Oct. 8, 2021

Falling for fall (or at least for our snapshots)

’Tis the season for yolky-tinted larch trees to appear, shellacking slopes into sheets of marmalade-like colours. Although the dazzling transformation that turns leaves into a kaleidoscope of golds and crimsons is not what it is in the East (leaf peeping in New England alone is an $8-billion industry), Mother Nature still puts on a seasonal show here in the West. Here are a few of our top fall photos, sent to us from hikers, bikers, amblers and leaf-peepers.
Fall foliage at O'Brien Lake
O'Brien Lake is often hiked in conjunction with Taylor Lake, near Lake Louise. Sara Tehranian

It’s not too late to snack on a slice of fall colours, says local guide Joel Hagan of Great Divide Nature Interpretation. Things start waning soon after Thanksgiving, stripping many larch trees of their feathery needles, so his advice is to get out soon.

If you're on the hunt for larch trees, remember that most "grow at tree line," says Hagan. "You may find a few lower down in boulder fields or on avalanche slopes but they generally disappear as you drop in elevation as they can't grow in the shadier conditions found in lower forests."

Those who wish to hike in Banff National Park would do well to avoid the traffic-clogged area of Larch Valley and instead try a trek up Saddleback, Upper Paradise Valley, Taylor Lake, Arnica Lake and Healy Pass. For those who prefer an even shorter tromp in the woods — try the spectacular drive or bike-ride up Highwood Pass in Kananaskis. At the summit, get out of your car and amble along the easy Pocaterra or Ptarmigan Cirque trails where, if you're lucky, you'll catch autumn in all its glory.

Sara Tehranian loves capturing glassy reflections. The banner shot (above) of O’Brien Lake in Banff National Park (eight kilometres northwest of Castle Junction) is hers but she also escapes to urban getaways such as Carburn Park (southeast Calgary) where she's apt to “walk, run and bike, especially in September and October when the changing colours create magical reflections in the ponds.”

Carburn Lake

Carburn Lake in southeast Calgary looks like a Turner painting in the fall.

Sara Tehranian

Another popular fall hike is a mash-up of lakes, passes and eye-popping views. Located on Highway 93, just past Storm Mountain Lodge and Boom Lake, is the Vista-Arnica-Twin Lakes circuit. Intrepid hiker Don McCreary snapped this autumn shot (below) on a recent hike to Twin Lakes in Banff National Park.

“The air was cool with a strong wind but the sky and fall colours were glorious," he writes. "So lucky are we to live close to these magnificent mountains.” 

Twin Lakes

Twin Lakes, part of the Vista-Arnica-Lake loop.

Don McCreary

Ashley Moore of Winnipeg, Man. shared a photo of Caribou Lake, found along the 63-km Mantario Trail. As the founder of Backcountry Women, Moore just finished guiding a week-long trek in this area when she snapped this shot (see below) of the shifting colours that line this route along the rugged Canadian Shield.

Mantario Trail

Mantario Trail

Ashley Moore

Hiker, biker and all-round mountain woman Caroline Marion of Canmore reminds us that after Sept. 15, the trail around Lake Minnewanka (just outside of the town of Banff) reopens for mountain biking (it remains closed to cyclists during the summer). This large glacial lake (21 km long and 142 metres deep; below photo) is “quiet in the fall, especially mid-week, and is a wonderful place to enjoy the beauty of the autumn colours and the serenity of the lake.”

Mountain Biking around Lake Minnewanka

Mountain Biking around Lake Minnewanka.

Caroline Marion

As for hiking, Marion, who worked at Parks Canada for 19 years, admits that one of her fall favourites is Wilcox Pass (see photo below) on the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park.

“The scenery is spectacular along the drive to the trailhead and is even more so as one reaches the pass. The trail is generally pretty easy, with an elevation gain of 522 metres and a total out and back length of 9.2 km,” she writes. “It starts with a steady climb through trees before reaching a ridge overlooking the Athabasca Glacier and the Icefields Centre. Snow may be present in late fall, so check the weather forecast before making the trek out!”

Hiking up to Wilcox Pass

Hiking up to Wilcox Pass.

Caroline Marion

And what would a fall photo roundup be without some sun-kissed panoramas? Also shot by Caroline Marion.

Sunset in the Rockies

Sunset in the Rockies.

Caroline Marion

Bear Banff

Lake Minnewanka.

Caroline Marion

Griffith Park in Discovery Ridge

Shawna Cunningham

Shawna Cunningham’s snapshot of Griffith Park in Discovery Ridge (at left) proves you don’t have to venture far to find autumn’s coat of many colours. Adds Cunningham, UCalgary’s director of Indigenous Strategy, “I really appreciate these special places and our ability to stay connected to nature and to pay tribute to the beauty of autumn and the changing colours that mark a new season.”