Last Sunday I got to cross one of my bucket list hikes off my list – Larch Valley and Sentinel Pass in Lake Louise!Larch Valley is a hugely popular hike in September as the larches begin to turn colour before dropping their needles. We were maybe a week early to see the larches in their full glory, but sometimes you just have to take advantage when you can!
The thing is, not only is Larch Valley popular with hikers in September, it is also really popular with bears. In fact, there are so many bears in the area at this time of year that it is mandatory for hikers to travel in tight groups of four. Hubby and I were lucky because our friends Mitch and Kelly were game for a hike this weekend too. Off to Larch Valley!
Thanks to a tip from Andra we knew that we needed to get to Moraine Lake (the start of the hike) early if we wanted to be able to park near the trail head. I’d never been to Moraine Lake before, but it is beautiful!!After walking around the lakeshore a short ways the trail starts. There was a park ranger there verifying that we were a group of four and that we knew to stay together in a tight group. We found a few people along the trail that were on their own, moving from one group to another. Be warned that there are big fines if you are caught along the trail not in a group at this time of year! The initial hike is a series of switchbacks through the trees until the trail splits.Left takes you to Eiffel Lake, right takes you to Larch Valley.Almost as soon as you split off the larches come in to view. It was breathtaking!!This is not a hike if you like solitude (although setting off early did help). The scenery is unbelievable though!I believe the majority of the hikes end their hike in Larch Valley but we continued on to hike up Sentinel Pass.When we realized our route would take us up the side of this mountain we were a bit nervous, but I knew it would be worth it. Just don’t look up!On the way we were passed by a guy that was hiking *barefoot*!!! Hubby, who was hiking in his Vibram Five Fingers (and seems to get oodles of comments from fellow hikers about them) was a little sad that he was no longer the guy with the strangest footwear on the trail. That’s hard core!
When we hit the top it was time to enjoy the spectacular views while we lunched. We arrived at just the right time because it steadily got busier at the top as we ate!There is an option to continue over Sentinel Pass in to Paradise Valley as a point to point hike if you’ve planned ahead and have a car at the other end. This seemed to be what most people were doing, but we opted to go back the way we came.On our way back down the trails were definitely busier (and the parking lot had overflowed by the time we made it back down). I’m so glad we were able to do this hike and see the magnificent larches!
Larch Valley and Sentinel Pass in Lake Louise, Banff National Park, AB
12.9 km (out and back)
720 m of elevation gain