Your hiking guide for the fall season
Don’t miss Alberta’s stunning landscape change
By Andi Endruhn, Photo Editor
When fall sets in, and school starts up, hiking season begins to come to a close.
Although hiking in the fall comes with a unique set of challenges, the rewards that come with the experience are just as unique. The days may be shorter, and the weather may be cooler, but the opportunity to see the changing fall colours in the mountains can be worth all the precautions that need to be taken in the shoulder season.
Late September and early October, are the best times to see the larches turn the slopes of the mountains into a glowing yellow, making for an amazing experience.
Here are some of the best hikes you can do this fall!
A popular hike throughout the summer, the Cirque is just as picturesque in the fall, located just off Highway 40, in Highwood Pass. Although the Cirque itself is rather barren (home to a host of wildflowers in the summer), it allows for sweeping views of the pass’s fall colours.
For those not used to the area, the trail provides interpretive signs that will allow you to learn and catch a breather on the steep first leg through the trees.
The trail itself is five kilometers in length, and on average takes three hours for hikers to complete. Due to its elevation in the pass, hikers should be prepared for cooler weather, as well as the possibility of snow.
Although alpine lake season may be over, Kananaskis’ Chester Lake is still worth the pilgrimage, even in the fall.
Often used by hikers in the summer, and snowshoers in the winter, during fall the lake provides the perfect backdrop for the changing larches that populate Mount Chester. The full trail takes about four hours, covering 10 kilometers, usually with moderate traffic. For those looking for an amazing site for their fall photos, this is it.
Starting off in the Sunshine Village parking lot, Healy Pass is a 19-kilometer hike, taking about six to seven hours to complete.
The trail meanders through the forest and open alpine meadows before reaching a spectacular view looking over Egypt Lake. Its length makes it a trail for those with a little experience, or some determination, but the end result is spectacular.
This is another hike that showcases the Rockies at their best in the fall, lined with larches and burning bushes, making for spectacular colours. This trip can be extended by continuing down to Egypt Lake for a long day, or a late season overnight at the Egypt Lake campground.
Larch Valley/Sentinel Pass
By far, one of the most popular fall hikes close to Calgary, Larch Valley is one of the most spectacular sights in late September.
Starting from Moraine Lake the trail is 12 kilometers long, and typically takes seven hours to complete.
For those hoping to hike the trail, an early start is recommended to ensure parking. The trail is often subject to bear warnings in the shoulder season, requiring that hikers travel in groups of four or more, making it worth the extra step of checking trail information before leaving the city, or planning on hiking in a group anyways.
Logistically and technically, the most difficult hike on the list. However, Pocaterra Ridge is still one of the best ridge walks in Kananaskis, no matter the season.
Taking seven hours to complete 11 kilometers, Pocaterra is best done with two cars, one parked at either end of the trail head. Located along Highway 40, and starting from the same parking lot in Highwood pass, as Ptarmigan Cirque, Pocaterra is subject to the same high altitude and weather changes.
From the top of the exposed ridge you can sweeping views of the surrounding area, and the changing larches, bushes, and grasses, overlooking a creek and spectacular scenery.
Before you make your way, remember to always check weather conditions before leaving for your hike!