8 Larch Hikes To Do With Your Dog In Alberta

8 Larch Hikes To Do With Your Dog In Alberta

Larches are a pot of gold in the fall hiking season, their flaming yellow needles can turn a mountain landscape into something heavenly and spiritual. Subalpine larches are common among the Rocky Mountain ranges in Alberta and British Columbia.

The great thing about the majority of these hikes is they are awesome for dogs! The best time to go is from Mid September to the beginning of October. Personally, we find the prime time to go is the first day of Fall, September 21 to October 1.

We've hiked all of these hikes and want to share where are the best places to go hiking with your dog this fall for Larch season!

When you go makes sure you have all the adventure dog gear:

All-Mountain Dog Leashes, All-Terrain Dog Harness and Dog Travel Bowl to name a few of the items you will need for these hikes and check out our website for all the dog gear essentials.

 1. Larch Valley 

Larch Valley Hike, Alberta

📍Trailhead -Moraine Lake Parking lot 
🥾 Distance - 4.3km
🏔️ Elevation Gain - 535m
🐕 Dog Rating - Moderate
🏕️ Type of Trail - Out and Back 
⏱️ Time - 3.5-4 Hrs

No question this is the most popular hike to do in the fall for Larch season.  Moraine lake is one of the most photographed lakes in the world so expect crowds here even in the fall. The Larch Valley hike is a moderately difficult trail that begins at Moraine Lake with a steep switchback climb up to the Larch Valley.

You my as well knock of two birds with one stone on this hike so make a stop at Moraine Lake, the walk up the rock garden takes about 5 minutes then you'll see pure magic especially if you arrive for sunrise.

This will take about 45 minutes to an hour to get ready for sunrise pictures and to take pictures with all the crowds. Once you've completed this, you can make your way up the trail to Larch Valley.

moraine lake

Along the trail, you can enjoy stunning mountain views of the Ten Peaks and Moraine lake as well as the beautiful colors of Larch trees. There is also the option to hike on a little further to Sentinel Pass. This extra 1.5-kilometer trail (each way) takes you to a viewpoint overlooking Paradise Valley on the other side of the mountain pass.

Larch Valley Hike, Alberta

You will know you are getting close when the switchbacks end and you will start to walk into a world you thought only existed in fairy tales as the Larch Valley begins. It levels out into a wide open meadow with the Valley of the Ten Peaks in the background.

It almost doesn't look real, that's how wild the color of the larches are and you have mountain peaks everywhere you look. The meadow is pretty big so take your time here, this is probably the best spot to take pictures. 

duck toller dog larch valley lake louise

 Just when you think you've seen it all, the drama of Larch Valley continues. Keep going! Beyond the valley you will come across Minnestimma Lakes. If you arrive early you can usually see the lake calm and capture pictures with the reflection of the ten peaks in the water.

Even if you don't arrive for sunrise here, make a trek up to these lakes, it's not that far beyond Larch Valley.

larch valley duck toller dog lake louise

What to expect? This is the hike for Larch season so it is busy! If you plan to drive, you need to leave early, i.e. very early! I've arrived at 6am and was lucky one year, last year I was there at 2am and the parking lot was full by 500am! Yes!

The crowds will disperse up to the Valley so it's not that bad once you get going. It's an easy hike for dogs and you will come across a lot of dogs so keep your dog on leash.  

2. Healey Pass 

Healey Pass Hike, Alberta

📍Trailhead - Sunshine Village Parking 
🥾 Distance - 18.3km 
🏔️ Elevation Gain - 890m
🐕 Dog Rating - Moderate
🏕️ Type of Trail - Out and Back 
⏱️ Time - 6.5 - 7 Hrs

This is a beautiful hike that is sure to be loved by all who set out on the journey — easily one of the best hikes in Banff. Healy Pass peaks twice a year, first in the early summer when the valley is flooded with millions of wildflowers and again in fall when the larch trees turn gold. 

