4 great spots to see yellow larches while avoiding the big crowds

Sep 10 2020, 12:00 pm

COVID-19 still presents a very real and dangerous threat to public health. While much of Alberta’s outdoors have been reopened to visitors, it is recommended to plan ahead, check local restrictions and current public health measures, and avoid any areas that may be too crowded. 

September is a beautiful time of year to get out into the Rockies and explore to your heart’s content. This is due in part to the stunning colours put on display as the Larch trees change with the season.

While the most popular of all Larch-hunting hikes is the aptly named Larch Valley, its popularity (AKA crowded trails) can put many would-be adventures off from making the trip out.

Luckily enough, there are more than a few other places to get a glimpse of the gorgeous yellow trees — without the hassle of all the crowds.

Here are a few of the perfect spots to go to this September/October to check out the larch trees that aren’t anywhere near Larch Valley.

For your own safety, please make sure you are prepared before heading out on your next adventure. Information on how to prepare for your trip and stay safe while on your hike is available from Albertaparks.ca and AdventureSmart. Parks Canada visitor guidelines are available here. Always remember to leave no trace, pack out what you pack in, stick to designated trails, and refrain from feeding wildlife — and please note that irresponsibly taken selfies (even if they look great for the ‘gram) can be fatal

Pocaterra Ridge


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Located in Kananaskis Country, Pocaterra Ridge is a solid day hike at 12 km long (roughly five to seven hours). The total elevation gain is nearly 1,000 metres, meaning that the views you’ll get at the top are more than worth the trip — just make sure to bring your poles.

You can get there by driving to the Little Highwood Pass parking lot and finding the trailhead from there.

Chester Lake


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The Chester Lake hike is also located in Kananaskis, though it’s a little easier at just 9 km. Elevation gain is 424 m, and the trees around here will be just as colourful. So, if you’re hiking out more for the trees than you are for the exercise, this one is a pretty good bet.

To get there, you’ll need to follow the Dorrien Highway/Spray Lakes Road past the Canmore Nordic Centre and then about 2 km past the Mount Shark turnoff.

Rowe Lakes


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You’ve actually got some options with this hike, as the first lake is only an 8 km round trip, while the second is 13 km. Located in Waterton Lakes National Park, the Rowe Lakes make for a great weekend day-trip, as there are plenty of colourful larches along the hike (though it is a bit of a road trip to get to).

You’ll find the trailhead on the north side of the Akamina Parkway just west of Waterton Village and past the Lineham trailhead.

Buller Pass


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The longest on the list, Buller Lake clocks in at a hardy 14.6 km round trip and a solid 670-metre elevation gain. You’ll start seeing larches roughly 45 minutes into the hike, so you don’t really need to go the entire 14 km to enjoy the view.

You’ll find the trailhead across from the Buller Mountain day-use area, which is 31 km away from the Canmore Nordic Centre in Kananaskis Country.

DH Calgary StaffDH Calgary Staff

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