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The Ultimate Fall Experiences in British Columbia

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Pulpit Rock Trail, Nelson | Dave Heath

Fall is a time to shed summer’s frenetic energy and let the crisp, cool air slow you down. There are distinctive ways to experience the change of seasons on the West Coast. Each tied to the natural surroundings. This year, reinvigorate your soul with these unique experiences.

Kootenay National Park | Kristi Nicholson

Catch Larch Fever

The larch tree is the eye candy of British Columbia’s mountains. Come fall, this is the only conifer to explode into bright, golden yellow before its needles drop to the forest floor. Their ability to thrive in cold temperatures, at high elevations, and along rocky exposed slopes makes them unique to Western Canada.

To witness this fall spectacle, take a road trip through the Kootenay Rockies or E.C. Manning Provincial Park on a larch hunt. Tour winding roads while looking up for a golden glimpse. Keep your eye out ribbons of colour between mountains of green. Larches line old logging roads, creating streaks of colour in perfect lines.

If you prefer to hike, head for the trails in Kootenay National Park or routes in Kimberley Nature Park for alpine walks between golden trees set against a backdrop of dusted white mountains.

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Kokanee Creek Provincial Park, Nakusp | Kari Medig

Witness Nature's Life Cycle

Salmon are creatures who display the life cycle in perfect form. These incredible fish return to the exact place they were born to lay eggs before they die. Along their journey, a game of chance is at play. Some become food for orca and grizzly bears or leftovers for soaring eagles. Others become catch of the day and the staple food source for BC’s Indigenous communities.

British Columbia is one of the only places in North America where five species of wild salmon–chinook, chum, sockeye, coho, and pink–all thrive. To witness the incredible feat of the salmon run, head for the largest and most famed on the Adams River in Tsútswecw Provincial Park. Other notable places to catch the run are in Goldstream and Stamp River provincial parks, at the Capilano Salmon Hatchery, and in Campbell River.

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Nelson | Kari Medig

Road Trip Through Small Town BC

Locals will agree that the best time to road trip is in the fall. Less crowds, friendly roads, shoulder season prices, and small-town community events.

Visit electric Nelson, where wilderness sits at the doorstep and fall colours light up the town.

Head for Vernon where small-town festivals and events liven the spirit.

Travel along the Coastal Circle Route to visit charming oceanside communities like Duncan and Courtenay on Vancouver Island, or Powell River and Gibsons on the Sunshine Coast.

For the ultimate fall road trip, follow the Hot Springs Circle Route and mix mountain gazing with hot spring soaks in the Kootenay Rockies.

If off-the-beaten path is more for you, head for Highway 16 and travel from Prince George to Prince Rupert. This route rivals the best of them as one of the most stunning stretches of road in BC.

Note: While roads are generally snow-free September and October, drivers legally need winter tires come October 1st when travelling on all BC highways.

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Baillie-Grohman Estate Winery in Creston | Kari Medig

Embrace the Harvest Season

Indigenous cultures in British Columbia have been harvesting nature’s bounty for millennia. They catch and dry salmon to stock up for winter, harvest bark from cedar trees to weave hats that protect from rain, and collect the last of summer’s berries.

In the agricultural pockets of BC, harvest is still integral to life, and come fall, the province bustles with bountiful celebrations.

Check out the Fall Okanagan Wine Festival and cheers to the grape, taste over 60 varietals of apples at UBC Botanical Garden’s Apple Festival, join the cranberry stomp at the Fort Langley Cranberry Festival, or head for Cornucopia in Whistler to experience a unique celebration of food and wine in the mountains.

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Cowichan River Lodge, Lake Cowichan | Veronique Gagnon

Cozy Up in a Cabin

When the rain starts pelting down, it’s time to retreat. Cozying up to the fire with a book in a far-off cabin is one good way to do it.

Retreats in the Cariboo offer simple pleasures for humble souls. Enjoy the call of a loon from a porch deck or morning coffee on a misty dock.

Ranches in the Chilcotin offer a bit more adventure. Hop in the saddle for a tour by horseback through fall foliage and spend the night in a rustic outpost.

On the Sunshine Coast, head for The Lund Resort Klah Ah Men for rest and refuge at the end of the road. If you visit in October, don’t miss the Sunshine Coast Art Crawl, to see the work of more than 400 artists across 165 locations.

Cabins aren’t for you? Indulge in a wholly different experience at Sparkling Hill Resort and treat yourself to a spa that is sure to warm the soul on a cool, fall day.

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Chilko River | Henrik Nilsson

See Bears Before Hibernation

In BC, bears are residents too. Travelling through the province means you may catch a glimpse of one at any moment. Come fall, you can see these magnificent creatures before they head down for a long winter nap.

Join a Bear Viewing Photo Safari Tour in Whistler Olympic Park, south of Whistler Village, to see black bears and their cubs. Travel by 4×4 to lakes, private lookouts, and waterfalls on route.

On Vancouver Island, take a trip to Tofino and jump on a Zodiac tour through Clayoquot Sound. See bears in their natural habitat along the shores of the sea. You’ll likely spot much more than just bears, too.

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This year, go somewhere you’ve never been, see something new, and reconnect with your province. Fall is one of the best times to do it.


Title image: Pulpit Rock, Nelson | Dave Heath

Always check trail conditions before you head out, and no matter what outdoor activity you are planning, be prepared. AdventureSmart and Leave No Trace are great resources to help you get informed before heading outdoors. Follow the three Ts—trip planning, training, and taking the essentials.

WRITTEN BY: Leah Adams-Chute

From: Vancouver
Leah Adams-Chute likes to pedal bikes, wander trails, and chase snow. She spends her weekends exploring BC and all her other free time searching for cheap flights to places she's never been to.


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