Fall is a great time of year, with the weather cooling down and the trees changing to vibrant colors. Sweltering heat is replaced with comfortably cool temperatures that allow you to don your favorite sweaters without bundling up and crisp morning frosts that make morning coffees all the more enjoyable. All of this also makes for some great hiking conditions as you wouldn’t have to be sweating it out and the changing fall colors make for iconic fall hikes.
One of my personal favorites, Healy Pass, is located in Banff and takes about 6 hours to complete a 19 km round trip. This hike is a relaxed, low difficulty hike. Well maintained despite it’s low traffic, Healy pass travels through dense and lush green pine forests into a large sprawling valley with reds, oranges and yellows all covered with a thin layer of snow as far as the eye can see. The valley also contains a small handful of lakes visible in the distance below. Beginning with the quintessential outdoorsy fall image of a crisp and frosty forest, the trail breaks through the tree line about halfway through the hike and the work to hike up is immediately worth it upon seeing the view. Though the trail through the valley itself is lovely, and there are many great places to stop and enjoy, the end of this trail provides an elevated view of the entire valley below which is quite spectacular.
Also located in Banff, Larch Valley is so called due to the great number of Larch trees growing along the trail. During the Autumn months around the end of September, these larches turn a fantastic golden colour making this hike an extremely popular seasonal attraction. A moderately difficult 12 km there and back it takes approximately 7 hours. Larch Valley is a great length for a full day hike which one might be thankful to be hiking during a cooler time of year when slogging through those quick elevation gains. A meadow lies at the top of the pass which allows for a stellar view of the surrounding Valley of the 10 Peaks. This point is a great opportunity to stop and take a break for photos and some lunch. After that the trail descends back into the Larch Valley though it is also possible to continue on the Sentinel Pass.
Located right outside of Silver Springs community in Bowmont Park, Waterfall Valley is the perfect hike within the city. It should only take one or two hours making it great to go to after work or with kids. The trailhead view of COP and the surrounding hills with their multicoloured foliage is a great starting point for this trail, and the rest of the trail doesn’t disappoint. A bit different from the usual hiking upward pattern that many of us are used to from hiking in the Rockies, this trail leads you downward into the Waterfall Valley. The combination of dense greenery, or perhaps not-so-greenery as it is during the fall, and manmade wooden stairs and pathways create a pleasantly accessible yet immersive outdoor experience. With many small waterfalls of varying size throughout the trail, Waterfall Valley leads to a very satisfying viewing point that allows hikers a great view of the railroad bridges in Bowness as well as the Bow River surrounded on either side by stunning fall colours.
While these are some monumental fall hikes that you should definitely check out, the changing of the seasons is a great opportunity to revisit old favorites and see one’s favorite sights in a new light. Increased amounts of snow at higher altitudes during the fall also create a stunning landscape and great way to comfortably enjoy the snow covered outdoors before it gets too cold. The bottom line is that there is truly no wrong answer when it comes to choosing a hike to enjoy during the fall season.