Fall in Eastern Canada is known for its magnificent display of colours, yet Western Canada has its own, perhaps less colourful but equally spectacular version. Sometimes known as the "Larch March", stands of Larch trees morph from emerald green to a fantastic shade of yellow, drawing thousands of people into the great outdoors to experience the coming of Fall.
The unique thing about Larch trees is that they are deciduous conifers. Basically, they are pine trees but, instead of staying green all year round, the needles turn yellow as they die and fall to the ground for winter. Like trying to predict the first snowfall of the season, knowing when the trees will turn isn't an exact science. Generally though, you can plan for mid-September to mid-October.
Ground zero for fall larch viewing is in the Canadian Rocky Mountains but those travelling in British Columbia can find pockets of yellow as far west as Manning Provincial Park. Let's concentrate though on where the best places in the Rockies are to take your Larch March.
Undoubtedly, the most enjoyable way to soak in this fall spectacle is by taking a hike. Many trails do become crowded. So, where should you plan to do your own Larch March?
Banff National Park
The most popular larch hike in Banff National Park is the Larch Valley near Lake Louise. Snagging a parking spot at Moraine Lake means arriving by 6.00 am as the hike here is super popular. If you don't want to battle the crowds, some less-crowded hiking is available up the Valley of the Ten Peaks. Alternatives, but still relatively busy, check out Paradise Valley or Saddleback Pass. Taylor Lake, Panorama Meadows and O'Brien Lake are also options. Other larch hikes include: Boulder Pass, Gibbon Pass, Rockbound Lake and Healy Pass.
Not up for the hike? Take the Lake Louise Gondola to the Ptarmigan Valley Viewpoint for some spectacular larch views.
Kootenay National Park
From the southern trailhead on Banff-Windermere Highway 93, a 6-7 hour round trip day hike will take you to Floe Lake. You'll want to arrive early to snag a parking spot. You'll find plenty of larches just beyond the shores of this beautiful alpine lake.
You'll need to purchase a day pass to travel here but it's definitely worth the cost. One of the best larch hikes in the area is to Pocaterra Cirque/Ridge in K-Country. Its highest point reaches 8750 feet providing some of the best views around. In Fall, this includes far-reaching spreads of larch trees in the valley below. Other hikes to consider in K-Country are Ptarmigan Cirque, Chester Lake/Elephant Rocks and Arethusa Cirque.
Not up for the hike? If you are unable to hike, you can still see the larches in Kananaskis Country by driving up to the Highwood Pass parking lot where they are visible on the mountain slopes. From there, the short Highwood Meadows Interpretive Trail through the forest is flat and somewhat wheelchair accessible.
Waterton Lakes National Park
One of the best larch viewing locations in this Southern Alberta national park is on the Rowe-Tamarack trail. Here you can experience larch season without the crowds of Banff National Park as you wind your way to Upper Rowe Lake. Allow 4-5 hours for the round trip. Alternatives to the Rowe-Tamarack trail are the Carthew-Alderson Trail and Akamina Ridge.
Good to Know
When hiking in Fall:
• Always be aware of the weather which can change quickly.
• Let family members know where you’re going and when you plan to return.
• Pack appropriately
• Be aware that bears are a possibility on the trails you are hiking. Carry bear spray and know how to use it.
• Don’t litter – this includes cigarette butts!
While the larch trees are the big draw in Western Canada in the Fall, leaves on Aspen and Birch trees provide an orangey contrast to the larch’s yellow needles and the occasional red maples dotted sporadically across the landscape. It’s a magical, yet brief, phenomenon.
Fall is a great time to take an RV vacation, combining larch viewing with a laid-back camping trip. CanaDream has RVs available now and our friendly reservations team are happy to provide you with a low-cost quote to enable you to experience Western Canada in comfort. Online booking is available on our website, or you can email us at email@example.com for more information.