And just like that summer has melted into fall. Where I live in Alberta, we don’t get any of that dramatic orange and red foliage, but we do have larch trees and they are pretty spectacular. Larches love high altitude and one of the most famous spots in Canada for viewing them is Larch Valley near Lake Louise in Banff National Park. It’s one of the prettiest spots in the Rockies for an epic autumn hike.
Here’s a look at what to expect on this super popular trail, plus some relevant hiking tips to make your trek more pleasant. Tip: A less crowded spot near Banff to see the larches is at Sunshine Meadows at Sunshine Village Ski Resort and Heart Mountain near Canmore is another lovely hike.
Note: Sunshine Meadows is currently closed for summer and fall hiking due to COVID-19.
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For many outdoorsy types, autumn is the very best time of year for hiking Larch Valley or anywhere else in the Canadian Rockies. The crowds have dispersed (errr, except on this hike), the temperature isn’t too hot and for photography buffs, the light is intoxicating.
For us regular joes, you’ll be wowed by the vibrant fall colours in Larch Valley. There’s a brief two week period when larch needles morph from the deepest green to lime to golden yellow, and that change goes on (weather depending) in mid to late September.
During this time of year a stillness descends over the forests and meadows. Nature has stopped producing and is taking a quiet moment of reflection before getting ready for winter’s deep sleep. It can be hard to tap into this quiet yet powerful energy, but it’s possible if you know how to become still enough.
Unfortunately, I don’t. Because I had such a transformative experience forest bathing last year, I knew I’d be better off connecting to nature on this hike if I did it with Ronna Schneberger, a certified guide and naturalist who runs Forest Fix out of Canmore.
When is the best time to the view the larches at Lake Louise?
As far as seasons go, the larches typically start to change colour in early to mid September. It really is weather dependent and changes each year. It’s worth taking a day off work and hiking on a weekday because weekends are a mother.