Best Larch Hikes in Banff

Author: Celine Brewer

Last Updated:

Nestled in the heart of the Canadian Rockies, Banff National Park stands as a testament to nature’s unparalleled grandeur. Throughout the year, Banff welcomes adventurers, nature enthusiasts, and seekers of solitude from around the globe. But there is one season, in particular, when the park reveals its most enchanting secret – the brief but breathtaking transformation of its alpine larch trees in the fall. This is the best time to get out and explore all the best larch hikes in Banff!

As the temperatures drop and the days grow shorter, the larches, a type of deciduous conifer, prepare for winter by shedding their needles. But before they do, they put on a dazzling display of golden brilliance, turning the alpine landscapes into carpet of yellow. This phenomenon is known as the larch season in Banff, and it’s a spectacle that leaves visitors in awe.

a vista of golden larch trees in front of The Monarch as seen from the Healy Pass Trail in fall
Larch trees at Healy Pass in Banff.

In this guide, we will share the best Banff larch hikes. While unfortunately, it will be harder to find solitude during the Banff larch season, walking through a stand of larch trees at the peak of the transformation will more than make up for it. We’ll share the most iconic and lesser-known larch hikes plus which are the easy larch hikes in Banff.

Don’t Miss Our Full List of The Best Alberta Larch Hikes

This post contains compensated links.

Best Larch Hikes in Banff

Here are the best larch hikes in Banff National Park. While many of them are concentrated around the Lake Louise area, there are others in the list that are closer to the town of Banff and have their own parking lot. It’s still important to get to the Banff larch hikes early so you can get a parking spot, especially on weekends.

Larch Valley Hike

Larch Valley Sentinel Pass Hike in Banff
Larch trees at Larch Valley with Ten Peaks in the distance.
  • Round-trip distance: 8.6 km
  • Elevation gain: 535 m
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Time required: 3-4 hours round-trip.

The Larch Valley hike, commencing from the stunning Moraine Lake, stands out as the epitome of larch hikes in Banff. However, its popularity isn’t merely a product of its clever name – it’s well-deserved.

The trail to Larch Valley begins with a climb through the forest with little to keep your attention besides moving your feet forward. As the terrain levels off, you’ll be in awe of the transformation around you. You’ll find yourself amongst golden larches with impressive mountain scenery all around.

If you have the time and energy, continue past Larch Valley to the Minnestimma Lakes then on to Sentinel Pass. The incredible mountain vistas are more than worth the effort.

Larch Valley Sentinel Pass Hike with Kids in Banff
Kids hiking towards Sentinel Pass in Banff.

The biggest challenge you’ll have is getting to Moraine Lake. There are no private vehicles allowed on Moraine Lake road. Keep reading as we have all the best options for getting to Moraine Lake to enjoy the best Moraine Lake hikes during Banff larch season below.

We like the Larch Valley to Sentinel Pass hike so much that we’ve included it in our Banff hiking trip itinerary.

Read our Complete Guide to Hiking Larch Valley in Banff

Eiffel Lake Hike

Larch trees glow around Eiffel Lake in Banff.
  • Round-trip distance: 12.2 km out and back
  • Elevation gain: 610 m
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Time required: 3-4 hours round-trip.

If your appetite for the golden larch trees at Moraine Lake remains unquenched, then be sure to carve out some time for a visit to Eiffel Lake.

Setting off from the very same trailhead that leads to Larch Valley and Sentinel Pass, your journey will commence with the same series of switchbacks. As you ascend, you’ll eventually reach a junction with a welcoming bench – rest assured, it’s impossible to miss it. Here, you’ll veer off the Larch Valley trail to continue on the Eiffel Lake hiking trail.

Eiffel Lake, though perhaps lacking the same density of larch trees, compensates with its sweeping vistas of the Valley of Ten Peaks and notably fewer crowds. It’s not such an up close view of the larch trees, but instead the magnificent views of a substantial stand of larch trees from a distance that makes this Banff larch hike worthwhile.

Read our Complete Guide to Hiking Eiffel Lake in Banff

Wenkchemna Pass Hike

The incredible view from Wenkchemna Pass.
  • Round-trip distance: 18.3 km out and back
  • Elevation gain: 929 m
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Time required: 4-6 hours round-trip.

