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

Category: Banff Hikes, 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. Here’s 7 tips on hiking the Rockies in the fall with your family, to discover the beauty of the fall colouring in the trees and mountains.

red rosehip on a rosehip bush while hiking in the fall
Red rose hips from the Wild Rose Plant.

Fall Hiking 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 for fall hikes in the rockies
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 in the fall offers stunning views with colour. These trails are not busy mid-week.

photo of trembling aspen trees in the fall with yellow leaves while hiking to see the fall colours in the pacific northwest
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

Fall Hiking 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. Sometimes enjoying the fall colours from the water is the easiest way to avoid large crowds when hiking through the Rockies with your family this fall!

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

Fall is a great time to see the fruit bodies 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! When you’re on your fall hike, don’t forget to look down! At your feet lies a plethora of wild mushrooms and fungi on the trails.

fungi and mushrooms in the pacific northwest seen on fall hikes
pacific northwest fungi spotted on a fall hike in the rockies

Fall Hiking 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
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. Take your family for a hike during the middle of the week to get the best views of those fall colours on the leaves and trees.

Fall Hiking 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. Urban family hikes can be just as fun as packing the family up in the car to get up into the mountains. Discover the colours of fall in your neighbourhood!

Fall Hiking 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

Fall Hiking 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 for a return trip, and it was well worth every penny. As of 2020 the price has increased to $20.

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.

Don’t Forget Your National Park Pass

To enjoy the beautiful hikes in Canmore, Jasper, Banff, and everywhere else in the Rockies, make sure to have your up-to-date Parks Canada Pass. Please feel free to reference my blog post on national Parks Passes in Canada, and how and where to get one.

Pick Up A Copy Of Take A Hike With Your Children

My sold out book, Take A Hike With Your Children, is now available on Amazon as an eBook. Pick up your copy today, and begin exploring the Rockies!

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