As summer fades into fall, larch season is upon us! The Larch tree is the only member of the evergreen family whose needles change colour and drop to the ground, turning the Rocky Mountains an autumn lovers paradise. Typically to catch the larches at their finest, it is best to go the third week of September. Here are our top 4 hikes to see the larch colour change.
Larch Valley (Banff National Park)
Nestled high above the famous Moraine Lake lies an incredible larch forest that turns a brilliant yellow in the fall, a spectacular contrast to the grey mountains and deep green evergreens.You'll want to linger at the start of the trail, where the views of the Ten Peaks and Moraine lake are truly breathtaking. Take a few photos and continue on to see the splendor of the larches in Larch Valley. Parking also fills up quickly at Moraine Lake, so it is best to get an early start and try to avoid weekends if you can.
Elevation Gain: 724m
Length: 11.6km (return)
Burstall Pass Trail (Kananaskis Country)
This iconic Canmore route becomes even more stunning in autumn with the larches changing colour. Burstall Pass is a moderately trafficked hike is a favourite amongst hikers as you get just about everything you could want in a hike with varied terrain, incredible mountain vistas, glacial views, and glacial lakes. At the top of the pass you will be rewarded with stunning views of Mt. Assiniboine and Banff National Park. Water shoes or sandals are advised to save time walking through the floodplain.
Elevation Gain: 450m
Length: 15km (return)
Lake O’Hara Alpine Circuit (Yoho National Park)
The golden glow of the larches at Lake O’Hara against the backdrop of the brilliant blue lakes and clear blue skies is unparalleled. The alpine circuit is unique, in that it offers flexibility depending on what kind of hike you’re looking for. The circuit is comprised of multiple segments so you can pick and choose which sections you’d like to do and see depending on how much time you have or how far your legs can carry you.
Level: Moderate to Advanced depending on segments chosen
Elevation Gain: Varies
Chester Lake Trail (Spray Valley Provincial Park)
Right across the highway from Burstall Pass hike is Chester Lake Trail, this is one of the most popular hikes in the area (get there early!) and one of the best for experiencing the warm glow of the larches. Once you make it to Chester Lake, there’s a trail to the left of the lake that you can take up to Elephant rocks for an even better view. If you want to challenge yourself even further, you can continue up (larches are found in higher numbers at higher altitude!) to Three Lakes Valley, where the treasure trove of golden larches is awe-inspiring.
Elevation Gain: 424m