For those seeking an extended adventure, consider pushing your hike beyond Eiffel Lake and onward to Wenkchemna Pass, where an even greater abundance of larches awaits. This extension adds an additional 6 kilometres to your journey, resulting in a round-trip distance of 18.3 kilometres from the trailhead.

It’s worth noting that as you progress along the Wenkchemna Pass trail, the density of larches gradually thins out, and eventually, you’ll encounter smaller trees in the alpine meadow. Nevertheless, the vista from Wenkchemna Pass, which looks down upon Eiffel Lake surrounded by its golden larches, is nothing short of spectacular.

Wenkchemna pass hike in Banff
The larch trees get smaller and more sparse as you approach Wenkchemna Pass.

The trail maintains a moderate level of ease until you approach the last 500 meters or so leading up to the pass, where the terrain becomes steeper and the path grows slightly more challenging to navigate. Yet, the rewards at the summit, offering breathtaking views on both sides of the pass, make every step well worth the effort.

Read our Complete Guide to Hiking Wenkchemna Pass in Banff

Saddleback Pass Hike

The Best Larch Tree Hikes in Alberta are found in Banff, Lake Louise and Kananaskis Country
Larch forest along Saddleback Pass hike in Banff.
  • Round-trip distance: 7.4 km
  • Elevation gain: 595 m
  • Difficulty: Moderate (note: Parks Canada rates this hike as ‘difficult’, but it’s not that bad)
  • Time required: 90 minutes round-trip.

While Saddleback Pass might not boast the same level of fame as the Banff Larch Valley hike at Moraine Lake, it stands as one of the best larch hikes at Lake Louise, offering an exceptional alternative to the more popular Larch Valley.

Embarking on the Saddleback Pass hike, you’ll commence your journey near the picturesque shores of Lake Louise, in close proximity to Chateau Lake Louise. This trailhead ranks among the most beautiful you’ll encounter anywhere in the world. As you ascend, you’ll traverse a conifer forest for approximately 2 kilometres along the northern slopes of Fairview Mountain, which stands proudly at 2,744 meters. The magic unfolds when you first come upon the first golden larches.

Many people hiking saddleback pass trail to enjoy the larch trees in September
Hiking Saddleback Pass in Banff National Park.

Over the next 2 kilometres on this larch hike in Lake Louise, prepare to be in awe as you traverse a magnificent forest of golden larches, all the way to Saddleback Pass. The sheer density of larch trees along this Lake Louise hike is incredible.

Parking will fill up quickly at Lake Louise, so it’s best to get there very early or plan your Lake Louise shuttle. We share more details below on the best ways to get to Lake Louise during larch season.

Read our Complete Guide to Hiking Saddleback Pass in Banff

Sheol Valley Hike

Bear spray is a must on the Sheol Valley hike as it is prime grizzly bear habitat
  • Round-trip distance: 14.7 km
  • Elevation gain: 884 m
  • Difficulty: Moderate (it’s long, but not that difficult)
  • Time required: 4-5 hours round-trip.

While the Saddleback Pass hike undoubtedly offers breathtaking views of larch trees, the one drawback worth mentioning is the crowds. Saddleback Pass is sa highly sought-after alternative to Larch Valley, and this popularity can make capturing those larch images a bit challenging due to the presence of your fellow hikers.

Our recommendation is that once you’ve reached Saddleback Pass, extend your journey further into the serene Sheol Valley, where you can revel in the beauty of larch trees without the crowds.

Of course, as with most things in life, there’s a trade-off. While you’ll savor the tranquility of the Sheol Valley along with its abundant larch trees, you’ll need to cover an additional 11 kilometres to circle around Saddle Mountain and return to Chateau Lake Louise. The Sheol Valley landscape is nothing short of epic, and the majority of the hiking terrain is either downhill or level, making it a less daunting prospect than it might initially seem.

Read our Complete Guide to Hiking Sheol Valley to Paradise Valley in Banff

Big Beehive Hike

the needles on larch trees turn a golden color in fall on top of hte Big Beehive hike in Banff National Park
Finding larches along Big Beehive hike.
  • Round-trip distance: 11.4 km
  • Elevation gain: 520 m
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Time required:  3-4 hours round-trip.

The Big Beehive hike at Lake Louise may not always be featured among the top larch hikes, due to its relatively lower larch tree density compared to more renowned trails like Pocaterra in Kananaskis or Larch Valley. However, it is still a worthwhile larch hike with incredible views.

