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One of the best things about fall hikes is the opportunity to see larch trees. Check out our hiking guide of where you can see them in all their golden glory in Canada and the U.S.
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For a few short weeks, every year hikers are given the opportunity to bask in the golden glow of larches. As they turn from green to gold, right before they shed their needles, they create a beautiful wash of colour that leaves you in awe.
Seeing the larch trees in their golden glory is one of the reasons why you should do a fall hike.
What is a Larch Tree?
Larches are coniferous trees with distinct features. Unlike other trees, they have “needles” rather than leaves. These needles grow in small clusters with multiple clusters on each branch.
There are two distinct types of larch trees, the Western Larch, which grows in a triangular shape with a narrow crown, and the Subalpine Larch with its widespread branches. By looking at the shape of the larch in question it is quite easy to tell them apart.
When and Where You Can See Larch Trees
From mid-September, to October the landscape starts to change and with it, so do the larch trees. They are typically found in mountainous areas and you are most likely to come across them in the Northern U.S and most of Canada.
If you are looking for the perfect fall hikes to see larches look no further. Here are some great fall hikes recommended by travel bloggers:
Fall Hikes in Alberta, Canada
By Brianna of Curious Travel Bug
Recommended Reading: 6 Adventures In Whistler, British Columbia
Length: 9.2km (5.7 miles)
Duration: +- 4 hours
Best Time to Visit: Mid Sep – early Oct
Chester Lake is a great easy hike to see larch trees during the fall as the lake at the end of the hike is surrounded by beautiful yellow larch. The hike starts off with an uphill section that takes you through a forest before you emerge into a meadow area.
The most challenging part of the hike is the beginning as you do gain 300 m (985 ft) of elevation but the climb is gradual so there are no steep areas to hike. After the initial climb, the trail flattens out to an alpine meadow dotted with larches. It’s a very well-maintained trail that is quite wide and is dog-friendly.
After hiking through the meadow, you are rewarded with a scenic lake set under Mount Chester. There are fantastic views of the Rocky Mountains on this fall hike as well as lots of brightly coloured trees. The hike to Chester Lake is 9.2 km (5.7 miles) out-and-back which takes around 4 hours in total.
You could do it faster but you should give yourself some time to explore the lake. While it is pretty during fall, it’s also a great year-round hiking destination to enjoy the meadow and lake. If you do want to view larch trees, you should visit from mid-September to the beginning of October.
Chester Lake is located in Alberta’s Kananaskis Country on highway 742.
It’s not far from the town of Canmore in the Rocky Mountains. Being just outside of Banff, it has the advantage of having fewer visitors and being free to park and hike.
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Where to Stay Near Chester Lake
Located in Spray Valley Provincial Park, the Mount Engadin Lodge is the perfect base for exploring your surroundings. The lodge offers great views and wonderfully comfortable accommodations. There are an onsite bar and restaurant as well as a sauna and a massage service. Enjoy the perfect mountain accommodation at any time of the year.
Related Reading: 7 Best Places To See Wildlife In Banff National Park
Rawson Lake, Kananaskis Country
By: Routinely Nomadic
Length: 8km (5 miles)
Duration: 4-5 hours
Best Time to Visit: Mid September
There are few places more placidly beautiful in Kananaskis Country than stunning Rawson Lake on a sunny, calm morning. The flat, glassy surface provides perfect reflections of imposing Sarrail Ridge and, in fall, of the vibrant, yellow larch trees that surround the lake. Unlike other top larch destinations like amazing Glacier National Park, as long as you get there before 9 am you are likely to have the place completely to yourself.
At most, you will share the serene beauty of this magnificently located alpine lake with a couple of eager fishermen quietly casting their line out into the spectacularly clear water. Any time of year, this hike offers one of the best scenery-to-effort ratios in the area but, starting in mid-September, the dynamic larch leaves make Rawson Lake an absolute must-see.
