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How to best experience Alberta's larch march - before it's over

It only comes around once a year and it doesn’t stay long, but this year’s larch season has people flocking out to the mountains in Alberta.

Alpine larches are a coniferous pine tree that grow in the Rocky Mountains and Kananaskis area but are unique in that they turn a brilliant gold before shedding their needle-like leaves.

“They’re deciduous the leaves are sacrificed, if you will, every fall and all the nutrients are drawn out of the leaves leaving behind some pigment which is shed off and discarded by the tree,” explains David Bird, a biology professor at Mount Royal University.

The colourful transformation typically takes place mid-to-late September and goes into mid-October, though some outdoor enthusiasts believe it started a bit early this year.

It’s unclear if Alberta’s smoky and record-breaking hot summer played a role, but there is evidence that climate change and the effects of wildfires are impacting larch populations.

“As we have longer summers, warmer summers, dryer summers, larches are responding by retreating from southern hemisphere and lower altitudes to higher altitudes and more northern climes. So, what they would mean for our area would mean fewer and more higher up,” said Bird.

The colourful transformation typically takes place mid to late September and goes into mid October, though some outdoor enthusiasts believe it started a bit early this year.


Annalise Klingbeil is a writer for and says it’s important that people plan ahead if they want to have a good experience finding larches.

“Embrace the thrill of the hunt, it’s a busy, busy time right now,” she says. “Be OK doing something that’s not that top of the list because you’re going to have to leave your house at like three in the morning if you want to get a parking spot for the popular ones.”

In a recent post, Klingbeil suggest Larch Valley, Sentinel Pass, and Paradise Valley trail in Banff National Park as popular larch hikes.

Other areas to be on the lookout for larches this time of year include Healy Pass, Chester Lake, Taylor Lake, and Burstall Pass in Kananaskis.

Parks Canada says that Banff National Park is on track to have the highest number of visitors in 2023 ever recorded.

They say demand for shuttle service to Lake Louise and Moraine Lake are high, with the system running at capacity since May, offering 2,800 rides per day.

This is the first year that Moraine Lake has been closed to personal vehicles and will continue to be closed until the end of Thanksgiving weekend.

Roam Public Transit is once again offering its Route 10 direct service from Banff to Moraine Lake this fall. Moraine Lake – Route 10 – Roam Transit Top Stories

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