You’ll start with the hike to Lake Agnes tea house. The scenery around Lake Agnes is stunning and you’ll find the shores dotted with golden larches.

After you’ve hiked through the larch trees along the shores of Lake Agnes and along the switchbacks leading up to the Big Beehive, you’ll find a large stand of larch trees awaits at the Big Beehive Lookout.

Add to this the view of Lake Agnes PLUS Lake Louise down below and you’ll see why this hike is more than worth it.

Read our Complete Guide to Hiking Big Beehive in Banff

Hidden Lake Hike

A golden larch tree in front of Hidden Lake in Banff, Canada
The larches at Hidden Lake not quite at their peak.
  • Round-trip distance: 18 km out-and-back (6 km along fire road)
  • Elevation gain: 670 m
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Time required:  5-6 hours round-trip.

If you’re in search of a larch hike in Banff that is less crowded, the Hidden Lake trail is an excellent choice.

Setting off from the Skoki parking lot near the Lake Louise Ski Resort, the Hidden Lake hike unfortunately kicks off with an initial 3 kilometres along a service road, which may not be the most thrilling part of your journey. The only option to avoid this is to join one of the Parks Canada guided hikes that will take you up the road on a shuttle.

From the end of the road section, the Hidden Lake hike is 5.2 kilometres each way and is characterized by its relatively easy terrain. Along this trail, you’ll have the pleasure of witnessing larch trees embracing the shores of Hidden Lake, all while enjoying a splendid vista of larches adorning the Skoki Valley.

Skoki Valley from Lake Louise - larch hike
Larches along the slopes while hiking to Hidden Lake.

Although there are other remarkable larch hikes in the vicinity, this one stands out for its accessibility to most hikers.

Other choices for hikes in this region include Boulder Pass which is around 17 km return and 645 m elevation Gain, or the Skoki Lakes where you’ll be looking at over 25 km to do this in a day.

Read our Complete Guide to Hiking Hidden Lake in Banff

Lake Louise may be home to all the mega-popular larch tree hikes in Banff, but it doesn’t have a complete monopoly on them. There are several excellent Banff larch tree hikes elsewhere in the park.

Here are our favorite larch tree hikes in Banff National Park outside of the Lake Louise area:

Healy Pass Larch Hike

beautiful fall colors surround the Healy Pass hiking trail
Healy Pass hike in Banff.
  • Round-trip distance: 18.3 km out-and-back
  • Elevation gain: 890 m
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Time required: 5-7 hours round-trip.

When it comes to Banff’s larch hikes that can rival the renowned Larch Valley, Healy Pass emerges as the best contender. In fact, the Healy Pass Trail has quickly claimed a spot as our favourite larch hike in Banff.

The journey to Healy Pass commences with approximately 7.4 kilometres of winding through the forest. While some may describe this initial stretch as boring, we encourage you to savor the fall colors throughout this section, even if they aren’t the sought-after larches.

The incline is gentle throughout, so as long as you can handle the distance, you’ll find this larch hike to be a wonderful hiking adventure.

Around the 8.5-kilometre mark, you’ll enter a meadow where larch trees envelop you. This hike not only grants you ample time within the larch forest but also treats you to breathtaking vistas of larches scattered across the valley as you ascend toward Healy Pass.

Larch trees along one of best Banff larch hikes - Healy Pass
The view from Healy Pass hike.

Upon reaching Healy Pass itself, the larch trees continue to captivate. They adorn the slope on the opposite side, providing the perfect backdrop for a leisurely lunch while you soak in the scenery.

An additional perk of the Healy Pass hike is the beginning of the descent, where those mountain vistas illuminated by the golden glow of larches will be constantly in view.

One other benefit of this larch hike in Banff is that it sets off from the Sunshine Village parking lot – where there’s plenty of parking!

Read our Complete Guide to Hiking Healy Pass in Banff

Taylor Lake Larch Hike

larch trees reflecting in taylor lake.
The larches reflecting in Taylor Lake.
  • Round-trip distance (including hiking to the meadow): 16 km
  • Elevation gain: 1,035 m (which sounds like a lot, but it’s only an average of 130m of elevation per 1km hiked – a very manageable incline)
  • Difficulty: Moderate (it’s long, but not that difficult)
  • Time required: 4-5 hours round-trip.

There are few sights that can rival the beauty of a larch forest in the fall in Banff, but if there’s one thing that comes close, it’s the breathtaking view of golden larches casting their reflections upon the tranquil waters of a mountain lake nestled high in the Rocky Mountains.