The medium difficulty out and back fall hike is about 8 km (5 miles) in total with around 400 meters (1,300 ft) of elevation gain, making it an easy 2-3 hour jaunt for most people. Of course, you’ll want to leave yourself some extra time to enjoy the wonderful surroundings of the lake itself.
Energetic types can add on another 3 km (2 miles) and 270 meters (850 ft) of elevation gain by climbing to the top of extraordinary Sarrail Ridge, where you’ll be treated to incredible views of the entire area from above. This perfect fall hike starts at the parking lot at Upper Kananaskis Lake, another terrific place to spend some time.
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Where to Stay near Rawson Lake
Kananaskis Mountain Lodge, Autograph Collection
This luxurious hotel is the perfect place to relax after you explore the amazing outdoor activities in the area. The hotel offers a full-service spa and an indoor heated pool. The rooms offer you amazing views from bay windows and are fully equipped. The Kananaskis Mountain Lodge offers you the perfect place to escape and enjoy the best that the area has to offer.
Related Reading: Georgian Bay Islands NP: why you need to visit this part of Canada
Pocaterra Ridge Hike, Kananaskis Country
By Daisy of Beyond my Border
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Length: 12km (7.45 miles)
Duration: 6-7 hours
Best Time to Visit: Mid to late September
Pocaterra Ridge is one of the most stunning trails in Kananaskis. Although the hike is quite lengthy, the view on top of the summit, which overlooks rolling mountains and vast hills, is one not to be missed.
Park your car at the Highwood Pass parking lot and head into the meadow on foot. The Ridge is full of paths that are lush, vibrant, and breathtaking. Follow the most used path through the lively trees, which will take you to Pocaterra Creek. During the fall season, the creek will be surrounded by a canvas of yellows and oranges.
Follow the bright red/yellow tapes on the tree to cross the creek, and head uphill into the dense forest. Once you hike up the elevation and onto the first plateau, you will witness a sea of larch trees with brilliant colours during autumn.
You can cut the journey short and relax at the nearby Elbow Lake, turn back to the parking lot, or continue onwards into the larch forest. The walk through the forest is a mesmerizing experience. During September, the larch needles turn a brilliant yellow and are practically inviting you into a fantasy world.
Needless to say, Pocaterra Ridge is a must-visit when on the West Coast, and is definitely one of the most instagrammable places in Banff. The hike starts and ends at Highwood Pass parking lot, along Highway 40.
Where to Stay in Kananaskis Country
The Banff Gate Mountain Resort offers you the perfect luxurious stay to explore your surroundings. Offering a fireplace, balcony and fantastic mountain views in each cottage this is the perfect mountain accommodation. Spend your days hiking and come back to a comfortable cottage that has a seating area, kitchen and warm decor that will make you feel at home.
Sentinel Pass, Lake Louise Area in Banff National Park
By: Lora Pope, Explore With Lora
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Length: 5.8km one-way (3.6 miles)
Duration: 4.5 to 5.5 hours
Best Time to Visit: Mid to late September
The peak season to see larches in Banff National Park is from mid to late September when fall is in full swing and the larch needles are a vibrant shade of golden yellow.
The Sentinel Hill trail is one of the most beautiful hikes in Banff National Park. The hike starts off at world-famous Moraine Lake which is a stunning shade of blue. This perfect fall hike then heads up through a forest with native larch trees that are magnificent to see during the fall when they are a beautiful shade of golden yellow.
The trail climbs steadily uphill through the trees with a series of switchbacks, before emerging into a meadow with three lakes. The last climb to the top of Sentinel Pass is very tough, but you’ll be rewarded with amazing views over the Valley of the Ten Peaks.
While the best time to do this hike is during the fall when the larch trees are at their peak colour, it is still worth doing other times of the year as the mountain views are always magnificent.
The trailhead starts just beyond the Moraine Lake Lodge. Parking is very limited at the Moraine Lake parking lot so it is recommended to get there very early or take a paid shuttle to the parking lot, which is available from Lake Louise Village.
