Larch Hikes

Late September – Mid October

Fall is a magical time to hike around Banff. You’ll enjoy cooler temperatures and quieter trails, while fall colours give classic sights a special feel. As nature prepares for winter,  be inspired by the changing landscape and the promise of a new season ahead.


When is the best time to see fall colours in Banff National Park? 

Larch season runs from around mid-September to mid-October, depending on the conditions that year. Most larches will have their beautiful golden colours on show by the third week of September.


Where can I go to see golden larches in Banff National Park?

The Larch Valley trail, as the name suggests, is the most famous and popular larch hike in Banff National Park. The trail starts from Moraine Lake, near Lake Louise. Personal vehicles are not permitted to drive to the lake, so you will need to book a Parks Canada Shuttle or a ride with a private tour company.

Larch Valley is rated as a moderate hike, at around 9km return trip, but there are some steep switchback sections near the beginning. Allow 4 hours for the return trip, and make sure to take the shorter fall daylight hours into account! People flock to Banff in fall to explore this trail, so expect it to be busy.


Other Fall Hikes in Lake Louise

As an alternative, larch season is a great time to explore classic Lake Louise hikes, without the summer crowds. From the lakeshore, head up to Lake Agnes and continue on to Big Beehive for stunning views of icy blue lakes with pops of yellow foliage. This route will take you 3-4 hours, and the final climb from Lake Agnes up to Big Beehive is fairly steep. If you’re there before Canadian Thanksgiving (October 9th, 2023), you can stop in for tea and a snack at the historic Lake Agnes Teahouse.

On your way back down from Big Beehive, you’ll come to a 4-way junction at the top of the switchbacks. From here, you can choose to continue to the Plain of Six Glaciers. This trail offers more stunning views, culminating in the dramatic glacial landscape of Abbot Pass. Allow a full day (6-8 hours) for the entire trip, which will be close to 19km in total. Before the Plain of Six viewpoint, you’ll find another historic teahouse that’s worth a stop – most people choose to do this on the return leg.


What is the best, less popular larch hike? Are there any easy trails?

Most larch hikes in the Banff and Lake Louise area are considered moderate and include some steeper sections. They are also very popular routes, so can be busy!

For a less well-known option, with a gentler ascent, you might like to explore Chester Lake. This hike is outside of Banff National Park, in Kananaskis, and it takes around 1.5 hours to drive to the trailhead from Banff. Please note that you will need a Kananaskis conservation pass to access this area. It’s just under 10km round trip, which can be completed in about 3 hours. You’ll see golden colour on the trail and around the lake, but we recommend you continue past the lake itself to the Elephant Rocks, nestled in a larch-filled meadow.

Photography by Joanna Wroblewska


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