The journey to Taylor Lake offers a highly enjoyable stroll through a lush evergreen forest, rich with non-larch trees. While the scenery along the first part of the path to Taylor Lake lacks mountain scenery, we have always enjoyed the hike through the forest.

It won’t be long before you’re taking in Taylor Lake nestled within a picturesque mountain cirque. With the majestic Rocky Mountains as its backdrop, Taylor Lake is beautiful any time of year but especially in the peak larch season in Banff. On a calm day, the mirror-like reflection of these larch trees in the lake’s waters is nothing short of extraordinary.

walking through golden larches in meadow just past Taylor Lake in Banff National Park
The meadow between Taylor Lake and Panorama Ridge hike.

But hold on, because there’s more to this experience! Venture to the rear of the Taylor Lake campground, and you’ll discover a sign marking the trailhead for the Panorama Ridge hike. This short hike extension may feature some steep sections, but the rewards are worth it. Before long, you’ll find yourself immersed in a forest of golden larches, complete with a charming mountain stream meandering through. Don’t miss out on this brief extension to your Taylor Lake hike.

Read our Complete Guide to Hiking Taylor Lake in Banff

O’Brien Lake

golden larch trees reflect off the still waters of Lake O'Brien
Larches reflecting in O’Brien Lake in Banff.
  • Round-trip distance: 18.8 km out and back
  • Elevation: 1,155 m
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Time required: 4-5 hours round-trip.

The first 75% of the O’Brien Lake hike is along the same hiking trail as the very popular Taylor Lake hike.

In the fall, you’ll enjoy more fall colors than just golden larch trees. The brightly coloured bushes that line the hiking trail showcase their bright red and yellow leaves. We especially like the red fireweed leaves in fall, as they glow brightly in the sun. As you reach the meadow you’ll find the trail junction to O’Brien Lake. Taylor Lake is so close, you should really take a few moments and go take a look, before returning to complete the Lake O’Brien hike.

The O’Brien Lake trail runs through lush woods with spruce and fir trees and moss and tiny shrubs for a carpet.

You’ll enter a meadow with scattered larch trees and evergreens. The trail through the meadow can get extremely muddy, and you can virtually count on your hiking boots getting dirty. The golden larch trees get more dense as you approach O’Brien Lake. The first glimpse of O’Brien Lake caused our daughter to literally stop in her tracks and say “Wow!”.

golden larch trees reflect off the water on O'Brien Lake in Banff National Park
Most of O’Brien Lake still in the shadow mid-morning.

Lake O’Brien was mirror-like resting peacefully at the foot of Mount Bell with golden larches reflecting perfectly in the perfectly still water. There are much fewer people at Lake O’Brien, guaranteeing a more peaceful lake experience than Taylor lake.

Read our Complete Guide to Hiking O’Brien Lake in Banff

Arnica Lake

larch trees around Arnica Lake
Larch trees along Arnica Lake.
  • Round-trip distance: 9.3 km
  • Elevation gain: 758 m
  • Difficulty: Moderate (it’s long, but not that difficult)
  • Time required: 3-4 hours round-trip.

The Arnica Lake hike offers not one, but two pristine Banff lakes to grace your journey. Commencing from the Vista Lake parking lot, the trail to Arnica Lake begins with a descent that leads you to the captivating Vista Lake. Here, the emerald-green waters of Vista Lake glisten under the sunlight, while the golden larches adorning the shoulder of Storm Mountain making this a stunning fall hike in Banff.

It won’t be long after Vista lake where you’ll start to climb, with plenty of roots and rocks to make sure you’re lifting your feet! Yet, as the trail becomes more demanding, the vistas become increasingly spectacular as you get closer to the radiant golden larches adorning Storm Mountain.

Looking up at Storm Mountain From Arnica Lake trail - Banff Hiking Trails
Admiring the larch trees at a distance.

The captivating scenery alone is reason enough to recommend the Arnica Lake trail as a an excellent choice for larch hiking in Banff. But there are two more spots along this trail that you don’t want to miss. The first is the stunning Arnica Lake, nestled at the base of Storm Mountain, with its far shores decorated by larch trees, creating a picturesque scene.