Where to Stay in Lake Louise
Located near Lake Louise, the Lake Louise Inn offers you comfort and luxury that is perfect for your trip to this amazing area. The Inn offers a heated indoor pool, hot tubs and two onsite restaurants. The rooms have great views of the mountains and some of the suites and apartments include a balcony and fireplace.
Larch Valley Hike, Banff National Park
By: Campbell and Alya from Stingy Nomads
Length: 8.6km (5.4 miles) return
Duration: 3.5 – 4 hours
Best Time to Visit: Mid Sep – Oct
The Larch Valley hike starting from Moraine Lake is one of the most popular fall hikes in Banff National Park. Moraine Lake is a spectacular, turquoise, glacial lake 14 kilometres outside the Village of Lake Louise and can easily be reached by the Roam public transport system from the village or by bus from Banff.
The trail meanders through the beautiful larch forest revealing fantastic views of the surrounding Ten Peaks. For a more challenging hike, the Larch Valley trail can be combined with climbing Sentinel Pass and hiking to Eiffel Lake for a 19km (12 miles) total route.
The Larch Valley trail starts off at Moraine lake, as you climb the mountain you see more and more larch trees until you are surrounded by a larch tree forest in the Larch Valley. Most people finish the Larch Valley hike at the base of Mount Temple and Mount Pinnacle at the tarn lake.
Usually, the larch tree needles turn from green to lime to a brilliant golden yellow colour before they fall to the ground in winter from around mid-September. Hiking here in October the snow, golden trees and foliage makes for spectacular scenery.
This hike can get extremely busy in the season, especially over weekends, so going a bit later you can avoid the crowds and still catch the golden larch trees. It is a great hike to do in summer with plenty of beautiful wildflowers in July, there are grizzlies in the area this time of the year, so hike in groups. Late in autumn wear microspikes as the trail can get extremely icy and slippery.
Where to Stay Near Moraine Lake
Located in Banff National Park the Moraine Lake Lodge is perfect for hikers and those that enjoy the outdoors. The rooms have a cabin feel and are furnished with hand-crafted items that add to the wonderful atmosphere. Enjoy the views of Moraine Lake from your private balcony. This is the perfect stay in every season.
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Fall Hike in Ontario, Canada
Nokomis Trail, Lake Superior
By: Lindsay Davies from I’ve Been Bit!
Length: 4.3km (2.7 miles)
Duration: 2 – 3 hours
Best Time to Visit: Mid Sep – early Oct
Canada is beautiful in any season but it’s absolutely magical in the fall, especially in my home province. There are so many things to do in Ontario in the fall! While many head to Algonquin Provincial Park, you can beat the crowds by heading north to Lake Superior Provincial Park.
If you’ve visited in the summer, chances are you’ve been to Old Woman Bay but I recommend a fall visit, especially for fall hikes. Here you’ll find the Nokomis Trail, referencing the grandmother Nanabozho, a legend from the local Indigenous culture of the area.
You’ll see hints of gold as you pull into the parking lot but the real treat is at the top of the Nokomis Trail. This fall hike will take some finesse as you’re climbing 178 metres (584 feet) in elevation, but it’s worth every step and stumble.
Just 30 minutes into the hike and you’ll get a taste of the incredible views of Lake Superior you’ll be treated to on this trek. While these views are beautiful in the summer as well, the bursts of colour that come with the changing larch trees make it extra magical!
Old Woman Bay is magnificent from the beach. But to see the 200 metres (656 foot) cliff face from a birds-eye view makes you truly appreciate its natural beauty.
The big question is – can you spot the woman’s face immortalized within the rock? To get to the Nokomis Trail follow the Trans Canada Highway (Highway 17) until you see signs for Old Woman Bay. Park at the parking lot here and cross the highway to get to the trailhead
Where to Stay Near Old Woman Bay
Located near Lake Superior and offering you perfect views, the Mystic Isle Motel is a great place to stay. This motel offers you simple and comfortable accommodation which is perfect if you want to explore your surroundings. With its rustic decor and cabin-style rooms, you’ll feel right at home. Each of the rooms also has a coffee machine and mini-fridge for your convenience.
