5 Fabulous Fall Hikes
Hike through the golden leaves before they’re gone
Snow capped peaks at the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House
Fall hiking has quieter trails, crisp weather and flaming autumn foliage. It requires a little more preparation than summer. Pack extra warm clothes and always visit Parks Canada’s website to check its Trail Condition Report for the latest information on your hiking route including closures and animal activity-the bears can be busy and we have some early snow this year.
Larch Valley is the grand dame of fall hikes. A little more than 8 kilometres roundtrip, this hike takes you into an alpine larch forest – larches turn a brilliant yellow during the fall – and the Valley of the Ten Peaks. This is not a quiet fall hike. It’s extremely popular, but worth it for the spectacular fall colours. The trail begins at Moraine Lake. For a slightly longer route continue on to Sentinel Pass (it’s another 1.5 km) to look down into the larches and take in the surrounding peaks. Bear activity in the area requires hikers to hike in groups of four.
Weather dependent, the trail is open through September and into early October. pc.gc.ca
Lake Agnes is home to one of the two historic tea houses in Upper Lake Louise. The Lake Agnes Tea house is 3.5 kilometres from the Chateau Lake Louise (you’ll see a sign for Lake Agnes just past the bronze statue of a mountain guide). The hike is popular in the summer because it’s a well-maintained and moderate (roughly two hours roundtrip), with the promise of tea and treats at the top. In the fall things slow down, which means fewer crowds and more time to take in the views. The tea house sits on the tiny, emerald coloured lake and serves soup, sandwiches, cake and biscuits.
Weather dependent, the teahouse is usually open until Thanksgiving weekend. lakeagnesteahouse.com
Plain of Six Glaciers
The second backcountry tea house in Upper Lake Louise is the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House (P-6) via the Plain of Six Glaciers trail. The hike is longer (more than 10 kilometres roundtrip from the parking lot by Lake Louise) and slightly more challenging than Lake Agnes (expect switchbacks and steep, narrow trails). The spectacular views at the top reveal the six ancient glaciers that sit atop and below Mount Victoria, Lefroy, Aberdeen and Popes. The teahouse serves cake, biscuits, sandwiches and more.
Weather dependent, the teahouse is usually open until Thanksgiving weekend. banfflakelouise.com
If you’re feeling ambitous and have a solid full day available for hiking then plan to visit both teahouses. The Highline Trail connects Lake Agnes with P-6 and takes you up and over the lakeshore trail for a 14 kilometre loop or five hour hike. During the Lake Louise Fall Festival, September 5 to October 5, you can tackle the Highline Trail Challenge and with proof of purchase from both tea houses, be entered to win a $200 tea-filled gift basket.
For a beautiful autumn hike that’s a little closer to Calgary head into Kananaskis Country to tackle Chester Lake. The 10 kilometre roundtrip hike is easy to moderate and has minimal elevation gain. Find the well-marked trailhead along the Smith-Dorrien/Spray Lakes Road. Take in views of pretty Chester Lake as well as alpine meadows complete with flaming yellow larches.
The trail is open year-round, including for snowshoe and cross country skiers in the winter. tourismcanmore.com