The second spot awaits beyond Arnica Lake, along the hiking trail leading to the Twin Lakes. Even if you climb only to the meadow’s summit, you’ll find yourself surrounded by larches, with views of more in the distance. While this larch forest may not be as densely packed as the one in Larch Valley, the effort is unquestionably worth it

meadow full of golden larches near Arnica Lake trail in Banff
Golden larch trees between Arnica Lake and Twin Lakes in Banff National Park.

For an extension to Arnica Lake, continue to hike to Twin Lakes. While you won’t be treated to much more for larches, you’ll complete the hike having seen four mountain lakes. If you want to add to the larches you see, then you’ll need to continue on to Gibbon Pass.

The total distance round-trip to Twin Lakes 16.6 km is where to Gibbon Pass is over 21 km.

Read our Complete Guide to Hiking Arnica Lake in Banff

Sunshine Meadows

mother with two kids on hiking trail at Sunshine Meadows
Hiking Sunshine Meadows just before the larch trees changed.

We’ve enjoyed hiking at Sunshine Meadows several times over the years. While it’s best known as one of the best Banff hikes for wildflowers, for anyone up for an adventure it can also be an incredible Banff larch hike.

Since the Sunshine Gondola stops operating in early September, the only option is to walk or bike up the 5 km to Sunshine Village. Again, the Standish Chair will no longer be operating, so you’ll need to lock up your bike and continue on foot.

Take the Rock Isle Road up to Rock Isle Lake Viewpoint (1.8 km). From there continue on to the Rock Isle Junction then turn towards the Grizzly / Laryx Junction. The best larch hiking will be along the Grizzly / Laryx loop (3.6 km).

You can go back the way you came along Rock Isle Road back to the village.

If you want to get that iconic Sunshine Meadows view from the Standish Viewing Deck, from the Rock Isle Junction climb the 0.7 km to the viewing deck.

Sunshine Meadows Viewpoint in Banff National Park
Standish Viewing Deck at Sunshine Meadows.

Another option is to continue from the Standish View Deck back down to the Twin Cairns Junction then hike to Monarch Lookout. This will add another 2.2 km then an additional 1.8 km to the village. The larches will be small and stunted along this alpine meadow, but the views are still beautiful!

Here are the distances for the different hiking trails at Sunshine Meadows options:

  1. Sunshine Village to Rock Isle Junction and Grizzly Laryx Loop Return Trip – 7.2 km (+ 10 km on access road)
  2. Sunshine Village to Rock Isle Junction, Grizzly / Laryx Loop & Standish Viewing Deck Return Trip – 8.6km (+ 10 km on access road)
  3. Sunshine Village to Rock Isle Junction, Grizzy / Laryx Loop, Standish Viewing Deck, Twin Cairns to Monarch Lookout to Village – 11 km (+ 10 km on access road)

Read our Complete Guide to Sunshine Meadows in Banff

Lake Louise Ski Resort Larch Hikes

To eliminate the majority of the elevation, you can take the Lake Louise Summer Gondola and enjoy two hikes to view the larch trees. Many of the hikes in Lake Louise and Banff to see larch trees involve long days and a lot of kilometres. Given the help of the Lake Louise Gondola, you’ll find these to be easy larch hikes in Banff (not easy to find) and great larch hikes to do with kids.

Ptarmigan Valley Viewpoint - Lake Louise Gondola hikes
At Ptarmigan Valley Viewpoint from Lake Louise Gondola – too early for larch tree hiking!

The two hikes you can do from the top of the Lake Louise gondola are Kicking Horse Pass Viewpoint at 1.7 km round trip or Ptarmigan Valley Viewpoint at 3.4 km round trip.

Read our Complete Guide to the Lake Louise Summer Gondola

We have other Banff larch hikes we plan to add to this list this year. If you want a downloadable list, CLICK HERE to grab our Larch Hiking Bingo which includes even more larch tree hikes in Banff and Kananaskis.

Larch Hiking List for Banff (Download)

Plain of the Six Glaciers

Beautiful larch trees are seen below the Victoria Glacier on the Plain of the Six Glaciers Trail
Plain of Six Glaciers Hike showing off it’s larch trees.
  • Round-trip distance: 14.6 km
  • Elevation gain: 558 m
  • Difficulty: Moderate (it’s long, but not that difficult)
  • Time required: 3.5-5 hours round-trip.