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Fall Hikes in British Columbia, Canada
Length: 11.5km (7.1 miles)
Duration: 5 – 7 hours
Best Time to Visit: Late September
Brewer Creek is a hike that you will want to do more than once. This is a great all-year hike but during fall this hike really shines, almost literally in fact. A fall hike here brings you up close to the radiant and colourful larch trees which in late September are perfect hues of gold and orange.
In the first few miles you can expect to get in some good elevation before you get to one of the many tarns. Once you pass into the open meadow you’ll have a glimpse at the beautiful views that you can expect on the rest of the trail. From here it is highly recommended to head to the top of Mount Brewer.
The view of larch trees in all their glory from here is the star of this fall hike. It is nothing short of breathtaking. The trail might offer you sunshine, but make sure to dress warmly as the weather has been known to change at a whim. Make sure to bring a jacket and gloves.
From Invermere, head out on Westside road to Hawk road. Take a right when you see the Hoodoo kiosk and continue on. At the fork in the road go straight and carry on until you see the Brewer Creek Sign. The road is rough in some places so make sure to come with a vehicle capable of hitting a dirt road.
Where to Stay in Invermere
Spend a few nights at the Deere Ridge Cabins for the perfect addition to your fall hike. Each cottage has a private hot tub, a kitchenette and a private patio where you can relax. These wonderful cabins are pet-friendly and perfectly located to enjoy the best that the area has to offer.
Jumbo Pass, Central Kootenay
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Length: 10.7km (6.6 miles)
Duration: 4 – 4.5 hours
Best Time to Visit: early Sep to early Oct
Jumbo Pass is a spectacular hike that can be down from May to October and offers you beautiful wildflower fields in summer and kaleidoscope larch trees in autumn. This fall hike is the perfect moderate activity that offers you the most amazing views.
There are two trailheads that lead up to Jumbo Pass, They are roughly the same distance and difficulty. You can choose to hike from the Invermere side where you will climb up the ridge, follow a wonderful brook and finally reach the summit to take in the most spectacular views from the Jumbo cabin.
Or you can choose to start from the Glacier Creek Trailhead FSR. From here you will steadily climb through the forest and finally come to wide-open meadows and the ridge that takes you to Jumbo Pass. The views may not be much while in the forest, but once you catch the first glimpse of the golden larches and surrounding peaks, it’s nothing short of breathtaking.
Once you make it to the cabin, take a short detour towards the northern ridge for more views. It’s the perfect place to stop for a snack and enjoy the peace that only a mountain top can give you.
Make your way down with stunning larches before you, the views are definitely worth it as you finish your trek. To get to the Glacier Creek Trailhead head from Kaslo, head north on Highway 31N towards Duncan Lake. Turn right on Argenta Road and continue straight at the junction. Turn right and ascend onto Duncan Glacier Creek FSR and proceed straight at the fork. Continue on and turn right just after the bridge.
Where to Stay Near Kaslo
Located on Kootenay Lake, the Sentinel is the perfect lodge to escape to for nature and relaxation. Enjoy a garden and great views of the lake and Mount Loki during your stay. There is a terrace where guests can lounge and each unit offers a seating and dining area. Some units also include a balcony or patio with views.
Fall Hike in Maine, U.S.
Chimney Pond Trail, Baxter State Park
Length: 10.1km (6.2 miles) out and back
Duration: 3.5 – 4 hours
Best Time to Visit: Early Sep to early Oct
Chimney Pond is an excellent day hike in Baxter State Park and affords you terrific views. The trail is accessible from May to October and offers something different in each season. It makes for a great fall hike as the views are a stunning wash of greens, gold and oranges from the many larch trees and other foliage.
Starting at the Roaring Brook Campground you make your way up the Roaring Brook trail. The trail is well-maintained and marked. As you move along, you’ll come closer to Mount Katahdin, the highest peak in Maine. You will pass Basin Lake, the first lake on this fall hike and a good place to stop if you have the time.
