Everything You Need to Know About Visiting Banff in Fall
It’s no secret that Banff National Park and the rest of the Canadian Rockies are incredibly beautiful to visit in the Summer, but did you know that they are EVEN MORE beautiful in the Fall?!
During the Fall, an unusual event takes place called “LARCH MADNESS.”
🍁 Definition of Larch Madness: When a person goes bonkers for 2 weeks out of a year for a tree that turns from green to golden for only 10ish days.
There are some amazing hikes that you can do to see these beautiful trees which I have listed in this guide.
If you want to visit Banff in the Fall but don’t want to hike, there are places that you don’t need to hike to but can drive right up to to see the gorgeous Fall colours. Most of the larches are located up higher in the mountains however, so a hike may be required to be able to see them.
This guide will list the best hikes in and around Banff to see the golden larches and also list some of the most beautiful spots that you can drive to in Banff to see the Fall colours.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links that may earn us a small commission should you decide to click through and make a valid purchase (at no extra cost to you). Thanks so much for your support!
🍁 What to Expect from Fall in and around Banff
- Unpredictable weather – You never know what you are going to get. Last year, it felt like Summer in the Rockies during Fall and this year it rained, was freezing and even snowed!
- Crowds – People come from all over to see the golden larches in the Rockies. Popular trails like Larch Valley and Healy Pass will be packed, however there are some trails that will be quieter around this time of the year.
- Colours – The Canadian Rockies come alive with colour at this time of the year. Usually you just have the turquoise lakes, but now you have bright yellow larches against the turquoise lakes which doesn’t even look real, it’s so stunning!
☁ What is the Weather Like During Fall in Banff
The weather can be unpredictable in the Canadian Rockies at any time during the year, but especially during Fall. It could be warm and sunny or it could be extremely wet and rainy.
The temperatures also start changing from warm to super cold in the Fall so it’s a good idea to bring some nice warm clothes with you.
📆 When is the Best Time to Visit Banff to See the Golden Larches?
Fall or Autumn in Canada is September, October and November, however, the colours don’t usually last through the entire season.
The best time to see the larches is anywhere from the last couple of weeks of September through to the first week in October. The time that the larches hit their peak golden colour can be different every single year depending on the weather.
This year, it rained and snowed quite a bit right around the peak time which can potentially make the larch’s needles fall off faster.
We booked our road trip this year from the 23rd September to 3rd October which worked out really well.
🎒 What to Pack for Banff in Fall
As I mentioned earlier, you need to be prepared for all seasons when visiting the Canadian Rockies during Fall because you never know what the weather will be like. I recommend packing the following essential items.
Map of the Fall Hikes in and Around Banff
The below map can be used for directions to each of the trailheads. You can also open the map in Google Maps here!
10 Best Fall Hikes in and Around Banff
This is a list of 10 of the best Fall Hikes in and around Banff to see the Fall colours including the incredible golden larches. Some of the hikes on this list are super popular which means there will be crowds on the trails but they are still worth doing and there are ways to avoid the crowds.
Distance: 8.85km/ 5.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 560m / 1,837 ft
Time: 3 – 4.5 hours
Location: Trailhead located at Moraine Lake
Larch Valley is the number 1 most famous and popular larch hike in and around Banff National Park. It does get pretty crowded on the trail from about 8:30am, but it is so beautiful up there, that I think it is worth it! Plus, if you want to avoid the crowds, you can just book the early 6:30am shuttle to Moraine Lake.
The Larch Valley trail takes you up through a forest where you will have to endure way too many switchbacks before getting to the pretty part of the trail.
After the switchbacks, the trail opens up in Larch Valley, where you will be surrounded by golden larches against a backdrop of enormous mountains!
You can end your hike at Larch Valley, or you can continue onto Sentinel Pass, which isn’t too much further and you get an epic view looking back over Larch Valley which, in my opinion, is totally worth it!
If you are dying to do a hike to see the larches but don’t feel comfortable hiking on your own, you could join a larch hiking tour group!
Distance: 20.3km/ 12.61 miles
Elevation Gain: 868m / 2,847 ft
Time: 5-7 hours
Location: Sunshine Village Banff
Healy Pass is.. okay let me start out by saying that the weather was not on our side when we did Healy Pass so my memory of it is that it wasn’t as beautiful as Larch Valley.
Healy Pass is longer than Larch Valley but with no brutal switchbacks and similar in the way that a lot of the trail is through the forest, before you pop out in a larch covered wonderland! Then, like Larch Valley, you climb up a little higher to enjoy some epic views or the Pass and surrounding lakes, including Egypt Lake.