While Lake Louise boasts some of Alberta’s most exceptional larch hikes, it’s worth noting that the Plain of Six Glaciers hike doesn’t quite fit that description. However, once we set aside our expectations for a dense larch forest, we can fully appreciate the Plain of Six Glaciers for what it truly is—a standout hiking experience in Banff. We love the Plain of Six Glaciers hike and believe it is an excellent fall hike in Banff.

Hiking is one of the best things to do in Lake Louise
Hiking Plain of Six Glaciers at Lake Louise.

This trail offers an incredibly scenic journey, featuring the renowned Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House as one of its highlights. While the larch trees may not dominate the landscape, there is a modest cluster of them just beyond the Six Glaciers Tea House, adding a touch of larch beauty to this remarkable hike.

Read our Complete Guide to Hiking Plain of Six Glaciers in Banff

Little Beehive

Mountain scenery at Little Beehive lookout (Lake Louise hikes)
View of Lake Louise Ski Resort from Little Beehive (larch trees have already dropped their needles).
  • Round-trip distance: 8.8 km
  • Elevation gain: 490 m
  • Difficulty: Moderate (it’s long, but not that difficult)
  • Time required: 3-4 hours round-trip.

Again, while the Little Beehive Hike might not claim the coveted top spot on any “best larch hike in Lake Louise” lists, it does offer a scattering of these beautiful trees along its path. For a more substantial larch experience, consider venturing to the nearby Big Beehive hike or combining it with the Plain of Six Glaciers hike to create an epic hiking adventure. The mountain vistas and panoramic views overlooking Lake Louise will certainly compensate for the relatively sparse presence of larch trees along the way.

View of Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise from hiking trail to Little Beehive lookout
View of Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise from Little Beehive hike.

Read our Complete Guide to Hiking Little Beehive in Banff

For even more larch hikes near Banff, we recommend reading our post on the Best Kananaskis Larch Hikes or our guide to Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park.

How to Get to the Best Banff Larch Hikes

Banff Larch Hikes

If you’ve rented a car for your fall visit to Banff, then that’s the only way to get to these best larches hikes: Healy Pass, Taylor Lake, Sunshine Meadows, O’Brien Lake and Arnica Lake.

For the Lake Louise Ski Resort hikes and Skoki Valley (Hidden Lake, Boulder Pass, Skoki Lakes) hikes, you have three options:

  • Drive to the Lake Louise Ski Resort. For the Skoki Valley hikes, you’ll turn off before the Ski Resort towards Fish Creek parking lot and park there.
  • Use the WowBanff Banff Lake Louise Ski Resort Shuttle to get to the Lake Louise Ski Resort from Banff. For the Skoki Valley hikes, you’ll need to walk from the parking lot at the Ski Resort (adding another 1.5 km).
  • If you are staying in Lake Louise, catch the Parks Canada Park & Ride Connector for free to get from the Lake Louise Village to the Lake Louise Ski Resort. For the Skoki Valley hikes, you’ll need to walk from the Ski Resort (adding another 1.5 km).
the view of Scarab Lake from Healy Pass

Lake Louise Larch Hikes

For any of the hikes at Lake Louise, you’ll need to either get to the parking lot very early or try one of these options:

  • Stay at a Nearby Hotel – Stay at a hotel close enough to walk to the trailhead like Paradise Lodge & Bungalows or right at the lakeshore at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.
  • Parks Canada Shuttle – Book a Parks Canada Lake Louise Shuttle. If you don’t have a car, you’ll still need to get yourself to the Lake Louise Ski Resort from Banff.

    You could use the WowBanff Banff Lake Louise Ski Resort Shuttle to get to the Lake Louise Ski Resort from Banff. Alternatively, if you are staying in Lake Louise, catch the Parks Canada Park & Ride Connector for free to get from the Lake Louise Village to the Lake Louise Ski Resort.
  • Roam Transit – Take Roam Route 8S/8X from Banff to Lake Louise lakeshore.
  • Moraine Lake Sunrise Shuttle – Moraine Lake Sunrise Shuttle has a Lake Louise option that gives you 5 hours to hike.
  • Fairview Limo – Fairview Limo provides transportation from the village of Lake Louise to Lake Louise. Choose a return time late enough to allow you to hike. You still need to get yourself to the village of Lake Louise.
  • Hop On Banff – The Hop On Banff bus leaves from Banff and you can choose departure and return times that will allow you to hike at either Moraine Lake or Lake Louise
  • WowBanff – WowBanff leaves from the Lake Louise Ski Resort and you can choose a return time late enough that you can fit in a hike.

