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Little Qualicum Falls | Jordan Dyck

21 Breathtaking Photo Spots for Fall Colours on Vancouver Island

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Little Qualicum Falls | Jordan Dyck

Fall is a magical time of the year on Vancouver Island, an island filled with diverse flora and fauna that is ever-changing, shifting with the changes in weather. The biodiversity of Vancouver Island makes it a great place to discover beautiful fall colours in the wild. And it’s easy to find picture-perfect locales once you know where to look. Because of Vancouver Island’s wide variety of tree species and forests that range from foggy coastal rainforests to evergreen-draped mountains, there are plenty of spots to find breathtaking fall colours. Here are 20 photo-ready destinations to put on your list.

South Island

Person viewing the trail map at Goldstream Provincial Park | Jordan Dyck
Goldstream Provincial Park

With towering trees and cascading waterfalls, Goldstream Provincial Park, located just outside of Victoria, is a sight to behold in the autumn. A meandering river that makes its way through the park is the perfect place to perch and watch the leaves fall around you. Keep your eyes peeled for spawning salmon at this time of year, and if you’re lucky you may even be able to spot a black bear—from a safe distance.

 

Beacon Hill Park

A 200-acre urban park located in the heart of Victoria, Beacon Hill Park‘s many trees transform into a vibrant array of fall colours. Beacon Hill features several trails that criss-cross the park, with wide grassy areas for an afternoon picnic or a relaxing stop with a book. With native wildflowers, grasslands, and whispering willows, the park offers one of Vancouver Island’s most colourful and easily accessible outdoor landscapes.

East Sooke Regional Park

A rugged coastal park covered in walking and hiking trails, East Sooke Regional Park comes to life in the autumn, bursting with fall colour. This dazzling park is a perfect place for a fall beach adventure that features both magnificent foliage and don’t-miss coastal views.

 

Butchart Gardens | @localwanderer
Gowlland Tod Provincial Park

Towering over Victoria, Gowlland Tod has a number of fantastic trails that make perfect perches for autumn photos. Capture maple trees with bright crimson leaves peppered amongst vibrant greens and yellows. The hike to the top boasts a vantage point for stunning panoramic views of Victoria and surrounding areas.

 

Butchart Gardens

Beautiful anytime of the year, but especially lovely in the autumn season, Butchart Gardens is an accessible way for the whole family to experience breathtaking fall colours. Located in the town of Brentwood Bay just north of Victoria, Butchart offers highlights including picturesque maple trees located in the Japanese Garden. A special bonus? The always-busy gardens are significantly quieter in the fall, making your visit at this time of year both beautiful and peaceful.

Kinsol Trestle

The Kinsol Trestle Trail, located within the Cowichan Valley, is an easy and flat 1.5-km walk (or bike) through the forest that leads to one of the tallest free-standing timber rail trestles in the world. The season bathes the views at this historic landmark in autumnal hues, and the visual rewards are many. Another great way to experience Kinsol Trestle is on two wheels, which makes for a scenic afternoon pedal through nature’s immense beauty.

 

Maple Mountain

Located in North Cowichan, Maple Mountain features panoramic views of Maple Bay and striking Mt. Tzouhalem. A hiking-only trail, the Maple Mountain Summit Trail rewards hikers with unmatched views of the surrounding landscape. There are several other smaller trails that offer equally memorable opportunities to experience the beauty of the area in the fall.

Cowichan Valley Trail

The Cowichan Valley Trail is a multi-use trail system located in Southern Vancouver Island that is friendly for families, walkers, runners, cyclists, and even horseback riders. Skutz Falls, just outside Lake Cowichan, is a favourite part of the trail among locals in the autumn. The Holt Creek Trestle is another fantastic viewing spot, bursting with vibrant colours.

 

Cowichan River Footpath

The Cowichan River Footpath is a hiking trail that follows the banks of the rugged Cowichan River, connecting the river’s several parks. If you’re looking for somewhere to stay while you explore this wonderful trail, check out the Cowichan River Lodge, a rustic log-cabin accommodation that offers picturesque autumn views.

Southern Gulf Islands

Otter Bay on Pender Island

The ocean paradise of Pender Island is not to be missed on a Southern Gulf Island fall itinerary. With more public water access than any other Gulf Island, the oceanfront fall scenery is one-of-a-kind. One of our top spots for fall photos is on Pender’s Otter Bay, located right outside the BC Ferries terminal. Walk along the shore here in the fall and you are almost guaranteed some incredible photos. Explore the island in search of fall colours on a crisp autumn mornings, and keep an eye out for the golden leaves of birch trees .