Distance: 10.1km / 6.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 810m / 2,657 ft
Time: 5-6 hours
Location: Spray Valley Provincial Park
Tent Ridge is an epic hike that can be enjoyed not only in Fall but also Summer. The trail takes you along a ridge for the majority of the hike which means you get views for the majority of the hike!
I’m not going to lie.. This was one of the first hikes we did in this area and I found it hard! Mostly because of the exposure, scrambling and scree sections. I’m not too used to this sort of hiking. But it was worth every second!
I do recommend checking the wind report before you go because you are exposed for most of the hike and high winds would not make for a pleasant experience.
The larches can be seen at the end of the ridgeline if you are going clockwise, along with the famous photo worthy view that you have probably seen on social media.
Make sure you are bear aware on this hike as it is a super popular area for Grizzlies! While we were in Banff this Fall, we actually heard about a girl on the tent ridge trail getting charged by a Grizzly and her screams could be heard from up the ridgeline. Absolutely terrifying! Stay safe out there, make lots of noise when hiking to let the bears know that you are coming, and ALWAYS carry bear spray.
Trail Tip: Go Clockwise to make for an easier hike and to avoid hiking back down the hard scramble.
Distance: 21km/ 13 miles
Elevation Gain: 976m / 3,202 ft
Time: 7 hours
Location: Kootenay National Park
Floe Lake is not a hike you do JUST to see larches. The larches are just an added bonus. The lake itself will blow you away with its beauty! It is incredible.
Floe Lake is found up in the mountains with the famous Rockwall set as a backdrop behind it and reflected in its waters. There are loads of larch trees surrounding the lake which are super pretty against the blue of the lake!
If you decide to continue on up to Numa Pass to look back towards Floe Lake, you will get to enjoy hundreds more larches up there. We decided to skip Numa Pass when we went but I have heard that the views are incredible from up there.
Floe Lake can be done as a day hike or a backpacking trip. To learn more about how to camp at Floe Lake check out our guide!
Opabin Plateau and Lake Ohara
Distance: 8.7km / 5.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 340m / 1,115ft
Time: 2.5 – 3 hours
Location: Lake Ohara (Yoho National Park) – shuttle reservation required
This is a hike that is on a lot of people’s bucket lists but is extremely hard to do due to there being a permitting system for the shuttle bus which is the only way to get to the trailhead unless you feel like walking an extra 22km.
Lake Ohara is located in Yoho National Park. Opabin Plateau is one of the most popular lookouts in the area and for good reason. The views overlook multiple lakes and are absolutely out of this world crazy beautiful!
Not only is the view from the lookout amazing, but the hike also takes you through a forest of larches with crazy mountain views. It is one of the most beautiful hikes we have ever done!
Distance: 9.8km / 6.09 miles
Elevation Gain: 708m / 2,322 ft
Time: 3 – 5 hours
Location: Kananaskis – Kananaskis Conservation Pass required
Pocaterra Ridge is one of the best hikes in Kananaskis to see larches. This means it is also a very popular hike, so if you can go during the week or early in the morning, I recommend it to avoid some of the crowds.
A Kananaskis Conservation Pass is required to hike in Kananaskis. You can get one here.
You can choose to do Pocaterra Ridge as a point to point hike which would make the distance a little longer at 11.4km or you could do it as an out to the summit and back which would make your hike more like 9.8km.
If you are looking for a hike with larches AND insane views, this might just be the one! There is a little scrambling on the ridgeline but not much at all.
Distance: 13.2km / 8.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 850m / 2,788 ft
Time: 5 – 6 hours
Location: Hike starts from the Arnica Lake Trailhead
Gibbon Pass is another amazing larch hike to do in Banff National Park which we ALMOST did, but didn’t have time for. The trail starts at the Arnica Lake Trailhead and takes you up to the Shadow Lake Lodge, passing through Gibbon Pass on the way.
Although we didn’t have time to do this one this year, we heard from a friend that there were HUNDREDS of golden larches so it definitely sounds like one that needs to be added to the list for next time!
Distance: 8.6km / 5.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 535m / 1,755 ft
Time: 3-4 hours
Location: Trailhead located at Lake Louise
The Little Beehive is one of my favourite hikes at Lake Louise. It is a great beginner hike and the views of Lake Louise from above are absolutely bonkers! If you didn’t think the lake could get any bluer than when we see it from the shoreline, you are wrong. It is 10 times bluer from above!
