Every Autumn, pockets of Banff National Park come aglow with gold. It’s that special time of year when larch trees sweeping across the Canadian Rockies bring the landscapes alive, as they begin to change coats for winter and turn a brilliant yellow hue. This natural phenomenon is a wonder to see, but it doesn’t last long. Visiting between mid-September and early October are your best bet to take it all in. Numerous trails will immerse you in the experience on your own two feet. However, there are several other ways to enjoy the golden larches in all their glory this Fall in Banff National Park.
Wondering how to see larches without hiking? Check out these helpful suggestions below - they’re a wonderful way to take part in one of nature’s most beautiful shows.
1. Hop on a Horse
For a truly Canadian Rockies experience, there’s no better way to take it all in than with a trusted companion. Quietly tucked away right near Lake Louise, Timberline Tours Ltd., and Brewster Adventures offer various day trips along trails renowned for their larches. Enjoy a horseback trip to Lake Agnes and the Little Beehive for a short but highly rewarding ride to enjoy the larches and epic views. Or, opt for a full day in the backcountry to Skoki Lodge - the journey there is brimming with history and larch trees, making it a truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
2. Go for a Drive
Another way to see the larch trees is to go for a car cruise at your own pace. The Icefields Parkway is one of the most beautiful drives in the world, offering ample opportunity to take it all on. But first, be sure to stop at the village of Lake Louise on the way to stock up on your favourite snacks. Trailhead Café serves up some of the best artisan sandwiches and coffee concoctions around, while Laggan’s Bakery is a local hot spot for sweet treats and pastries. The Village Market has everything else you need, from healthy snacks to your favourite bag of chips.
3. Get a Bird’s Eye View
Perhaps one of the most breathtaking ways to see the larches in Banff National Park is from high in the sky. You can truly see it all from the heights of a helicopter passenger seat. These tours will take you to places inaccessible any other way, unblemished by human impact. Discover new corners of Banff National Park and enjoy some of the most stunning backcountry scenery around, including waterfalls, towering mountain peaks, glaciers, and blankets of golden larches. Rockies Heli Tours Canada, Alpine Helicopters, and CMH all offer tours in a variety of times and distances.
4. Explore on an ATV
Searching for a unique alpine adventure? Try the Larches in Paradise Tour through Toby Creek Adventures. Venture from the valley bottom to the alpine on a breathtaking scenic adventure and move through a vibrant golden forest. As you stop for a snack mid-tour, you can soak in the views from the deck of Paradise Cabin high in the alpine.
5. Ride a Gondola
Soar over the forest floor, keep an eye out for grizzlies and black bears, and arrive in the alpine in style on The Lake Louise Gondola. Running until early October, the gondola will set you up in the heart of the alpine - the perfect place to see larches. You can see plenty of larches right from the Lake Louise Gondola viewing platform - including looking across the valley at the incredible golden trees of Saddleback Pass right beside Lake Louise. If you have the time, an easy hike will take you into the heart of these special golden trees.
For the best larches, head up Pika Trail (a 2.5 km round trip). You can also continue along to Ptarmigan Valley Viewpoint for a 3.4 km round trip. PIka Trail will put you amongst the larches, and continuing along to the valley viewpoint will let you look down on a golden valley floor. Enhance your larch viewing experience with knowledgeable local guides by booking a guided hiking experience. Wind down your day with spectacular views and incredible food by stopping in at Whitehorn Bistro before heading back down.
Make the most of your journey to the gondola by taking in our favourite viewpoints along the Bow Valley Parkway.
*Please note that Whitehorn Bistro is closed until the end of summer 2023.
Whether you’re not keen on hiking, have limited mobility, are travelling with little ones in tow, or are simply looking for a fresh perspective, these accessible experiences are sure to delight adventurers of all ages. Talk to our local experts for more information or help with planning the ultimate larch trip this Fall.