There are stunning views of Mt. Assiniboine and Egypt Lake when you reach the top of the pass. While the stats looked pretty grueling, the hike is actually on the easier side when compared to other trails in the Rockies. The elevation gain is evenly distributed across the ascent so it doesn't really feel steep along the way.

You will start at the Sunshine Village parking lot and make your way along the ski out and you veer right pretty soon along Healey Creek and follow the valley on your way to the pass.

You won't see any larch trees along the first part of the hike, it's only when you start your way up the pass that you will see larch trees and the views start to blow your mind as the trail opens up. 

Healey Creek larch trees banff alberta

As you approach the pass you will have a good view of The Monarchs Mountain and when you are on the top of the pass you can look down to Egypt Lake.

egypt lake banff alberta 

The larch trees will blow your mind, they are literally everywhere, the whole valley is covered in larches! Everywhere you look that will be all you see. When you are on the top of Healey Pass there are a lot of good little sitting spots for lunch, enjoy it, you will need to refuel for the hike back. 

having lunch healey pass banff alberta

Take your time when you are at the pass to enjoy the views and take some pictures of your pup.

healey pass with duck toller dog banff alberta

What to expect? Since you are parking at the Sunshine parking lot, you don't have to worry about crowds, you can arrive whenever you want but leave lots of time to be back before sunset since it is a long hike. It is popular but it won't be nearly as crowded compared to Larch Valley.

Overall, this is a stunning hike for larches and a moderate hike for yourself and your dog, it's not that grueling. That said it is long, if your dog is not for an all day adventure this may not be the hike for you.

Healey Pass Hike, Alberta

 3. Rockbound Lake 

Rockbound Lake Hike, Alberta

📍Trailhead - Rockbound Lake Trail Parking lot  
🥾 Distance - 17.9km 
🏔️ Elevation Gain - 1,021m
🐕 Dog Rating - Moderate (if you do the last part it is more difficult)
🏕️ Type of Trail - Out and Back 
⏱️ Time - 6.5 - 7 Hrs

This trail is a great long trail in Banff National Park that doesn’t see too many tourists due to its length and elevation. Hiking beneath the majestic Castle Mountain gives this trail a special feeling. Rockbound Lake is a stunning alpine lake that rests in a basin beneath Castle Mountain. It is the perfect place to relax and enjoy some views while watching for wildlife!

You will be in the trees for the first half of the hike as you approach Castle Mountain from the highway, it is not until you start to come around the backside of Castle Mountain that the trail will start to open up.

The first lake that you will see is Tower Lake which is under the south peak of Castle Mountain. Stop here for a good break and let your dog catch their breath and have some water.

Tower Lake Banff Alberta

From Tower Lake there will be one more switchback trail to approach Rockbound Lake. There will be a ton of Larch trees as you make your way to the Lake and the trail really opens up at this point. 

Rockbound Lake

You will have completed most of the hike once you reach Rockbound Lake but for the best views there's a steep trail towards the east side of the lake that takes you up to a viewpoint where you can look down on the lake. This portion of the hike is not easy but well worth the view!

Rockbound Lake Hike, Alberta

From the viewpoint you can see Rockbound Lake, Tower Lake and Castle Mountain. This last part of the hike is steep and not easy, that said there were a lot of dogs making the trek when we were there but it is a good grind. Overall, this is a moderate hike for your dog to Rockbound Lake. What makes it more difficult and long is the push up to the viewpoint (and makes it a long hike).

If you want a good hike with a lake and larches, going to Rockbound Lake is the way to go. If you want more of a challenge and the killer views go all the way to the viewpoint! 

4. Taylor Lake 

Taylor Lake Hike, Alberta

📍Trailhead - Taylor Lake Parking lot 
🥾 Distance - 13.7km 
🏔️ Elevation Gain - 907m
🐕 Dog Rating - Moderate 
🏕️ Type of Trail - Out and Back 
⏱️ Time - 5.5 Hrs

The Taylor Lake hike in Banff National Park is an enjoyable hike up the lower slopes of Mount Bell to a beautiful mountain lake. The forest along the Taylor Lake trail is quite lush, due to the creek the trail follows for most of its length.

