Five Rockies Larch Hikes to Discover Before the Snow Falls

Video by Daniel Thomson

It’s our second favourite time of year! When larch trees in the Canadian Rockies turn to their yellow hue, it’s one of the first signs that winter is on the way. Some years this transition is fleeting, and other years it hangs on well into winter. Trails near Banff Sunshine Village and Lake Louise Ski Resort are prime for immersing in a field of nature’s gold. Grab hiking essentials from the SkiBig3 Adventure Hub – like bear spray, backpacks and buffs – and check out these hiking safety tips before heading out on these top larch tree hikes.

Healy Pass

Healy Pass larch hike, Banff National Park.
Photo by Tera Swanson.

Distance/Elevation: 9.0 km one way; 655 m elevation gain
Duration: 6 to 7 hour round trip
Level of Difficulty: Moderate
Trailhead: Sunshine Village parking lot, 9 km from the Trans-Canada highway.

From the far end of the Sunshine Village parking lot you will follow Healy Creek as it leads towards the continental divide. This classic hike provides expansive views, vast alpine meadows and (of course) larch trees.

Source: Parks Canada

Trail of the Larches

Larch hike at Lake Louise Ski Resort, Banff National Park.
Photo courtesy of Lake Louise Ski Resort.

Duration: 3.5 hours
Level of Difficulty: Moderate
Trailhead: Lake Louise Ski Resort sightseeing gondola.

Come see beautiful fall colours and learn about this magical time of the year when nature gets ready for winter. This hike showcases the picturesque colors of the larch trees as interpretive guides teach you about the survival strategies of the larches in an alpine environment, rut season for deer, and preparation for hibernation for bears and other wildlife. Book before September 29th.

Source: Lake Louise Ski Resort.

Sunshine Meadows

Sunshine Meadows in September with larch trees and snow, Banff National Park.
Photo by Will Lambert.

Distance: 8 km+
Level of Difficulty: Moderate
Trailhead: Sunshine Village parking lot

Although summer operations for Sunshine Meadows end early September, trails here are still open to the public. Trails should be treated as backcountry terrain at this time, and public gondola access is not permitted. Add this hike on to a day trip to Healy Pass, or multi-day backpacking trip to Mount Assiniboine, and be prepared for variable weather conditions.

Larch Valley / Sentinel Pass

Larch trees in Larch Valley, Banff National Park.
Photo by Tera Swanson

Length: 5.8 km one way
Hiking time: 4.5 to 5.5 hour round trip
Elevation gain: 725 m
Trailhead: Take transit to Moraine Lake, begin just beyond the Moraine Lake Lodge.

This classic larch hike is highly visited, and for good reason. From Moraine Lake Lodge, hike into a unique larch forest high above Moraine Lake to take in breathtaking views of Ten Peaks. Continue on from Larch Valley up a series of switchbacks to Sentinel Pass for sweeping panoramic vistas. The Moraine Lake parking lot fills up quickly, be sure to plan your travel accordingly. Parks Canada shuttles run from the Lake Louise overflow area, and from September 23 to October 14, Roam Transit will be adding a direct route from downtown Banff to Moraine Lake.

Source: Parks Canada


Larches and bighorn sheep at Pocaterra Ridge in Kananaskis Provincial Park.
Pocaterra Ridge in Kananaskis Provincial Park. Photo by Shannon Martin.

Length: 7.9 km one-way
Elevation gain: 250 m
Trailhead: Pocaterra Hut parking lot along Hwy 40.

This trail climbs steeply from the parking lot area, then descends gradually through open meadows and forested areas. Enjoy dramatic views of Mt. Wintour and the Opal Range.

Source: Alberta Parks

Winter Larch Love

Not here until the winter? You may still get a chance to ski amongst a sea of larches. Check out these amazing larch ski photos from last November.

Want to ski amongst the larches for yourself? Book your early season SkiBig3 vacation today, by talking to our in-destination vacation specialists. Call 844-754-2443 or check out our ski & stay packages online.

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E-bike riders travel along the Golf Course Road loop in Banff National Park.