The Collingwood area, most famous for its Blue Mountain ski resort in the winter and for its long, white-sand beaches in summer, is at its most enchanting during neither season. Perhaps it’s the exposed limestone cliffs that flash silvery-white through the thick, gilded canopy of mustard birch and flaming oak forests? Or the sublime absence of peak-season crowds?
But the Grey Highlands’ undulating topography is most magical during the shoulder season. The landscape still radiates summer heat, but warns of what’s to come with a twilight bite. And given the area is a crossroads for the Bruce Trail, Canada’s oldest marked trail and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, getting up close to retina-dazzling foliage is as easy as parking and taking a few steps.
The biggest bang for your hiking time is the Old Baldy Trail, one of the highest points of the Bruce Trail. With an easy start through an open meadow and a gentle ascent through a birch forest, the stroll is easy enough for an intrepid toddler, or grandma’s new hip. The payoff is a 270-degree view.
Riding a coaster
After years of anticipation, Blue Mountain’s Ridge Runner Mountain Coaster—essentially a sled capable of reaching 40-plus km/h—launched last spring. Although autumn’s changing colours will blur as you whiz along the elevated kilometre-long track, the coaster does serve up the escarpment’s forests like nothing else.
Climbing and caving
To truly get your head into the season, take the three-hour guided Eco-Adventure Tour at Scenic Caves Nature Adventures, located at the south end of Blue Mountain. For $95, you get a treetop walk, a traverse of a 410-foot suspension bridge with the most epic view of Georgian Bay you’ll see without a helicopter and a 300-foot zipline through the trees.
The Scandinave Spa, at the base of Blue Mountain, is a must-stop after a day of leaf-chasing. It’s tucked away into a forest and draws inspiration from (and accolades for) Finnish treatments like hot-cold plunges
and luxurious steam rooms.
This is Ontario’s Apple Country, a unique ecosystem where the moderating effects of Georgian Bay and the Niagara Escarpment create ideal apple-growing conditions. Not content to have hungry visitors pick fruit from the trees, enterprising locals have tagged the region’s farms as The Apple Pie Trail. New this year, a series of culinary experiences combine local attractions with opportunities to stuff your face with hot apple pie and vanilla ice cream.