toronto

Beautiful autumn colours are just a short jaunt from home.

By Matthew Neundorf Wheels.ca

Oct 12, 2022 6 min. read

Article was updated 4 months ago

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With vibrant, changing colours, a low-hanging sun and just a hint of freshness in the air, autumn is truly the best season to explore Ontario. With such a vast and beautiful Province to call our own, narrowing down which direction to head for a fall road trip can be a task. Whether it’s behind the wheel of your favourite drop-top, in the saddle of your trusty steed or with all seven seats packed with family and cameras in tow, we’re highlighting five routes within three hours of Toronto (plus one that’s just a bit beyond) that will not disappoint. Just don’t forget to layer up!

Flinton Road and The Four Seasons Scenic Route

There are a number of engaging drives that filter off of the Highway 7 corridor, but one of my favourites is found just outside of the town of Actinolite. Just beyond highway 37, hang a left onto Flinton Road and settle in for 23 km of sweepers and switchbacks that are bordered by Mattagami Region Conservation Authority land. This road is consistently voted one of the top 10 in the region for a reason, regardless of season.

Flinton road

Map Data © 2022 Google

Best of all, once you’ve wound your way to Flinton Corner, you can head north for the short jaunt up to Cloyne and Bon Echo Provincial Park. I highly recommend a stop to take a trek along the short but challenging Cliff Top Trail as it delivers a commanding view of the surrounding foliage.

If time permits on the route back home, the 4 Seasons Scenic Route will loop you from Cloyne to Sharbot Lake along routes 506 and 509. This collection of roads is engaging to ride or drive and, as they climb, twist and fall through Meyers Cave, Ompah and Mississippi Station. You can again take in the sights of both Addington and Frontenac Counties before rejoining Highway 7. If you opt to take highway 38 south towards the 401, you’ll get bonus points from us, as it keeps up the pace you’ll no doubt now be used to.

Stony Lake Loop

If you’re anything like me, a good ride should either start or end with a coffee and a buttertart – sometimes both! Just north-east of Peterborough, in Douro, the Kawartha Buttertart Factory has an outpost that makes getting onto the Stony Lake Loop almost as rewarding as the ride itself.

stony lake loop

Map Data © 2022 Google

Follow highway 4 up towards the Warsaw Caves Conservation Area. If you haven’t eaten all of the buttertarts yet, you may want to give some spelunking a shot as this Conservation Area boasts seven accessible caves. If not, hop onto highway 6 from here as it curls around Upper Stony Lake. Hang a left onto Northeys Bay Road as it hugs the lake’s coast and passes right by Petroglyphs Provincial Park, which features the largest concentration of indegenous rock carvings in all of Canada.

The loop continues on highway 28 through Burleigh Falls, where Stoney Lake meets Lower Buckhorn Lake, and wiggles south back towards highway 7. I recommend extending the trip by heading back into Peterborough and making a stop at La Hacienda Mexican Restaurant on Hunter Street West. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.

Hwy 118

Winding its way through both the Muskokas and the Haliburton Highlands, Highway 118 should be on everyone’s autumn drive bucket list. Set your GPS towards Glen Orchard, Ontario and you can pick up 118 at its western end. Hop on and it will awe as it loops through the Muskokas, passing through Port Carling, Milford Bay and Willow Beach before skirting around Bracebridge. If you’re pressed for time, a cruise back into the GTA via highway 11 can happen here but I’d recommend going the distance and continuing east to highway 35.

hwy 118 muskokas

Map Data © 2022 Google

While the scenery through the Muskokas is gorgeous, it pales in comparison to what you’ll see pushing through the empty sections of 118 heading towards Carnarvon. And yes, those empty stretches of road do wind and undulate beautifully. Should you be ready for a bevvy and a bite at the highway 35 intersection, Boshkung Brewing’s Lakeside location makes a mean russet fry poutine and their 35 & 118 Cream Ale will hit the spot when you get home.

Algonquin Park

Can you even call yourself an Ontarian if you haven’t meandered through Algonquin Park in the fall? Highway 60 scribbles a line between Huntsville and Whitney while passing through the splendour that is Canada’s oldest Provincial Park. The fall colours and lake views along the highway 60 corridor are exceptional but also, thanks to its northerly location, among the first to reach “peak fall”, so plan to tackle this one a little earlier than others.

algonquin park copy

Map Data © 2022 Google

It also pays to plan ahead – day passes for vehicle access need to be purchased in advance. As such, this route is often more of a parade than a driver’s road, thanks to the hundreds of others taking in the sights. And should you wish to stop and embark upon one of Algonquin’s trails, you’ll need to have booked that well in advance.

Western Ontario’s EuroTrip

Scan a map of Ontario’s south western region and you’ll quickly spot a number of familiar city names: Paris, Dublin, Vienna, Copenhagen, London. Those are just a handful of the eight different “European” cities that make up this “international” loop.

western ontario euro trip

Map Data © 2022 Google

The jaunt to Paris, Ontario is just under 90-minutes from Toronto and makes up the only truly boring bit of the journey. Head south from Paris, along highway 24 and make tracks along routes 4 and 3 for Vienna. Just south of there, in Port Burwell, lies the 90 metre-long submarine, the HMCS Ojibwa. After a tour through that Oberon class sub you should track towards Copenhagen just a few klicks down the road for a potential stop at Fixin’s Ice Cream and Food Emporium.

The trip from Copenhagen to London winds through St. Thomas, and pushes beyond to Dublin, ON. If you didn’t fill up on ice cream, a quick detour to Cowbell Brewery in Blyth should tackle lunch and a few tins to bring home. Brussels is next, followed by Stratford and Lisbon. The entire route winds itself through some of Ontario’s most compelling farm country scenery and there are numerous connector roads throughout that are well worth exploring.

Bonus: Letterkenny Road

If you’re willing to push a smidge beyond our three-hour barrier, there are few better stretches of asphalt than the 18km rollercoaster known as Letterkenny Road. An old settlement road that traces routes back to the Opeongo Line – one of the initial colonisation routes scouted by William Bell in 1847 – it connects the towns of Quadeville and Brudenell.

letterkenny road

Map Data © 2022 Google

On the map, it actually looks fairly straight but in person, the elevation changes and curves make for an amazing experience. While admittedly it can be a long way to go for an 18km reward, trust that the routes around it and leading to it are also engaging and equally scenic. Plus, if you’re a fan of the show, heading to its namesake spot is a must. So c’mon then bud, pitter patter.




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