While on the trail make sure to keep an eye out for hidden lookout points, there are some wonderful opportunities to view larch trees in all their autumn glory. The trail is in great shape but rocky in some places so make sure to wear good hiking boots.
With perfect views of the North Maine Woods and Mount Katahdin, you will love the trail all the way to its end at the Chimney Pond Campground. To get there from Millinocket take Millinocket road which leads onto Millinocket Lake road and then onto Baxter Park road. Continue on Baxter Park road until you reach Roaring Brook campground.
Where to Stay in Millinocket
The Baxter Park Inn is located in Millinocket and is the perfect place to stay while exploring the area. The inn offers a daily breakfast, an indoor pool and an onsite fitness centre. Enjoy a perfect stay near Baxter State Park.
Fall Hike in Montana, U.S.
Length: 3.9km (4.4 miles) out and back
Duration: 2.5 hours
Best Time to Visit: Mid Sep to Oct
Probably the easiest hike in the northwest corner of Montana, the Northwest Peak is a great fall hike. It sits at 7,706 feet making this the perfect summit to view golden larch trees. The view you find at the top of this short climb is nothing short of wondrous. It is a perfect pairing of Hawkins lakes and beautiful larch parkland. I recommend spending some time on the summit just to soak in the perfect views.
The summit is reached by a long drive and a short 4.4 mile out and back hike. Make sure to wear good shoes as you will have to traverse a quarter-mile of talus just before the summit. This is the only challenging part of the trail. Once you’ve made your way past the shrubs and up across the granite-stacked meadows, you’ll find yourself in a hikers paradise.
Make your way to the old fire lookout where you can spend a few minutes admiring your surroundings. This is a great fall hike for those that prefer solitude. You’ll even get to make a stop, if you have to, at Montana’s highest toilets. This is a great hike in fall but can also be done in the summer when conditions are good.
To get there you will have to drive west from Yaak River Road for 2 miles just past mile marker 27, to Pete Creek Road. follow the road until you get to West Fork Road where you will turn left. Continue on and turn right onto Winkum Creek Road to stay on the FR338. You can use the pullout on the right shoulder as parking.
Where to Stay Near Northwest Peak
Stay in true Montana style at the Grouse Mountain Lodge. The lodge offers you a free shuttle to downtown Whitefish for you to explore. The rooms are inspired by traditional log cabins and offer you warm and comfortable decor as well as a small refrigerator. Enjoy a full day of hiking and come back to make use of the outdoor firepit or even the indoor pool and dry sauna.
Fall Hike in Oregon, U.S.
Fret Creek Trail, Badger Creek Wilderness
Length: 7.7km (4.8 miles) out and back
Duration: 2 – 3 hours
Best Time to Visit: Mid Sep to early Oct
At the start of this hike you’ll find yourself engulfed by huckleberry bushes, and if you’re hiking in the right season you can treat yourself to these amazing berries while you hike. As you continue on you are likely to encounter some blowdown that you will have to maneuver over. It’s quite common to have blowdowns on the trail considering Oregon’s unpredictable weather.
Make your way past Fret Creek and enjoy the golden larches around you as you continue on to Oval Lake. The lake is much more of a large pond to be honest but during the fall it is surrounded by wonderful larch trees which create a field of gold.
From here it’s a quick incline to Palisade Point where you can look down at the golden larches in their kaleidoscope glory. Although the trail can be hiked from early May, it really does make for a perfect fall hike. You’ll be able to enjoy the golden larches until the end of October, but be wary of the weather at this time, it can get pretty icy.
This trail is dog friendly too and a great workout as you will be hiking up an incline for much of the trail. If you’ve got the energy, make a detour onto the divine trail where you can make your way up to Lookout Mountain or Flag Point.
To get to the trailhead take NF-44 off of Highway 35. Take a right onto NF-4420 and continue on to the Fifteen Mile Creek campground. The trail is just a couple hundred feet from the campground.
