Fall Larch Season Hiking Tips
Larch season is one of the most spectacular times to hike in the Rockies.
Starting in approximately mid-September, the normally green needles on larch trees turn a beautiful golden color, while other conifer trees stay green. Larch trees then drop their needles, sprinkling the ground with a yellow carpet.
During the changing of the larches, popular larch hikes become incredibly busy as does parking at the trail heads and highways.
Here are a few tips when hiking this fall during the busy larch season:
Do a bit of research online before you go, to see what stage the larch trees are in changing colour. All Trails is a popular website to find current conditions on trails in the comments section and is a useful site for this type of information. Prime time to view the larches is generally between September 15th and October 15th.
GO ON A LESS BUSY DAY
If you are planning to do some of the more popular trails, try to pick a less popular day (such as a week day versus weekend) and head out early to try and beat the crowds and to find parking.
BOOK A SPOT ON THE SHUTTLE
If you would like to do some of the fall hikes in the Lake Louise area, your best bet is likely to reserve a seat on the shuttle ahead of time, in order to avoid the issue of having to try and find parking as available parking fills up very quickly (rumor has it that the Moraine Lake parking lot fills up by 3:30 am most days!). For more info on the shuttle bus in Banff and Lake Louise: https://www.banfflakelouise.com/explorethepark/transit-and-shuttles/
Some things to keep in mind:
- dogs are not allowed on the shuttles unless in a crate
- the Lake Louise and Moraine Lake shuttle must be reserved ahead of time, according to their website
- if you do find parking at Lake Louise, it is $12 per vehicle for parking between 7 am and 7 pm
PACK WARM CLOTHES
Be sure to check the forecast and pack for the weather conditions. We had such a hot summer and you may not have thrown your cold weather clothes in your pack just yet. Don't forget to add the following to your pack (if you haven't already): toque, gloves, fleece sweater, down jacket and so forth. When the weather starts to change layering becomes even more important. For more info on layering, check out our blog, "3 Steps to Layering for Cold Weather".
If possible, if going with a group, try and car pool to limit the number of vehicles trying to find parking.
BOOK A GUIDED HIKE OR SIGHTSEEING TOUR
Don’t want to deal with the hassle of picking a hike and parking issues? Try a sightseeing tour or guided hike. Guided tours are a great option if you would like to explore Banff National Park without having to make the plans and arrangements yourself. A few options compliments of BanffLakeLouise.com:
- Brewster Sightseeing
- Discover Banff Tours
- Great Divide Nature Interpretation
- Open Top Touring
- White Mountain Adventures
- WowBanff Sightseeing
LARCH HIKING TRAIL IDEAS
Not sure of the best fall hikes in the Rockies? Here are a couple of links to check out:
• 9 Best Hikes to see Fall Colours in Banff National Park
• The 5 'Golden Larches' Hikes in Kananaskis You Can't Miss!
Here are a few photos of popular larch hikes, taken in fall 2021, to give you a glimpse of what you can expect when the larch trees are in their full glory.
Don't forget to research the route description, check for trail information and conditions before you head out exploring.