While we think Taylor Lake is a highly enjoyable hike near Lake Louise all year around, it is especially nice in the fall when the lake is surrounded by golden larch trees.

taylor lake banff alberta hiking with dog

The majority of this hike is in the trees, it is not until the end that the trail starts to open up as you approach Taylor Lake. We did it mid September so the larch trees were turning but they weren't the majestic yellow colour yet. If you time this hike right, the larches will be magnificent. 

taylor lake banff alberta

In the Banff larch tree season, you can extend the Taylor Lake hike to a nearby meadow, which has a massive stand of larch trees. With a stream flowing through the golden larch forest and Panorama Peak in the background, this is an excellent larch tree hike in Banff, without the crowds.

Overall, this is a great larch hike, we just didn't time it quite right for the full larch effect. The trail isn't that busy compared to other larch hikes so you can arrive when you want and avoid the rush.

Taylor Lake Hike, Alberta

5. Panorama Ridge 

Panorama Ridge Hike, Alberta

📍Trailhead - Taylor Lake parking lot 
🥾 Distance - 19.8km 
🏔️ Elevation Gain - 1,472m
🐕 Dog Rating - Hard 
🏕️ Type of Trail - Out and Back 
⏱️ Time - 8.5 Hrs

If you keep going past Taylor Lake you can continue to Panorama East Ridge which has a ton of larch trees in the meadow and along the ridge. You will do the same hike as you do to Taylor Lake but continue up to the right towards Panorama Ridge.

You will continue up the trail and pass a creek then the trail will open up to a wide array of Larch Trees.

panorama ridge hike banff alberta with dog

The push up to the east end of Panorama Ridge has incredible views of Bow Valley and larch trees on both sides of the ridge.

Overall, this is a great hike if you have a lot of time. This hike will take you most of the day and only suitable for people and dogs that have the endurance. 

Panorama Ridge Hike, Alberta

 6. Eiffel Lake 

Eiffel Lake Hike, Alberta

📍Trailhead - North Lake Moraine Parking lot 
🥾 Distance - 12.2km 
🏔️ Elevation Gain - 609m
🐕 Dog Rating - Moderate
🏕️ Type of Trail - Out and Back 
⏱️ Time - 4.5 Hrs

The Eiffel Lake hike in Banff National Park is a beautiful and diverse trail that offers stunning views of the Valley of the Ten Peaks, the iconic mountains that frame Moraine Lake. On route to the upper end of the Valley of the Ten Peaks, where Eiffel Lake sits, the trail passes through an area of closed forest before emerging onto an open slope with wildflower meadows and a panoramic view of the ten summits.

The funny thing about this hike is nobody is on it! All the tourists flock to Moraine Lake and Larch Valley which leaves this hike wide open with no crowds with the BEST views of the Ten Peaks with larches. 

You will take the same switchback hike to Larch Valley but go left towards Eiffel Lake when you reach the top. You will have gained most of the elevation to this point so the hike at this point is traversing along the trail to the lake. 

The trail will start to open up and you will see a valley of larch trees with the 10 peaks as a backdrop. For a longer hike, there’s the option to carry on past Eiffel Lake to Wenkchemna Pass.

Eiffel Lake Hike, Alberta

As you approach Eiffel Lake you will make your way down to the Lake. It is a good spot to have lunch before making your way back. For a longer hike, there’s the option to carry on past Eiffel Lake to Wenkchemna Pass (we did not do this).

eiffel lake banff alberta

Overall, this is a good alternative to Larch Valley with no crowds. It is a little bit longer hike but not that difficult of a hike.

