Hiking: 7 Tips To See Fall Colours & Avoid the Crowds

Category: Hikes + Easy Walks

When you think of taking a family fall hike in the Canadian Rockies valleys of Lyall’s Larch trees with their golden needles, come to mind.

The next thing that comes to mind is the crowds and the 4:00 a.m. departure for a coveted parking spot at Moraine Lake or Lake Louise. I admit it, the larches at these locations are stunning, and you should try to see these areas at least once.  

However, fall isn’t just about the larches. The yellow Trembling Aspen leaves, Red Rosehips and the Fungus Flowers (mushrooms) are worthy competitors to the Lyall’s Larch trees.

red rosehip on a rosehip bush
Red rose hips from the Wild Rose Plant.

Tip #1 – Go On A Non-Larch Hike

To see some different fall colours, stay on the lower hikes in the valley bottoms, also known as the Montane Ecoregion. 

Several trails within the town of Canmore and Banff offer great colourful views. The extensive family-friendly, multi-use trails in Canmore are stroller and bike-friendly.

picture of the canmore trail map
Canmore Trail Map
panoramic view from Cochrane Ranch
Glenbow Ranch, Cochrane

Some of the best diversity of fall colours I have seen was at the Glenbow Provincial Park, Cochrane, a few years ago.

Hikes in the Sibbald Flats and Jumping Pound area of Kananaskis offer stunning views with colour. These trails are not busy mid-week.

photo of trembling aspen trees in the fall with yellow leaves
Trembling Aspen Trees

I love the Barrier Lake Lookout trail as well. Bonus, you can push a Chariot® up to a decent viewpoint as well.

barrier lake, yellow leaves in the fall
Barrier Lake

Tip # 2- Enjoy the Fall Colours From the Water

Sometimes you get better views from the water.

view of ha ling peak from Rundle Reservoir
My view from the Kayak.
I wonder how many people are on Ha Ling looking down?

The Rundle Reservoir in Canmore is another place to paddle and enjoy the yellow leaves as they dot the landscape below Ha Ling Peak and Grassi Lakes. 

Tip # 3 – Look For Some Colorful “Fun Guys” (Fungi) on The TrailTip

Fall is a great time to see the fruitbodies of fungus, generally speaking – the mushroom. With the amount of rain we had this summer, there are a lot of colourful and different shaped fungus flowers that are giving those golden larch trees a run for their money!

Tip # 4 – Go Mid-Week When The Trails May Not Be As Busy

 I know not everyone can do this, and I”m certainly not suggesting you do this all the time. HOWEVER, doctors in some countries are starting to prescribe getting out in nature as a form of medicine.  

Larch Valley, Banff National Park. Mid-week, early morning. No crowds.

So yes, call in sick, take a mental health day, keep the kiddos home from school and enjoy some Vitamin N – Nature Therapy.  

Tip # 5 – Go For An Urban Fall Hike, A Scenic Bike Ride or Play In A Leaf Pile in Your Backyard

When I lived in Calgary, I would take my boys for long bike rides along the river pathways. We were close enough to ride our bikes from our house to Bowness Park.

Fishcreek Provincial Park, as well as Nose Hill Park, provides fantastic opportunities to see various plants and trees dressed in their fall colours. 

two boys playing in fall leaves
Calgary, 2006.

Some days, we didn’t’ leave our backyard.

Tip # 6 – Go For A Fall Horseback Ride

I love horses! A fall trail ride is an ideal way to see some colours, and it is an excellent alternative to hiking. During the past ten years, my boys and I have ridden with Moose Mountain Adventures. I have ridden with Boundary Ranch and Anchor D Ranch.

Fall rides with Moose Mountain Adventures, Bragg Creek. 2010

Tip # 7 – Take A Shuttle!  

Okay, I get it, Larch Madness is upon us for the next two to three weeks. If you haven’t been to Lake Louise or Moraine Lake to see the Larches, then it is something you should do – at least once. 

Unfortunately, you and thousands of others also want to see this area “just once.”

Last September, I took the ROAM transit from Banff to Lake Louise. It cost me $16.00 return, and it was well worth every penny.  The 2020 price has increased to 20.00 return and is still worth every penny.

There are 500 free parking stalls at the Banff Train Station. I wasn’t sure if I would get a spot, so my husband dropped me off at the Banff train station for the 10:35 ROAM bus to Lake Louise. I was hiking before noon! On this particular day, I hiked the Saddle Back trail and was on the 5:30 p.m. ROAM bus heading back to Banff.  

The buses are wheelchair accessible and have room for small collapsible strollers.   

If you genuinely want to get to Lake Louise to see the colours, and not worry about the stress of finding parking, I highly recommend taking the ROAM bus service.

The following photos are a compilation of some family-friendly trails at Lake Louise and Moraine Lake.

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