 

Blackburn Lake on Salt Spring Island

Fall is among the best times of year to visit Salt Spring Island, one of the most popular destinations within the Southern Gulf Islands. One of our favourite spots to take in the fall foliage and capture some fabulous images is Blackburn Lake with its reflective view of Mount Maxwell and the colourful trees lining the shore. Here the black cottonwoods shift to beautiful yellows and oranges that are not to be missed. While you’re on Salt Spring, another popular spot to capture fall colours is Saint Mary Lake with its photo-ready views.

 

Sandwell Provincial Park on Gabriola Island

Located in Lock Bay on Gabriola Island, Sandwell Provincial Park is one of the island’s more popular destinations. On your drive into the park, expect to stop at the side of the road to take in the stunning fall colours that line the roadway. Gabriola makes for a great day trip from Nanaimo. Rent scooters and bikes to explore the island and leave the car behind.

Central Island

Englishman River Falls on Vancouver Island in the fall | Tourism Vancouver Island
Strathcona Provincial Park

Strathcona Provincial Park, an expansive park with over 250,000 hectares of nature to explore, is the oldest provincial park in British Columbia, and autumn is an incredible time to visit. Crowds thin out and there are plenty of quiet corners available to contemplate fall’s beauty. Kwai Lake on the Forbidden Plateau is one of the most beautiful fall spots we’ve seen, with the surrounding mountains reflected in the still water. There are several other unforgettable fall-ready photo spots, including the alpine meadows and the ponds near Lake Beautiful and Paradise Meadows.

 

Englishman River Falls Provincial Park

Spawning salmon return to Englishman River Falls Provincial Park every autumn, and watching their journey is one of the most exciting things to do on Vancouver Island in the fall. While you’re there, don’t miss the waterfall, where the surrounding trees light up in autumn hues. There are several high vantage points to take unsurpassed fall images, and the park in its entirety is a nature-lovers paradise.

 

Little Qualicum River

Located in Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park en route from Parksville to Port Alberni, the Little Qualicum River dazzles in the autumn season. With well-maintained trails, the park is an easily accessible spot so see stunning fall colours along the river. Fall foliage consists mostly of large maple trees that turn deep shades of yellow and lime green, and one of our favourite vantage points is from the suspension bridge along one of the park’s numerous trails.

North Island

People walking over Elk Falls Suspension Bridge in Elk Falls Provincial Park | Jake Byrne
Elk Falls Provincial Park

With magnificent forest trails, a suspension bridge over a thundering waterfall, and old-growth trees, Elk Falls Provincial Park is a must on any North Island fall itinerary. The nearby Quinsam salmon hatchery is also not to be missed: the sight of the spawning salmon will take your breath away. The park features 6 km of trails to explore, with the main suspension bridge and waterfall a mere minutes from the parking lot. Photographers will love the deep shades of red and gold that autumn brings to this picturesque spot on Vancouver Island.

 

Sointula (Malcolm Island)

If you’re in search of a serene destination with deep history and stunning scenery to explore this fall, look no further than Sointula. A quick ferry ride from Port McNeil, Sointula is home to trees that, in October, burst into the classic shades of orange, red, and yellow. Fall is crisp on Sointula, but winter camping has never been more beautiful than on this island destination. One of our favourite spots for photos is Bere Point Regional Park, with several coastal lookouts surrounded by autumn beauty.

Island Highway Between Woss and Port Hardy

Island Highway 19 between Woss and Port Hardy is one of the island’s best road-trip destinations for fall photos. Everywhere you turn, you’ll find rest stops located along still lakes that reflect autumn’s magical glow. It’s a perfect route to disconnect from it all and take in nature in its wildest form. We recommend stopping at several towns along the way, including Sayward and Telegraph Cove for quiet adventures surrounded by the beauty of an island autumn.

Pacific Rim

Cox Bay | Brian Caissie
Stamp River Provincial Park

Port Alberni is an absolute must-see on any Vancouver Island fall itinerary. There are myriad maple-lined trails to explore, with some of our favourites found in Stamp River Provincial Park. The park’s many maple trees morph into a vibrant array of autumnal colours, with more than 2 km of maintained trails. Stamp River is also a great place to experience the salmon spawning season, with its fish ladder acting as a perfect perch to watch the action below.

 

Maplehurst Trail

Maplehurst is another incredible Port Alberni trail that features a 3-km loop through stunning maple and alder trees that explode in colour in the autumn. Take in the large Douglas firs, cedars, Garry oaks, alders, and maple trees as you wander the forested paths. An important note about this trail is that it’s not wheelchair or stroller friendly due to muddy trails and several large downed trees.

 

Sutton Pass

The stretch of highway between Tofino and Port Alberni is one of the most scenic autumn drives on the Island. The tree-lined Kennedy River erupts in vibrant hues, with the cascading river below. Expect to see the fall colours starting at Sproat Lake and continuing all the way through to Tofino and Kennedy Lake. There are several rest stops where you can pull out your camera, so allow extra time to explore along the way.