Larch Valley Trail in Moraine Lake at Lake Louise: Stunning Fall Hike in Alberta

Posted by Dr. Natasha Ryz on

Stunning Fall Hike: Larch Valley Trail in Moraine Lake at Lake Louise
The Larch Valley hike starting at Moraine Lake near Lake Louise is one of the most beautiful hikes in Banff National Park in Alberta.
  • Distance: The Larch Valley Trail is 4.3 km (2.67 mi) one-way
  • Elevation Gain: 535 m (1,755 ft)
  • Duration: 3-4 hrs dependent on fitness level.
  • Crowds: Yes at parking and Lake Moraine. Moderate traffic on trails.
  • Washrooms: Onsite at the parking lot.
  • Entrance Fee: Free.
  • More Information: Visit Parks Canada and AllTrails for trail map.
Stunning Fall Hike: Larch Valley Trail in Moraine Lake at Lake Louise
What are Larch Trees?

Larch (Larix spp.) trees are a member of the pine family (Pinaceae), and they have soft, green needles most of the year. However, in autumn, the needles turn a vibrant golden yellow before they fall off.

Larch trees look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book.

They are a bright golden yellow, and stand out among the green trees.

Stunning Fall Hike: Larch Valley Trail in Moraine Lake at Lake Louise
When is Best Time to Visit Larch Trees?

The best time to hike the Larch Valley is during Larch season between mid-September and early-October. However, you can hike the Larch Valley anytime during the summer months when the road to Moraine Lake is open.

Stunning Fall Hike: Larch Valley Trail in Moraine Lake at Lake Louise

The Larch Valley hike near Moraine Lake is one of the most beautiful hikes in Banff National Park, even outside of larch season.

The Larch Valley hike rises from the shores of Moraine Lake to an extensive forest of larch trees. From this forest of larch trees, you will enjoy panoramic views of the mountains which make up the Valley of the Ten Peaks.  

Stunning Fall Hike: Larch Valley Trail in Moraine Lake at Lake Louise

Moraine Lake is a glacier-fed lake with a brilliant blue-green color. Set in the Valley of the Ten Peaks, Moraine Lake is surrounded by mountains, waterfalls, and rock piles, creating a scene so beautiful it almost seems unreal.

Stunning Fall Hike: Larch Valley Trail in Moraine Lake at Lake Louise

Moraine Lake is a beautiful area to spend the day. Sit lakeside and enjoy the views and clean mountain air, or explore the lake by canoeing or paddle boarding. The lake is too cold for swimming.

Stunning Fall Hike: Larch Valley Trail in Moraine Lake at Lake Louise

The Rockpile Trail is an easy and short path with switchbacks along the back of the moraine to the top of the natural dam. The vista from the top is known as the “Twenty Dollar View”, as the scene featured on the back of Canadian twenty dollar bills issued between 1969 and 1979.

Stunning Fall Hike: Larch Valley Trail in Moraine Lake at Lake Louise

The Larch Valley trail begins just past the Moraine Lake Lodge.

Moraine Lake Lodge in Banff

Stunning Fall Hike: Larch Valley Trail in Moraine Lake at Lake Louise

The first part of the Larch Valley trail is uphill through a mossy, evergreen forest with several charming bridges over little mountain streams.

Stunning Fall Hike: Larch Valley Trail in Moraine Lake at Lake Louise

A portion of the uphill section of the Larch Valley trail is a through a series of switchbacks, and you’ll be rewarded with views of the Valley of the Ten Peaks, including the Fay Glacier. Especially beautiful are the occasional glimpses of Moraine Lake, which appear turquoise colour on sunny days.

Stunning Fall Hike: Larch Valley Trail in Moraine Lake at Lake Louise
The Eiffel Lake trailhead also marks the spot where the larch trees begin, marking the beginning of the Larch Valley that Lake Louise is world famous for.
Stunning Fall Hike: Larch Valley Trail in Moraine Lake at Lake Louise

For most, the Larch Valley hike ends when they reach the Minnestimma Lakes.

If you want to continue hiking, the Sentinel Pass trail is an extension to the Larch Valley hike, with even more impressive views. 

Stunning Fall Hike: Larch Valley Trail in Moraine Lake at Lake Louise

(If you zoom in close, you can see people on the zigzag trail up the mountain, and standing at the top!)

If you are standing at the Minnestimma Lakes at the bottom of Sentinel Pass, the hiking trail looks like a bolt of lightning – zigging and zagging up the side of these two majestic Lake Louise mountains. The ability to see the entire path of the dramatic Sentinel Pass trail is quite the view! 

Tips for success:

Parking fills up fast. Moraine Lake is one of the most popular destinations in Lake Louise.

It is recommended to get there early (by 5:30 am or earlier!) to get parking or take the shuttle from Lake Louise.

Book shuttle here

If you want to avoid the crowds at this popular hike, you’ll need to start very early in the day, or later in the day.

Parks Canada recommends 4 hours to hike the trail round-trip. However, give yourself more time to enjoy the larch trees and spectacular views.

Stunning Fall Hike: Larch Valley Trail in Moraine Lake at Lake Louise

The Larch Valley hike is an incredible autumn hiking experience in the Canadian Rockies. 

For detailed information about hiking Larch Valley, check out these resources:

Larch Valley Trail Hike: Everything You Need to Know for 2022 (jennexplores.com)

Alberta Fall Forest Therapy Nature Outdoors

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