There aren’t loads of larches on this trail. There are a few near the lookout and then when you look out at the viewpoint, you can see a few cluster of larches which I think just adds a bit of magic to the classic view.
You can also tie in Lake Agnes Teahouse with the Little Beehive and if you are feeling extra energetic, you could even go all of the way up to the Big Beehive, which is a similar view as the Little Beehive but you see more of the lake from a much higher vantage point.
Lake Agnes Tea House and the Big Beehive
Distance: 10.8km / 6.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 778m / 2,552 ft
Time: 4-6 hours
Location: Trailhead located at Lake Louise
Lake Agnes Teahouse was beautiful in the Fall. There are larches scattered all around it. Even if you don’t want to go all of the way up to the Big Beehive, I still recommend going to Lake Agnes as it does not add much onto your hike.
At Lake Agnes, there is also a teahouse where you can get hot drinks and some food. It gets super busy during the Summer but we noticed that it was a lot less manic in the Fall.
Distance: 3.4km / 2.11 miles
Elevation Gain: 241m / 790 ft
Time: 1-2 hours
Location: Kananaskis – Kananaskis Conservation Pass required
Ptarmigan Cirque is a nice short hike that is moderate in difficulty due to the steepness of the trail but is perfect for people who want to see larches but don’t want to hike too far.
Due to how short the hike is, the Ptarmigan Cirque is extremely popular and can get quite busy on the trail, so I recommend getting there early or hiking during the week instead of weekend.
On the trail you will see meadows, mountains, waterfalls and of course the beautiful golden larches during Fall.
Places in Banff to see the Fall Colours (that you can drive to)
Don’t feel like doing an epic hike just to see a some Fall colours? Don’t worry, there are lots of other places in Banff to see some incredible Fall colours.
I cannot believe that we had never been to Cascade Ponds before this year! This place is so beautiful and so perfect to have Summertime picnics and BBQs with friends and family and to take your paddle board. You can walk around and even over the lake using the little bridges that are there.
Then in the Fall, there are a few trees surrounding the lake, that turn yellow and it’s all just so damn pretty.
Another reason Cascade Ponds is amazing, is that you can drive there! That’s right! No long and exhausting hike! Cascade Ponds is a short 25 minute drive from Banff.
The Lake Louise Gondola
Another way to see not only the Fall colours, but also the larches is to take the Lake Louise Gondola to the top! You can see loads of larches right from the Lake Louise Gondola viewing platform and then if you feel like going for a short walk, you can walk through a forest of larches!
Book your Lake Louise Gondola Ticket in advance so that you don’t miss out!
Vermillion Lakes is located right near Banff town centre and you can either walk, ride a bike or drive to get there. Rundle Mountain can be seen behind the lakes and when the water is still, it is reflected in the water which is so pretty.
Amazing Places to Stay in Banff in the Fall
Banff has some really amazing accommodation options! These are some of our favourites!
The Moose Hotel and Suites – located right in the centre of Banff Town with a rooftop hot tub and the comfiest pillows!
HI Banff Alpine Centre – This place is great you are trying to save a bit of money on accommodation. It is technically a hostel but has such nice facilities including an awesome bar and you can get a private room instead of a dorm if you prefer.
Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise – This hotel looks like a castle and is located right on Lake Louise so you have easy access to all of the hiking trails that go from the lake without worrying about the parking situation.
Our Very Real Experience of Banff in the Fall
We visited Banff in the last week of September. We arrived on the 23rd September and started driving back to Vancouver on the 3rd October.
I remembered seeing that last year it was super sunny and hot in the Rockies during Fall. People were swimming in lakes and getting the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises in their photos.
Of course, that’s exactly what I was imagining our trip to be like, so when we finally arrived in Banff and our first full day was cloudy and rainy, followed by another 9 days of very mixed and unpredictable weather with absolutely no proper sunsets or sunrises, I was a little disappointed to say the least.
It was definitely hard to stay motivated to keep getting out to hike and explore in the rain but looking back on our trip now, it was so much fun and still so beautiful.
So this is your reminder, if you are thinking of booking a trip to Banff for the next Fall, prepare for anything, expect nothing and just get out and explore as much as you possibly can!
🍁 Visiting Banff in the Fall? You might also enjoy:
- Beautiful Lakes to Paddle Board in Canmore and Banff
- Larch Valley and Sentinel Pass: Best Fall Hike in Banff
- How to Hike Healy Pass in Banff National Park
- The Best Lake Louise Tours
📌 Share and Save for Later!