    You could use the WowBanff Banff Lake Louise Ski Resort Shuttle to get to the Lake Louise Ski Resort from Banff. Alternatively, if you are staying in Lake Louise, catch the Parks Canada Park & Ride connector for free to get from the Lake Louise Village to the Lake Louise Ski Resort.
Looking down on the switchbacks to Lake Agnes from the top of the Big Beehive hike

Moraine Lake Larch Hikes

Moraine Lake can no longer be reached by private vehicle, so there’s no longer concerns about Moraine Lake Parking.

There are several ways to get to Moraine Lake, but all involve booking a shuttle or a tour. We highly recommend you read our post on Getting to Moraine Lake, but if you are short on time this is a summary of the best options that will give you some time for the best hikes at Moraine Lake:

  • Parks Canada Shuttle – The Parks Canada Moraine Lake shuttles operate every 20 minutes throughout the day and cost only $8 for an adult. You’ll need to get yourself to the Lake Louise Ski Resort.
  • Roam Transit – In September only, Roam transit operates Route 10 that goes directly from Banff to Moraine Lake. Or take Route 8X/8S to Lake Louise (with a Super Pass or System Wide Day Pass) and take the Parks Canada Lake Connector Shuttle from Lake Louise to Moraine Lake.
  • Moraine Lake Bus Company – The Moraine Lake Bus company offers shuttle rides that will get you to Moraine Lake for sunrise or later. Just choose a departure time that will allow enough time for your hike. You’ll need to get yourself to the Lake Louise Ski Resort to park.
  • Stay at Moraine Lake – While expensive, staying at the Moraine Lake Lodge will give you all the time you want at this spectacular Banff lake.
  • Guided Hike – Explore Banff Tours & Transfers has a guided hike option for Larch Valley.
  • Fairview Limo – Fairview Limo provides transportation from the village of Lake Louise to Moraine Lake. Choose a return time late enough to allow you to hike.
  • Mountain Park Transportation – Mountain Park Transportation provides transportation from the village of Lake Louise to Moraine Lake. Choose a return time late enough to allow you to hike.
  • Wow Banff – WowBanff leaves from the Lake Louise Ski Resort and you can choose a return time late enough that you can fit in a hike. you could use the WowBanff Banff Lake Louise Ski Resort Shuttle to get to the Lake Louise Ski Resort from Banff. Alternatively, if you are staying in Lake Louise, catch the Parks Canada Park & Ride connector for free to get from the Lake Louise Village to the Lake Louise Ski Resort.
  • Hop On Banff – The Hop On Banff bus leaves from Banff and you can choose departure and return times that will allow you to hike at either Moraine Lake or Lake Louise
Wenkchemna Pass Larch trees

For all other Banff larch hikes, we recommend arriving at the parking lot before 9am if possible, especially on weekends.

Other Tips for Banff Larch Hikes

Before you head out on your hiking adventures to immerse yourself amongst the Banff larch trees, here are some additional tips to prepare you for long hiking days in Banff:

1. Have a plan for your larch hikes in Banff

It’s best to plan out your larch hikes. Once you know which ones you want to do, plan to do the most popular ones during the week and leave the lesser known ones for the weekend.

2. Check trail reports before doing any Banff larch hikes

Trails can be closed due to bears or require groups of 4 or more. Always check trail conditions before heading out.

3. Cheat and get a hotel room

A fun and easy way to enjoy golden larches without the super-early wake-up call is to eliminate the long drive and stay at a hotel close to the larch trees.

4. Dress appropriately

Dressing for a day of hiking in the Canadian Rockies can be tricky, even in the heart of summer. Given larch tree season is between mid-September and early October, dressing appropriately is even harder.

Chances are that you will be starting your day early enough to get a parking spot. The sun is lower in the sky this time of year and will often be hiding behind mountain peaks. You may not get direct sunshine until mid-morning (if at all). No sunshine equals significantly colder temperatures.

Also, keep in mind that the temperature drops 1C for every 150m of altitude gain. Given the high-altitude larch trees grow in, the temperature on your larch tree hike will be several degrees colder than the forecasted temperature for Calgary, Banff or Canmore.

Even if the forecast is for 20C+, bring a warm jacketgloves and a toque. Trust us – you’ll be glad you did.

Are there easy hikes to see larches in Alberta?

