Beautiful Fall Hikes in and Around Calgary

by - Friday, September 19, 2014

Fall has always been my favorite season. The temperatures are comfortable; the bugs are mostly gone; and as the leaves turn, the scenery is spectacular.

Kicking Horse Viewpoint Trail, Lake Louise (right before the lookout)
Temperate areas are treated to a variety of trees thereby winning the "How Many Colours of Leaves Can You See?" contest, but do not discount places close to home. There are some stunning locations in and around Calgary and in the neighboring Rockies; maybe even in your own backyard!

Leaf Fun in Our Backyard

IN CALGARY

In town, there are many places to see colorful leaves. Here are a few to visit:
Confederation Park
  • Edworthy Park: great because you can get shots of the leaves and river without going far from the parking lot (if you have wee ones in tow).
  • Confederation Park: beautiful, large balsam poplars and a few larches here and there (a treat as larches are usually only seen at high elevations) make for great photos. It is a popular wedding photo spot.
  • Prince's Island Park: a colorful oasis in the city due to the variety of plants. You can get "nature" shots on the interpretive trail, or get pictures with bridges or skyscrapers in the background.
  • North Glenmore / Weaselhead: many stands of aspen trees around Glenmore Reservoir are pretty any time of year, but prettiest in the fall. Weaselhead is a less visited area that has a wilder feel, lots of deciduous trees and some shrubs that change colour.
  • Fish Creek Park: a nice getaway within the city, with lots of trees, and seemingly endless bike trails. 

NEAR CALGARY

One of the best places to see beautiful autumn leaves near Calgary, is Glenbow Provincial Park. Located just a couple kilometres east of Cochrane, in the foothills, this hidden gem boasts 25 km of hiking and cycling trails, rolling hills, and lovely views of the mountains. There are beautiful aspen forests, and towering cottonwoods by the (Bow) river.

For more information on hiking at Glenbow Ranch, please see this post.

Colorful Foothills at Glenbow Ranch

Fall Aspens in Glenbow Ranch
ONE TO TWO HOURS AWAY
  • Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola: Ride the gondola for 14 minutes, enjoy the view from 2088 m (6850 ft), enjoy some gourmet dining, visit the Wildlife Interpretive Centre (free with gondola ticket) and do a short or long hike on top of the world! The gondola tickets are a bit pricey ($29.95 - adult, $15.95 - child, 5 & under - free), but can be combined with buffet or gourmet dining packages or bundled with hotel stays; either option makes the cost more reasonable. Try the Kicking Horse Viewpoint Trail (1.7 km return) to see larches and amazing vistas. If you'd like to hike further, go for the Pika Trail (2.5 km round trip) or Ptarmigan Valley Viewpoint (3.4 km round trip)! Please note that all the trails are beyond the electric fence, so you need to hike in a group of 4 and make lots of noise. The latter was no problem with my children!
    Kicking Horse Viewpoint
  • Lake Agnes Teahouse: hike from Chateau Lake Louise. It is 6.8 km return to the Teahouse. Hot chocolate is a nice reward and mirror-like Lake Agnes with its lovely larches never disappoints.
  • Golden Larches at Lake Agnes 
  • Ptarmigan Cirque: allows you to get into the alpine quickly since you start at Highwood Pass, the highest paved pass in Canada. This 4.5 km hike is stunning in any season, but wildflower and larch seasons allow it to truly shine. For more information, see this post.
  • Chester Lake: is a popular trail year round with larches near the lake. For the best view, hike to the top of the ridge on the far side of the lake. See our complete trip report here
    Chester Lake
    Image credit: Amanda McNally, Life in Alberta
  • Pocaterra Cirque (and Pocaterra Ridge) departs from the Highwood Pass parking lot and takes you to a valley full of larches. If you're feeling energetic, continue up to the top of Pocaterra Ridge or do the whole traverse. This hike has become quite popular, so an early start is recommended. See our trip report here.
    View from Pocaterra Ridge, Kananaskis
  • Lake O'Hara: one of the most beautiful spots in the Rockies, but access is limited. Reserve your spot on the bus ($15 per person) in advance to ensure you get to hike there. The great thing about Lake O'Hara is that you get a lot of bang for your buck/effort. There are several hikes less than 8 km round trip that are nontechnical and appropriate for (fit) children aged 5 and up. My favorite is the Alpine Circuit, but since that's too long for the kids, we did Lake Oesa and Opabin Prospect instead.
  • Larch Valley: hike from Moraine Lake (11.6 km return). I've done this one several times, but recommend arriving early to get a parking spot. Otherwise, you will have to take a shuttle bus to Moraine Lake. If you can go on a weekday, even better! It is worth the hullaballoo, but we prefer to hike without crowds.
  • Healy Pass: a long hike (18 km return) but worth it if you have the legs for it. Make it an overnighter and camp at Egypt Lake! 
    Healy Pass Trail, Banff
  • If you're feeling rich, helicopter in to Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park for some stunning scenery. Mt. Assiniboine is also known as the Matterhorn of the Rockies. Once there, you can walk down to Lake Magog to gaze upon Mount Assiniboine, or venture up Nub Peak. Go to the top or stop at the Nublet. The view isn't much different, so if your kids are happy at the Nublet, call a snack break and get your camera clicking.
Where is your favorite place to see fall colours?

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