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The Best Larch Hikes in Alberta
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The Best Larch Hikes in Alberta

The Top 5 Larch Hikes in Banff & The Canadian Rockies

It’s a small window – so small in fact that even locals sometimes miss it. Autumn, aka larch season in Banff, Alberta, adds to an already impressive resume of seasons that you can’t miss in the Canadian Rockies. 

This rotating season is tough to nail down – sometimes summer hangs out a little longer than expected & sometimes winter makes a grand entrance – but if you’re lucky, oh, the magic you’ll see!

Spoiled for choices- Banff National Park practically glows gold in autumn with the number of larches and larch hikes available at your fingertips. 

True to the season, many travellers & locals will make a special pilgrimage during the larch season in Banff National Park. Below we’ve outlined our list of the best larch hikes in Banff. 

As always, hike safe and check trail reports before heading out. 

Larch valley & sentinel Pass

No arguments here – Larch Valley & Sentinel Pass is the most popular Larch hike in Alberta. Starting at the perfect postcard spot, Moraine Lake, this hike takes you through the incredible forest of larch trees set against the ‘Valley of the Ten Peaks’ backdrop. The downfall – be prepared to capture a spot at the Moraine Lake parking lot SUPER EARLY – otherwise, run the risk of missing it altogether

Pro Tip: If you’re staying in Banff – the Roam Transit runs a shuttle bus to Moraine Lake. Click here to learn details.

Distance: Larch Valley 4.3km one way; Sentinel Pass 5.8km one way
Time: Larch Valley 3.5-4 hours roundtrip; Sentinel Pass 4.5-5hrs roundtrip
Difficulty: Larch Valley – Moderate; Sentinel Pass Difficult
Trailhead Location: Here

sunshine meadows

There isn’t much that Sunshine Meadows can’t provide travellers and adventurists alike. From prime skiing in the winter, wildflower meadows in the summer to autumn, which provides almost panoramic views of larch trees in every direction. 

Use Sunshine Meadows as your starting point – explore local favourite Healy Pass or Simpson Pass. Are you looking for something a little family-friendly? The lake circuit is stunning.  

Pro Tip: With the gondola currently not running, be prepared to take the additional 726m of elevation onto the hike. 

Trailhead Location: Here

Pocaterra Cirque/Ridge

Renowned by hikers as one of the best for larches during the fall & not nearly as busy as Larch Valley in Banff National Park – this hike is the definition of ‘off-the-beaten-path.’ Accessed by an unofficial trail, at Highwood Pass, this hike provides unparalleled views of Kananaskis & larches in the valleys below 

Distance: 9.5km roundtrip
Elevation: 723m
Difficulty: Difficult
Trailhead Location: Here

Chester Lake

This family-friendly hike provides unreal views for something not nearly as vigorous as the other larch hikes listed. Be warned – it’s also a very popular hike in Alberta. 

Pro Tip: Take the trail to the lake’s left and make your way up ‘Elephant Rocks’ for another unbeatable view. 

Distance: 9.8km roundtrip
Elevation: 315m
Difficulty: Moderate
Trailhead Location: Here

Floe Lake & Rockwall Trail

The little known Floe Lake is an unreal hike just outside of Banff National Park. A great day hike but continuing to the Rockwall Trail will give you even more bang for your buck. Besides presenting you with dynamite views of the golden larches – Floe Lake & the Rockwall Trail gives you everything one would want from a hike (hello, crystal blue lakes, waterfalls, mountains and, of course, forests!)

Trailhead Location: Here


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