8 LARCH HIKES IN THE
By Meghan J. Ward / Photos by Paul Zizka
Larch trees have risen to celebrity status here in the Canadian Rockies, and there’s little wonder why. These coniferous trees shed their needles, but before tucking in for the winter they turn so vibrantly yellow that they light up the landscape. If you’re keen to trek amongst the fall’s golden glow, branch out with this select list of larch hikes in the Canadian Rockies.
For route descriptions and trail details see “Classic Hikes in the Canadian Rockies“, by Graeme Pole, “Canadian Rockies Trail Guide”, by Brian Patton and Bart Robinson; “Kananaskis Country Trail Guide, Volume 1” by Gillean Daffern, or your favourite Rockies guidebook.
The shortest larch hike on our list is also one of the most popular, so try to go on a weekday once those larches have changed colour. The trail to Chester Lake is relatively easy, first winding upwards as a logging road before giving way to forested trail, open meadows, and finally the lake itself – banked by larches and the cliffs of Mt. Chester. Take the trail to the left of the lake and scramble your way up “Elephant Rocks” for even better views. / Spray Valley Provincial Park I #chesterlake
Doable in a day, but even better as part of the continuous Rockwall Trail, Floe Lake is one of Kootenay National Park’s most beautiful locations. You’ll find plenty of larches just beyond the shores of this gorgeous alpine lake. Hikers should consider continuing to Numa Pass to take in the expansive views and the brilliantly golden hues of the larches below. / Kootenay National Park I #floelake
More easily accessed on a side-trip from Shadow Lake campground, Shadow Lake Lodge or Twin Lakes campground, Gibbon Pass is a easily forgotten part of Banff National Park that is well worth visiting during larch season. On a clear day, the pass – flanked by forests of larches – offers impressive views of peaks along the Great Divide. / Banff National Park I #gibbonpass
Once above tree line, the trail to Healy Pass offers wonderful views along the Great Divide, including Mt. Assiniboine in the distance. The area is speckled with small lakes and stunning larches, and can be accessed on a day trip (9.2 km one-way) or as part of a multi-day trip into the Egypt Lakes area (view our Egypt Lake Trip Report). / Banff National Park I #healypass
There are so many larch-laden hikes in the Lake O’Hara region it’s worth lumping them all together. Opabin Plateau, Big Larch Trail, Schaffer Lake, and Lake McArthur all offer fantastic larch viewing experiences along some of the Rockies’ premier hiking trails. If you can’t book the campground, Lake O’Hara Lodge or Elizabeth Parker Hut, you can do this in a long day trip. Bus reservations for day-use can now be made online. / Yoho National Park I #lakeohara
No list of larch hikes would be complete without Larch Valley. Now very popular, especially on weekends, this trail begins from Banff’s famous Moraine Lake and switchbacks up to an area forested with larch trees. The Ten Peaks provide a panorama in the distance, making this one of the most scenic larch hikes on our list. Take the free shuttle bus on select days to avoid parking headaches. // Banff National Park I #larchvalley
Hikers praise Pocaterra Cirque/Ridge of Kananaskis Country as the best for larches during the autumn. The cirque (located below Mt. Tyrwhitt) and the ridge can be accessed via an unofficial trail beginning at Highwood Pass. The ridge walk provides some of the best views in Kananaskis Country – at its highest point reaching 8,750 feet. In autumn this vista includes far-reaching spreads of larch trees in the valley below. / Peter Lougheed Provincial Park I #pocaterracirque
Named after the Larix laricina, a species of larch commonly known as the tamarack, the Tamarack Trail is a backpacking trip in Waterton Lakes National Park that offers hikers a blend of scenic meadows, high ridges, small alpine lakes and clusters of larch trees, all the while cresting the Great Divide for a good part of its 36.4-kilometre trail. // Waterton Lakes National Park I #tamaracktrail
Writer, adventurer, outdoorsy mama and summit cartwheeler, Meghan J. Ward is the editor and co-founder at Crowfoot Media and lives for backcountry getaways.