7. Sentinel Pass 

 Sentinel Pass Hike, Alberta

 📍Trailhead -Moraine Lake Parking lot 
🥾 Distance - 11.1km 
🏔️ Elevation Gain - 799m
🐕 Dog Rating - Hard 
🏕️ Type of Trail - Out and Back 
⏱️ Time - 4.5 - 5 Hrs

For many, the Larch Valley hike ends when they reach the Minnestimma Lakes, but if you still have the time and energy, the Sentinel Pass trail is an extremely fun and rewarding extension to the Larch Valley hike.

From the end of the Larch Valley trail, the Sentinel Pass trail winds its way up a steep mountain pass in-between Pinnacle Mountain and Mount Temple. Standing at the Minnestimma Lakes at the bottom of Sentinel Pass, the hiking trail looks like a bolt of lightning – zig zagging up the side of these two mountains.

It looks daunting but it's not that complicated since the switchbacks make it a lot easier instead of going straight up. You will add about an hour and half to your hike if you decide to do this portion of the hike, but it is worth it!

Sentinel Pass Hike, Alberta

Once you are at the top you can see down to Paradise Valley on the other side of the pass. Overall, if you have the time and you are up for the challenge this hike is a no brainer. You will be able to do Larch Valley and Sentinel Pass all in one day!

sentinel pass with dog banff alberta

8. Chester Lake 

Chester Lake Hike, Alberta

📍Trailhead - Smith Dorrien Trail Highway 742 
🥾 Distance - 9.3m
🏔️ Elevation Gain - 433m
🐕 Dog Rating - Moderate 
🏕️ Type of Trail - Out and Back 
⏱️ Time - 3 - 3.5 Hrs

The first part of the hike is an incline up a gravel path, but once you clear this you walk through the forest and almost immediately have views of the mountains in an open meadow. Before you reach Chester Lake there is a beautiful marsh area that is worth stopping at. It's around here that the larches start.

Once at Chester Lake make sure to go all the way around. There are some good views from the upper part of the lake, and a good patch of larches. It’s usually quieter up there as well.

This is an easy dog hike in the summer or winter time. In the winter if you have snowshoes or hiking cleats you can cut down the distance and follow a more direct trail. 

Overall this is a great hike year round with your dog, there are probably less larches here compared to other hikes but still worth it!

Chester Lake Hike, Alberta

Planning for these hikes

Dog gear - Make sure you have the proper dog gear for these hikes, you will need a sturdy dog leash and collar, harness and portable food and water bowl. All these can be found at www.rockymountaindog.ca.

Food and water - We typically bring a lunch, water, dry dog food and treats for the dog. I don't over pack on food but I make sure to have enough for the day, and always pack more water than I'll need. 

Bear spray - We always carry bear spray with us and have it in a pocket on our backpack, or on a belt so that its easily accessible. I've luckily never had to use it but we are in bear country so better to be safe than sorry. 

Dress for the weather - You are hiking in the fall, so make sure to bring enough layers for all kinds of weather. I'm usually wearing a light pair of pants, a couple of layers of shirts, coat shell and a toque.

Flashlight - If you are hiking in the morning to catch the sunrise you will need one to see in the dark!

Navigation - I always download the hike I'm going to do on AllTrails and have it handy for navigation where there is no cell reception, this has saved me countless of times. 

GPS- If your hiking out of cell range having a GPS tracker is a must. I recommend the Garmin InReach mini. It's not too expensive and could save your life. 

Hiking Poles- Are great for added stability. They help you shift your weight if you are carrying a large backpack, and they can significantly help on those steep declines. Collapsible ones are great if you will only need them for part of a hike. Hiking with just one pole is also an option. 

Use common sense - Don't be a warrior if you are starting out, it takes time and experience to hike in the mountains, don't take any risks that are out of your comfort zone.

And have fun, our mission is to inspire others to explore the outdoors with their dogs! Why? Because those memories will last a lifetime! 

If you need any help with what dog gear to own for your outdoor dog adventures check out www.rockymountaindog.ca.