Banff Hiking Trails: Larch Valley

Banff Hiking Trails: Larch Valley and Sentinel Pass

Banff Day 5 (30)

On Taido’s birthday we did what was maybe the most beautiful hike I’ve ever seen.

We hiked through Larch Valley up to Sentinel Pass which leaves from Moraine Lake.

Moraine Lake is very near Lake Louise and is similar in that a trail runs along one side of it while the other side is steep rocks rising from the lake.  Lots of more strenuous hikes leave the meandering trails that run along both lakes, but one could probably be happy walking along the lake for a long time as both lakes are exceptionally beautiful.

Banff Day 5 (11)

However, there are lots of other people with whom you must share those flatter trails, so the best way to get alone in a hurry is to take one of the trails that lead steeply up from the lake.

Banff Day 5 (16) Banff Day 5 (17) Banff Day 5 (18)

The hike up to Larch Valley starts with a series of hefty switchbacks from which you get peekaboo views of Moraine Lake as you get higher and higher.

Banff Day 5 (19) Banff Day 5 (21) Banff Day 5 (22) Banff Day 5 (23) Banff Day 5 (25) Banff Day 5 (27) Banff Day 5 (31) Banff Day 5 (32)

The incline seems to go on forever, but once you follow the path into the snow dusted woods and start to see these magical trees, you forget how your legs are hurting and reach for your camera.

Banff Day 5 (28)

I probably have 300 pictures just of these trees.

Yellow Christmas trees.

Furry yellow pipe cleaner trees.

I have never seen a pine tree that does not stay green.

Banff Day 5 (20)

Larch trees are native to the mountains in Canada and I don’t know if I’ve ever before seen one since I haven’t been to the mountains in the fall.

Banff Day 5 (39)

But now that I’ve seen them, and the yellow Aspens too,

Banff Day 5 (40)

I can’t recommend autumn in the mountains highly enough.

Banff Day 5 (34)

The weather is perfect for hiking.

The snow has not yet taken over.

Banff Day 5 (35)

And the colors!

We said over and over that this was the most perfect day for a big birthday.

Banff Day 5 (44)

Banff Day 5 (43) Banff Day 5 (49) Banff Day 5 (50) Banff Day 5 (51) Banff Day 5 (52) Banff Day 5 (53) Banff Day 5 (54) Banff Day 5 (55) Banff Day 5 (56)

Banff Day 5 (48)

Above tree line, Sentinel Pass dips between these two peaks.  Banff Day 5 (57)

Most of us made it to a lake just at the base of this pass.

You can see where the trail zigzags up the pass on the other side of the lake.

Banff Day 5 (58) Banff Day 5 (59)

It was so cold and windy right here that I turned around and went back down, but Ben stayed with Taido and his sister to climb to the top. The rest of the photos are Taido’s from the pass.

Banff Day 6 (1) Banff Day 6 (2) Banff Day 6 (4) Banff Day 6 (5)

We took our time getting down and they managed to catch us after getting up to the pass.


Back down at the lake, we got coffee and hot tea at the lodge to top off our perfect day.


  1. Absolutely beautiful!! What wonderful adventures you have provided for your kids. Happy Birthday to Taido!

  2. Alison, just took a glance at your blog tonight and this looks fantastic. wow! I’d take that trip for my 4-0 bday next year. Miss you. love to you, kelly

  3. […] first discovered these golden pine needles in Banff a few years ago. They are so happy to me. Yellow Christmas […]

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: