Last weekend I had an opportunity to do a day-hike in Banff National Park. I heard about the larch trees changing color around the time I was there, so found a hike into Larch Valley that looked good. I didn’t have a lot of time to research the hike, just knew that the trail-head was at Lake Moraine and that it was a hike that could easily be done in a day. I had heard about Grizzly bears being present in this valley and was a little concerned about hiking by myself for the first time in ‘real’ bear territory.
As I drove to the lake, dense low-clouds were everywhere and I thought the hike would be a bust for photography. Then just as I pulled into the parking lot, I punched through the clouds and the amazing towering peaks of the ‘valley of 10 peaks’ were all around me. It was a stunning sight. A sign warned about bears and encouraged groups no smaller than 4. I pressed on and luckily ran into 4 other people about a mile into the hike. I traveled with them for the rest of the hike and one of then (a local) said there had not been any bear sightings all year on this trail. Pressing on at a good pace, in less than two hours I was at the valley. The last bit of the hike was making my lungs work quite a bit more than I expected. I’m in pretty good shape lately and was getting disappointed with how hard I was working. Then I looked at my trusty GPS and was surprised to see that I was at 7,200 feet! I’m not in the Cascades …I’m in the Rockies. Stupid me, I was thinking I was at 4,000 feet at best. That explained why there were no trees about 500 feet above me. At least that made me feel better about my body.
I took a ton of shots of the spectacular larches in this valley with towering peaks and glaciers all around me.
The group I was with was going all the way to Sentinel Pass as part of the their day-hike, so I continued with them. Sentinel Pass is the highest trail in the Northern Rockies topping out at 8,550 feet. The hike was amazing and not that hard, but at the top it was super cold so I could only stay there for about 40 minutes.
Sentinel Pass looking east towards Larch Valley:
Sentinel Pass looking West towards Paradise Valley
In total the hike was 2,400 feet and I think one of the best day-hikes there is, especially this time of year. GPS log below:
All shots are up on smugmug: http://andysimonds.smugmug.com/gallery/6111729_GKTCC//384701194_rvcZz