Autumn in Canada is a dazzling display. One of the most iconic sights of the season is the larch tree, a deciduous conifer with needles that turn a brilliant shade of gold before shedding for the winter. The best time to see them is in early fall, with the exact dates varying year by year but typically lasting for a two-week window between mid-September and early October. The area around Golden, BC, is a prime launchpad for surrounding outdoor adventures, so if you are looking for some lovely larches, this is a great place to start.
We have rounded up ten amazing larch hikes within driving distance of Golden for your viewing pleasure. Grab your hiking boots, camera, bear spray and sense of adventure—you're in for a treat.
Cobalt Lake Trail, Bugaboo Provincial Park (115 km from Golden)
Spanning 15.1 kilometres out-and-back, the Cobalt Lake Trail offers a stunning destination with the vivid blue lake, but the views along the way are also spectacular. While the route is challenging, it is well-marked and maintained. You will enter the larch basin about 5.5 kilometres into the climb. Continuing along Black Forest Ridge will present captivating views of the larches as well as wildflowers, spires, glaciers and the iconic Bugaboos. Tackle the steep switchbacks on the way to the lake, and you will be rewarded with the brilliant blues of Cobalt Lake.
Diana Lake, East Kootenays (90 km from Golden)
Diana Lake’s beauty extends beyond its larches, although these are the stars of the show during autumn. This picturesque trail boasts numerous attractions: enchanting forests, open meadows, towering mountain peaks and serene streams, with the main attraction being the azure mirror-like Diana Lake. There is even a teahouse at the top to grab a treat for your efforts!
Floe Lake, Kootenay National Park (140 km from Golden)
The journey to Floe Lake in the Kootenays is a drive worth making. This trail winds through lush forests and provides breathtaking views of a pristine alpine lake framed by brilliant golden larches in their autumn splendour. Spanning 21 kilometres, Floe Lake is doable as a day hike but can also be enjoyed as part of the 54-kilometre backpacking expedition on the Rockwall Trail.
Healy Pass, Banff National Park (140 km from Golden)
Healy Pass is an excellent spot to experience the Rockies in fall. It’s slightly less busy than the famous Larch Valley at Moraine Lake. Starting at the Sunshine Village Parking Lot, this hike has a lengthy approach, crossing over creeks and through the forest, but once you make it through you will be treated to breathtaking views of open alpine terrain covered in golden larches. The 20-kilometre round-trip hike is a peaceful paradise for those seeking a respite this autumn.
Lake Agnes Tea House, Banff National Park (90 km from Golden)
While Lake Agnes Tea House in Lake Louise is a renowned destination for its charming tea house, it also offers a fantastic larch hiking experience. The trail takes you through a beautiful, forested area and when you reach Lake Agnes, you'll be greeted by larch trees that add a touch of magic to this alpine lake. This seven- kilometre round-trip hike is one of the easier routes on the list and can be fun for the whole family. Be sure to stop for a bite and hot beverage at the tea house and savour the beauty of the larches.
Lake O’Hara, Yoho National Park (80 km from Golden)
The beautiful area of Lake O'Hara is in high demand and highly regulated, but if you can secure a booking on the Parks Canada bus, you will be glad you did. The vivid, contrasting colours of the turquoise lake and the golden larches will leave you in awe. Some of the best spots to view the larches here include the Opabin Prospect viewpoint, the Opabin Plateau and the aptly named Big Larch Trail on the way to Lake McArthur.
Larch Valley / Sentinel Pass, Banff National Park (100 km from Golden)
A larch hike so iconic it has the famed tree in its name, Larch Valley / Sentinel Pass is one of the most popular hikes for witnessing the golden beauties. It is accessible via Moraine Lake, so since no private vehicles are allowed here, approved public transport must be arranged. The trail consists of many forested switchbacks emerging into a flat valley with two small lakes, offering spectacular views of larches as far as the eye can see. Those up for an adventure can continue onto Sentinel Pass for amazing views of the valley below, creating a 12-kilometre round-trip hike.
Saddleback Mountain, Banff National Park (85 km from Golden)
A lesser-known larch gem of Banff compared to Larch Valley and Lake Agnes, Saddleback Mountain presents spectacular views that are made all the more magical during the autumn. This challenging 8.5-kilometre out-and-back trail near Lake Louise begins with a steep ascent and gradual switchbacks continue the whole way. As you climb, you'll be rewarded with panoramic 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains and the enchanting sight of larches illuminating the slopes.
Taylor Lake, Banff National Park (100 km from Golden)
Immerse yourself in natural beauty without the crowds as you head into the woods on the Taylor Lake trail, accessed through the Taylor Lake day-use area of the Trans-Canada Highway. A creek meanders through the pine forest along this moderately inclined 13.2-kilometre out-and-back trail, unveiling a spectacular scene of the glassy turquoise lake reflecting the mountain peaks and golden larches. Continue onto Panorama Ridge for even more golden scenery and photo opportunities.
Welsh Lakes, East Kootenay (145 km from Golden)
Welsh Lakes, located 38 kilometres from Radium Hot Springs, offers an ideal day trip. A 9.3-kilometre out-and-back route, the trail is considered challenging with steep sections, loose rocks and shale, but it remains well-marked and is so worth it, especially to catch a glimpse of our favourite fall foliage. The reward for your efforts includes breathtaking vistas of the surrounding mountains, glaciers and not one but three pristine lakes. Of course, the highlight of the hike is the golden larches, making a postcard-perfect sight.