As surely as the coming days will cool, the bursts of yellow, orange and red dotting Ontario’s cedar-draped Elora Gorge will become more numerous and vibrant as September wears on.
In past years it was also a given that tubing through the gorge’s namesake conservation area would cease after Labour Day, when the Grand River Conservation Authority closes the road to the cliff-lined launch points and stops renting out tubes, helmets and life jackets for the not-so-lazy two-kilometre float.
Cue these unprecedented times. For the first summer in its 88-year history, the GRCA is extending weekend tubing operations through September, owing in part to the pandemic-induced six-week delay in the start of the season, explains GRCA spokesman Cameron Linwood. “Water levels and temperatures are making it viable, and public demand has remained high,” he says.
It’s the same story for many Canadian destinations that don’t require out-of-province visitors to quarantine upon arrival. Recently reopened tourism operators, such as those listed below, are striving to salvage their busiest season and cater to late-blooming domestic demand by extending warm-weather pursuits into the less-crowded fall – all the better for physical distancing – while adding or expanding new outdoor offerings that make the most of autumn.
Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alta.
Set in the otherworldly badlands east of Calgary, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is extending several of its interpretive programs to the end of October. These include the three-hour Centrosaurus Bonebed Hike, in which visitors trek along a new trail to a former paleontological dig site containing the fossilized remains of hundreds of horned dinosaurs, and the family-oriented Cretaceous Casts, in which interpretive staff help visitors create take-home casts of fossils. As the weather cools into October, plans call for hikes to be replaced by vehicle convoys.
Treetop Trekking, Ont.
Families seeking a closer-than-usual look at fall foliage can get exactly that at the six Treetop Trekking aerial adventure parks, all of which are taking stringent pandemic safety measures such as reducing capacity and group sizes, staggering start times and providing hand-sanitizing stations before and after every obstacle- and zipline-strewn high-wire course. For the first time this year, three of its leafy locations, near Hamilton, Brampton and Stouffville, are extending their seasons until Nov. 15. The Hamilton and Stouffville locations have less-challenging Treetop Villages for children aged 3 to 7.
Le Massif, Que.
This Charlevoix ski resort is making the most of its 770-metre vertical drop and maple-clad slopes by doubling the duration of its annual Le Massif en couleurs event, which this year will span four weekends between Sept. 19 and Oct. 12. On the menu: gondola-assisted hiking and mountain biking on a new network of 12 trails, guided canyoning excursions to a series of waterfalls, stays in condos and tiny homes overlooking the St. Lawrence River and scenic 90-minute rail trips from Quebec City.
Manitou Springs Resort, Sask.
Should temperatures prove too chilly to read a book or snap a risky selfie while floating in the briny body of water known as Canada’s Dead Sea, this upscale spa resort is presenting an unusually uninterrupted alternative. Instead of conducting its annual fall-maintenance shutdown, the property on the shores of Little Manitou Lake is offering overnight packages that combine saltwater-pool access and therapeutic spa treatments with Champagne, chocolates and souvenir gifts.
Quaaout Lodge, B.C.
Set on the shores of Little Shuswap Lake, this Indigenous-owned resort has created a host of new Secwepemc Cultural Experiences for the late summer and fall. They include a 75-minute Walk the Lands tour, in which guests explore traditional Shuswap landmarks and Secwepemc history with an interpretive guide, and storytelling sessions around a campfire in a Kekuli pit-house, the traditional winter home of the Secwepemc people.
Niagara Bike Train, Ont.
GO Transit’s weekend and holiday service from Toronto to the Niagara Region resumed on Aug. 1, with rack-equipped bike coaches added to the four-a-day departures until Oct. 12. From Niagara Falls’s historic station, riders can pedal north along the recently upgraded Niagara River Recreational Trail to comfortingly roomy attractions such as the entrancing (and all-weather) Butterfly Conservatory, the elegant Botanical Gardens abutting the public Whirlpool Golf Course, the towering Brock’s Monument, and the bucolic wineries, orchard-to-table patios and upscale inns of Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Larch Valley, Banff, Alta.
With Parks Canada’s shuttle service to Moraine Lake on hold this year, Roam Transit is filling the void by launching seven-times-daily bus service between the Banff townsite and Moraine Lake Lodge, home to a lovely cafe and canoe rentals. The lodge is also the starting point for the steep 4.3-kilometre trek to the aptly named Larch Valley, one of the best places on Earth to admire the golden splendour of larch-cloaked mountainsides.
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