Where to Stay Near Badger Creek Wilderness
The Timberline Lodge is located deep in Mount Hood National Forest and offers a sauna, a heated outdoor pool and beautiful rooms. This lodge is the perfect place to rest after exploring the wonderful hikes in the area. The rooms are rustic and offer original handcrafted furnishings that make the rooms the perfect place to relax.
Fall Hikes in Washington State, U.S
Blue Lake, North Cascades
By: Rachel & Clark from Seeking our Someday
Length: km 7.1km (4.4 miles) return
Duration: 2.5 hours
Duration: 2.5 hours
Blue Lake is located on one of the most scenic drives in the United States, Highway 20. This beautiful road winds past lakes and mountains through North Cascades National Park in Northern Washington.
The North Cascades are well known for larches in early-October through mid-October. But the most beautiful places to view them kept secret but the locals. Blue Lake is one of those secrets. The hike to Blue Lake is a well maintained 7.1 km (4.4 miles) out-and-back trail with 320 m (1050 ft) of elevation gain.
As a moderate hike, it feels much easier with the scenic distractions along the trail. As the larches start to turn a bright golden colour in early-October to mid-October, they can be spotted along the trail about two-thirds of the way to Blue Lake.
At the lake, the entire North facing slope, across from the trail viewpoint is covered with larches with a towering exposed mountain above. Blue Lake, in the North Cascades National Park, is a three-hour drive from Seattle. This makes it a Top Day Trip Destination from Seattle. Keep in mind that the weather in the North Cascades can be extremely variable during larch season. So make sure to bring appropriate layers and shoe traction in case of snow and ice.
The roundtrip hike to Blue Lake takes approximately 2.5 hours to complete. It may take longer depending on how much time is spent at the lake and if you’re brave enough to take the polar plunge into Blue Lake’s icy water. Blue Lake Trailhead is located right off of Highway 20 in the North Cascades, 3 hours Northeast of Seattle, Washington
Where to Stay in Seattle
Located a short distance from Pike Place Market, the Warwick Seattle has a perfect and central location in Seattle. The hotel offers an indoor pool, whirlpool and a fitness centre. Enjoy spacious rooms, a private balcony and floor to ceiling windows which offer you views over the city. This is a great base to explore Seattle and its many surrounding hikes.
Maple Pass Loop, Northern Cascades National Park
Length: 11.4km (7.2 miles)
Duration: 3 – 4 hours
Best Time to Visit: Mid Sep to Oct
Probably one of the most famous fall hikes in Washington, the Maple Pass Loop is the perfect opportunity to see larch trees. The hike is great from summer to fall, but to really have the full effect of the beauty that only golden larches can give a landscape, autumn is by far the best season to hike this trail.
It is recommended that you take this trail counter-clockwise for the best views. The trail starts in the parking lot and slowly makes it’s way up into a forest. As you make your way up you’ll look over Lake Ann and eventually reach Heather Pass. Although at this point the trail can get busy, since there are intersecting trails here, the views are some of the best that you’ll get on this hike.
Make your way up the ridge to Maple Pass. This is the showstopper of this amazing fall hike. The views up here are amazing and you’ll want to spend a good amount of time up here to really enjoy the scenery around. From larches to wondrous peaks, the work to get up to Maple Pass is worth it. As you make your way down the switchbacks and through the forest, you’re awarded unabated views all around you.
Towards the end of the hike, the descent is more gradual taking you back to where you started. To get there from Seattle take Highway 20 through Marblemount, towards North Cascades National Park. Stop at the Rainy Pass trailhead. There is space on both sides of the road for you to park your car.
Where to Stay in Winthrop
Located in Winthrop, the AbbeyCreek Inn is a great place to stay while exploring this great part of Washington State. The inn offers a seasonal outdoor pool, daily breakfast and comfortable rooms. The property also offers bike rentals.
These fall hikes are bound to give you the most spectacular view of golden larch trees.