The air was brisk and the snow crunched under my hiking boots. As I stood in the Larch Valley in Banff National Park, I couldn’t help but be awed by the contrast of golden larch trees against snow-dusted mountain peaks. To be honest, I was a little disappointed when I’d woken to find snow on the ground. I was afraid the white stuff would ruin my larch hike and my pictures, but the exact opposite proved true. The early snow made the autumn colours pop. Hiking through this incredible scenery with my family was the perfect way to celebrate one of nature’s prettiest seasons.
You might not even notice larch trees in the summer, blending in as they do with the coniferous forest of the Alberta Rockies, but in fall they’re impossible to miss. Larches are conifers, but unlike pine trees, they’re deciduous, meaning they drop their needles every autumn. What happens before they drop their needles makes for a few weeks of the most breathtaking photo opportunities to be found in the mountain parks.
“It’s always inspiring to see the amazing photos taken and shared by everyone fortunate enough to explore Banff National Park this time of year,” says John Doherty, Communications & Media Coordinator for Banff Lake Louise Tourism. “The autumn colours and golden larches that reveal themselves in late September and early October are extremely special, and not to be missed.”
Larches start changing colour after the first frost, which varies from year to year. Typically the transition begins in late September and lasts for about three weeks. It’s a short season, but it’s one of the most beautiful times to experience the Alberta Rockies. Here are the best hikes to help you make the most of it.
Best larch hikes in Banff National Park