Few hikes are as famous for fall colours as Larch Valley, so on September 27 we made our way up to Moraine Lake to see the larches in all their glory. As Moraine Lake is notorious for having a full parking lot (due to its popularity for instagram photos), we decided to book the shuttle in advance to ensure we wouldn’t be turned away. The shuttle to Moraine Lake begins at the Lake Louise overflow parking lot and takes around 30 mins to get to the lake. It costs $8 for an adult ticket and there is a $3 reservation fee for the order. Shuttles leave every 20 minutes and the ticket is also valid for the connecting shuttle that runs between Moraine and Lake Louise. Just be sure to get back to the lake parking lot by 7:50 pm, in order to catch the last shuttle.
We began the hike at 10:20 am, in a light rain. The path begins in the forest, ascending to a set of 10 switchbacks up to a junction between the Eiffel Lake and Larch Valley paths. We planned to continue through Larch Valley to Sentinel Pass, a 11.6 km trail with 817 m of total elevation. However, one does not need to climb the pass in order to appreciate the between of the larches.
We stopped for lunch in the Valley around noon, taking in the scenery around us. The clouds lifted a little, giving us a view of the mountains across the valley. The rain has paused, allowing us to enjoy lunch without being rushed by the weather. The larches are truly magical this time of year, giving the entire valley a golden yellow hue.
We continued on our way, adding layers for the increasing chill in the air, and made it to the top of the pass by 1 pm. The wind came in strong gusts and the rain had started again, so we took shelter behind the rocks at the top of the pass to eat a snack before heading back down.
The clouds began to come down over the mountains once again, creating a mist over the mountains in the distance.
We started back down at 1:20 pm, and were immediately hit with strong winds and freezing rain. We made our way down the pass as quickly as possible to reduce our exposure to the wind, but by the time we made it to the bottom we were soaked through. The rain continued as we made our way back through the Valley, clouds covering the mountains entirely from view. Motivated by the promise of a warm car and dry clothes, we made it back to the lake by 3 pm. We boarded the shuttle and made our way back down to the highway.
Despite the weather, the hike was incredible. I would certainly suggest full rain gear if the weather indicates precipitation, as hiking wet is never ideal. I had brought rain pants, but didn’t realize I needed them until making my way down the pass – at which point it was too late. Gloves were a life savers, and I would definitely recommend both gloves and a toque for fall hikes. The weather is extra unpredictable this time of year, so bring plenty of layers when you go out to enjoy Autumn in the mountains.