5. Bring appropriate hiking gear

In addition to bringing multiple layers of warm clothing, make sure you have all the appropriate hiking gear with you. Most of these are long day hikes in Banff, so you’ll want proper footwear (hiking boots or shoes), a day bag (to carry water, snacks & layers), and warm layers for those passes and when the weather changes. You may also need micro spikes and trekking poles if your larch hike recently received a snowfall.

Check our our post on Banff hiking essentials for our recommended fall hiking gear in Banff.

6. Get an early start

A lot of these hikes are long and will take the majority of your day. Get an early start to ensure you get parking and to avoid needing to hike late in the day or the dark.

7. Be bear aware

Travel in groups the bears are busy trying to fatten up for the winter. Bear spray is a must. What’s better is if you can hike in groups of 4 or more.

8. Pack plenty of food and water

September can still get quite warm and these hikes are at higher elevations. Bring plenty of food, snacks and more water than you think you will need.

Learn About Banff Larch Trees

What do Larch Trees Look Like?

In the summer Banff larch trees are full of green needles, making them difficult for a casual observer to distinguish a larch tree from other conifer trees. Starting in mid-September, larch trees become much easier to identify as the needles on a larch trees turn a beautiful golden color, while the other boring conifers stay green.

Healy Pass hiking trail surrounded by golden larch trees

How do you Identify a Larch Tree?

The easiest way to identify a larch tree is to wait until fall and watch for their needles to change to their famous golden color.

If you’d like to identify a larch tree when their needles are not golden, the easiest way is to look at their needles. Larch trees in Alberta have little nipple-like bases protruding from their branches. From each of these nipples, a larch tree will grow up to 40 needles.

When is Larch Season in Banff?

For those visiting Banff in September, you are in luck! The Banff larch season typically starts around mid-September until early October. The needles on larch trees start to change color every year in mid-September. When they first change, the larch trees look lime-green, but before long they are ablaze with a full body of bright golden needles.

larch trees starting to change at larch valley hiking trail

A great way to monitor when the larches start changing color in Banff is to check out the hashtag #larchvalley on Instagram.

How Long do Larches Stay Yellow?

The answer to this question varies every year, but typically they start dropping their needles in early October. You can still enjoy Banff larch hikes if you are visiting Banff in October, but the golden needles become more sparse as the month progresses.

Golden larch trees still hang onto their needles in late September on the Arethusa Cirque hike in Kananaskis, Alberta

Where do Larch Trees Grow in Banff?

Subalpine larch trees grow at elevations of 1,800 to 2,400m above sea level (5,900 to 7,900 ft). This is a significantly higher than the elevation of Banff (1,383m), Canmore (1,309m) and Calgary (1,045),

Where are Larches in Lake Louise?

Lake Louise is one of the best spots in Banff to see golden larches in fall. The elevation of Lake Louise is 1,600m, with surrounding mountain peaks ranging in elevation from 2,500m to 3,400m. These are ideal conditions for the Subapline larch tree to thrive.

The best stands of larch trees in Lake Louise can be found on hikes around Larch Valley, Saddleback Pass and the hikes around Lake Agnes.

Larch Trees seen from Hidden Lake Hike

Where to See Larches in Banff?

The best area to view larch trees in Banff is the Lake Louise / Moraine Lake area. But the popularity of viewing larch trees around Lake Louise means that getting a parking spot is often difficult.

Some good alternatives to Lake Louise larch tree hikes are Taylor Lake, Arnica Lake and Healy Pass.

Where is Larch Valley?

The extremely popular Banff Larch Valley hike is located at Moraine Lake, near Lake Louise in Banff National Park.

Mountain peaks glowing at Moraine Lake at Sunrise in Banff National Park.

What Species of Larch Trees Grow in Banff?

The most common larch tree you will see in the larch hikes listed above is the Subalpine larch tree (also known as Lyall’s larch). Its Latin name is Larix lyallii.

Found this post useful? Save it or share it with your friends!

Best Larch Hikes in Banff.
+ posts

Celine Brewer, a local Canmore resident, is the co-owner of Travel Banff Canada. She has a passion for being out in the mountains any time of year. In the summer, you'll often find her hiking or mountain biking. In the winter, she enjoys cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and winter hiking the most.

As much as she loves the mountains, she also loves travel! When she's not playing outdoors at home, she's either traveling the world with her husband and two kids or working on their other two travel sites: Family Can Travel and Baby Can Travel.