Canadian Press File Photo
The days are growing shorter and temperatures may be on the downward dive into winter, but don’t despair.
Before hibernation season starts, Mother Nature puts on a stunning farewell to summer, and nowhere is it more spectacular than southern Quebec.
The lush hillsides of the Laurentian Mountains north of Montreal have already been painted a vibrant palette of scarlet, gold and orange as trees prepare to shed their leaves.
“It’s magical,” said Brian Harrod of Toronto as he toured Mont-Tremblant, Que., on bike.
It’s so magical that Harrod and his partner, Annie Powell, extended their recent stay in the town by several days. “We’ve had the best time,” he said. “We’ve done just about everything — the biking, the kayaking.
“When you’re on the cycle paths it’s absolutely spectacular.”
All around them the hills are every imaginable shade of purple, scarlet and yellow.
“We have one of the best, if not the very best, places to view foliage in the entire world,” said Scotty Johnston, who has been guiding leaf tours for U.S.-based Tauck Tours for decades.
“You’ve got the types of trees that are the most spectacular.”
There’s a reason the maple leaf in the Canadian flag is red.
Cold weather prompts the colour change, and it is in the northern climes that nature puts on its best show, with a striking and broad range of crimson and gold.
Maples are the most colourful of trees, and the sugar maples that dot the Quebec landscape the most colourful of their ilk, lighting the landscape on fire for the season.
The show starts in mid-September in the higher elevations in the Laurentians and the Chic-Chocs mountains, which are in the eastern Quebec region of Gaspé.
Over the next six weeks it heads south, spreading out over the St. Lawrence River valley and down the Appalachian chain into the United States and east into the Maritimes.
“One of our favourite spots where foliage is enjoyed is on the road from Quebec City to Ste-Anne-de-Beaupre,” Johnston said of Tauck, which takes up to 1,000 visitors into southern Quebec each year to see the leaves turn.
The King’s Path, the route that meanders along the St. Lawrence between Montreal and Quebec City, is a popular driving tour, and there’s a train tour of the gorgeous Gaspe Peninsula.
In Mont-Tremblant, best known for its ski resort, Omid Mehdizadeh, 31, was glad he made the trip from his new home in Montreal.
“We just came to see the leaves and go hiking,” he said, standing under a canopy of colour near the majestic Mont-Tremblant National Park. “It’s gorgeous.”
There are many festivals celebrating the season, from the Symphony of Colours in Tremblant to Ste-Adele in Colour.
Visitors to Quebec won’t want to miss the annual apple season at the same time.
Cider producers, orchards and wineries throw open their doors to celebrate their bounty, offering pick-your-own apples, orchard tours and cider and wine tastings.
In the Montreal-area Monteregie region, on the so-called Cider Route, most restaurants celebrate with five-course menus honouring all things apple.
Johannie Coiteux, spokeswoman for the Monteregie region, said 250,000 visitors are expected this fall along the Cider Route.
“Fall is a really good season for us,” said Coiteux.
• Bonjour Quebec, the provincial tourism organization, provides information on seasonal activities, accommodations and special deals. Call 1-877-BONJOUR.
• Best season: mid-September to the end of October.