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Looking for Larches? 5 Great Autumn Adventures in Kananaskis

Karen Fennell Posted In: Adventure Time \ Family Adventure Posted On: September 20, 2013

The Canadian Rockies are famous for their autumn colours, especially the Western Larches. If you're looking to see the valleys and ridges of gold this fall, but want to avoid the crowds take a scenic drive or hike into Kananaskis Country where you can see one of Alberta's best fall displays (that not many people know about).

Here are 5 autumn adventures that will show you the splendor of a Kananaskis autumn:

1. Highway 40 to Highwood Pass

Highway 40/Kananaskis Trail is one of Alberta's most scenic drives to begin with, but add in the ambers and gold colours of fall and it will take your breath away. Turn off of the Trans Canada Highway and head south into Kananaskis Country on Highway 40. If you driving by on a weekend, stop by at Barrier Lake Day Use area and rent a canoe from Kananaskis Outfitters and see the golden larches that line the lake. As you continue south, make sure you take a stop at Mt. Lorette Ponds for their deep-emerald hue and the spectacular view of Mount Lorette. If you're packing a picnic - this is a fantastic spot with plenty of picnic tables to enjoy a meal while you take in the sights.

After your break, head to Kananaskis Village and park in the visitor parking lot. Take a walk around the Village on the paved trail that overlooks the valley. If you're hungry, stop in at the Delta Lodge and grab a snack. Head back to Highway 40 and continue your journey. There will be numerous stops along the way that will beg for a photo! As you continue on the highway, you will enter an area know as the Highwood Pass, Canada's highest paved road. The mountains in the Highwood Pass possess some of the most dramatic rock formations in the Rockies.

Currently, you can drive to Lost Lemon Lookout, approx 22 kms south of Kananaskis Village before you encounter a road closed sign. The area past the lookout was damaged due to the flood, however is expected to open early next summer. Take a quick break to stretch your legs and then make the journey home..

Kananaskis Fall Autumn Larch Viewing Rockies

2. Burstall Pass

Burstall Pass is one of Kananaskis best fall hikes and has incredible views of autumn colours, lakes, and mountains. The trailhead is located on the Smith Dorrien Highway / Spray Lakes Rd and vehicles will have to traverse some gravel roads to reach it. If you're coming from Canmore, use the Smith Dorrien Highway that passes the Nordic Centre to reach the trail. Coming from Calgary, you can either choose to use Highway 40 and then connect to the Smith Dorrien, or continue to Canmore and use the Smith Dorrien from there. Both routes have similar travel times, but the Highway 40 route is smoother. Burstall Pass is a moderately difficult trail that has a 450m elevation gain. Get the full trail guide here.

3. Guided Hike on Fortress Mountain

A new Canadian Rockies experience is a guided hike on Fortress Mountain. Fortress Mountain is home to Kananaskis' premier CAT Skiing in the winter, and has been used in several films in the last decade including Inception, and the Bourne Identity. Through White Mountain Adventures, you can now take guided larch-viewing hikes on the mountain. Until now the alpine ridges and meadows at Fortress Mountain Resort have been very difficult to access but for remainder of the autumn White Mountain Adventures will be offering ½ day guided walks at the ski area which includes transportation to and from the access road.

Boasting some of the best Larch viewing in the Rockies, Fortress Mountain also offers incredible nature-watching experiences, with grizzly bears and eagles making appearances. Book your trip now!

Fortress Mountain Kananaskis Hike Fall Larch Viewing

4. Pocaterra Ridge

Pocatterra Ridge is an incredible one-way ridge hike that offers incredible views and you don't have to retrace your steps on the way back. Leave with two vehicles (and some friends) and leave one at the trailhead and one at the exit (see link). This 11 km trail is consider a full-day hike and likely will take up to 7 hours. The views and the journey are worth the time, and you'll have several incredible summits to take a trophy photo on. Get the full trail guide here.

5. Chester Lake

Chester Lake is one of the best hikes in the Rockies and truly shines in autumn. This trail is considered easy/moderate and only has 400 meters of elevation gain, primarily at the beginning, and usually can be done in under 4 hours. As you rise above the Spray Valley you will have incredible views to the SW before you enter the forested area. When exiting the forested area you are greeted with alpine meadows full of wildlife and rich colours. Once you reach the lake you will have your choice of incredible rest stops. The lake is crystal clear and reflects the dramatic landscapes of Gusty Peak and Mount Chester. Larches are abundant in the meadows and towards the lake. Get the full trail guide here.

Kananaskis Chester Lake Autumn Fall Larch Viewing