Cottonwoods, Saskatchewan

Where to Go for the Best Saskatchewan Fall Colours

Cottonwood trees near Estuary Ferry, South Saskatchewan River, Saskatchewan

Cottonwood trees near Estuary Ferry, South Saskatchewan River.

Fall colour season is here. Great places to explore abound, from the mixed woods forests of the north, to aspen parkland, river valleys, and prairie coulees. Conditions vary from year to year, but these are a few of the places that we have found to be the most reliable for dazzling displays.

View from Height of Land Tower, Prince Albert National Park, Saskatchewan

View from Height of Land Tower, Prince Albert National Park

Prince Albert National Park

Smack in the middle of the province, the park is in a transition zone between the aspen parkland and boreal forest, so this mix of habitats results in an attractive mix of colours. It’s also very accessible, with roads, several hiking trails, and numerous places to explore by water.

Waskesiu Lake, Prince Albert National Park, Saskatchewan

Waskesiu Lake, Prince Albert National Park

The southern reaches of the park along Hwy #263 are the best areas for a sea of gold from the deciduous trees, while farther north it’s more a mix of gold and green. Excellent vantage points are the towers at the Height of Land (where the Saskatchewan River and Churchill watersheds divide) and near the start of the Spruce River Highlands Trail, both offering sweeping views. While any of the hiking trails are rewarding, the Boundary Bog Trail is in a class by itself, with the tamaracks and other moisture-loving plants turning rich shades.

Hwy #263 near Sandy Lake, Prince Albert National Park Saskatchewan

Above and below: Same place, different years, along Hwy #263 near Sandy Lake.

Scenic Highway #263, Prince Albert National Park, Saskatchewan
 

Boundary Bog Trail, Prince Albert National Park, Saskatchewan

Boundary Bog Trail, Prince Albert National Park.

Leaves on forest floor, Prince Albert National Park, Saskatchewan

Leaves on forest floor.

Narrows Road, Prince Albert National Park, Saskatchewan

Narrows Road, Prince Albert National Park

Narrow Hills Provincial Park

This is one of our favourite northern parks for fall colours. At the southern end of the boreal forest, there’s a nice mix of deciduous trees and evergreens, and the hilly nature of the park offers several excellent vantage points for photography.

Hwy #913 through Narrow Hills Provincial Park, Saskatchewan

Hwy #913 through Narrow Hills Provincial Park

While practically where in the park is great, two areas are absolute musts in the fall. One is the Narrow Hills Scenic Drive, which starts near the core area at Lower Fishing Lake and heads up a narrow push moraine with excellent views over the forest and lakes. It ends with an especially nice view over the Grace Lakes.

Grace Lakes, Narrow Hills Provincial Park, Saskatchewan, Canada

Grace Lakes, Narrow Hills Provincial Park

View along Narrow Hills Scenic Drive, Narrow Hills Provincial Park, Saskatchewan

View along Narrow Hills Scenic Drive, Narrow Hills Provincial Park

Forest of Narrow Hills Provincial Park, Saskatchewan

Forest of Narrow Hills Provincial Park

The other must-visit spot is the Gem Lakes, five tiny picture-perfect lakes named after gemstones. Hiking trails take you around all the lakes, but the best vantage point is close to the beginning, where the upper trail runs between Jade and Diamond Lakes. If you want to stay longer, there are beautiful walk-in camp sites.

Jade Lake, Gem Lakes, Narrow Hills Provincial Park, Saskatchewan, Canada

Jade Lake, one of the Gem Lakes, Narrow Hills Provincial Park

Canoeing at Jade Lake, one of the Gem Lakes, in Narrow Hills Provincial Park, Saskatchewan.

Canoeing at Jade Lake

Our favourite fall campground is at Baldy Lake. The six lake-side sites are right beside the water. It’s very popular and usually full during the summer, but in the fall we have sometimes had it all to ourselves.

Narrow Hills Provincial Park, Saskatchewan

Canoeing on Baldy Lake

Canoeing on Baldy Lake, Narrow Hills Provincial Park, Saskatchewan

Baldy Lake

Thickwood Hills

This area is not well known or travelled, but boasts a bounty of wonderful backroads to explore. As the name suggests, there are plenty of hills and plenty of trees, along with an incredible number of wetlands for waterfowl, songbirds, and forest-dwelling birds. The Thickwood Hills are roughly northeast of the Battlefords and northwest of Blaine Lake. In our new guidebook, Saskatchewan’s Best Scenic Drives, we’ve mapped out a number of choices for driving routes in the area.

Thickwood Hills, Saskatchewan

Thickwood Hills

Thickwood Hills near Mayfair, Saskatchewan

Thickwood Hills near Mayfair

Wetlands near Scent Grass Lake, Thickwood Hills, Saskatchewan

Wetlands near Scent Grass Lake, Thickwood Hills.

Qu’Appelle Valley

Practically any river valley is colourful in the fall, but the Qu’Appelle Valley is special. The best part is that you can drive along the valley almost a third of the way across Saskatchewan, so it is literally one scenic view after another. We always stop at Hidden Valley and the Kennel Church, both a bit east of Craven. Other prime spots include Buffalo Pound Provincial Park (especially the hills lining Nicolle Flats Marsh) and Echo Valley Provincial Park. But you can drive practically any stretch of the valley and not be disappointed.

Buffalo Pound Provincial Park, Saskatchewan

Hills along Hidden Valley, near Craven.

St. Nicholas Anglican Church, Qu'Appelle Valley

St. Nicholas Anglican Church, near Craven

Cypress Hills

The hills are spectacular at any time, but they can be outstanding in the fall. The best part is that the hilly nature of the terrain makes it easy to get excellent vantage points for photography. Practically anywhere can be rewarding, but we always head to the West Block of Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park. Aspen trees usually turn various shades of yellow and gold, though here we also found that many had a distinct orange tinge as well.

Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, Saskatchewan

Along Battle Creek Road, West Block, Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park.


Mixed wood forest, Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, Saskatchewan

Duck Mountain Highlands and Porcupine Forest

The eastern side of Saskatchewan is fabulous in fall. Duck Mountain Provincial Park is a definite highlight, and especially the Ski Hill Road in the southern part of the park. Also cruise some of the backroads just south of the park near Runnymede.

Ski hill road, Duck Mountain Provincial Park

Ski hill road, Duck Mountain Provincial Park

A highlight of the Porcupine Forest is the Woody Lake Road which runs north of Duck Mountain close to the Manitoba border. The area is heavily forested with several small lakes along the way.

Porcupine Forest along Woody Lake Road., Saskatchewan

Porcupine Forest along Woody Lake Road.

Porcupine Forest, near Spirit Lake, off Woody Lake Road.

Porcupine Forest, near Spirit Lake, off Woody Lake Road.

Prairie Coulees and River Valleys

Thought you needed forests for great fall colours? Visit a prairie coulee and you’ll find that the array of colours can be more dazzling than in the trees, due in large part to the wide variety of shrubs that each have their own hues in the fall. Good bets are Grasslands National Park and Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park, although you also find a lot by simply wandering prairie roads.

Brunyee Coulee, Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park, Saskatchewan

Brunyee Coulee, Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park

Fall colours, Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park, Saskatchewan.

Another of our favourite prairie spots does have large trees. It’s not unusual to find cottonwood trees along the flood plains of rivers, but near the Estuary Ferry, west of Leader, we find an especially magnificent stand that is outstanding when the trees turn golden. Take the main road across the Estuary Ferry, and if conditions are dry, there’s wonderful backroads through adjoining Chesterfield Flats (opening photo)

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