Calgary

Outdoor Report: Fall colours and crowd dodging in the Alberta Rockies

The Calgary Eyeopener's Paul Karchut has some tips on how to dodge the crowds and still enjoy the changing fall colours in the Alberta Rockies.

Navigating one of Banff's busiest spots doesn't have to be a challenge

Paul Karchut`s Outdoor Report 1:35

It's still fall — which means the mountains are still crawling with hikers hoping to catch a glimpse of the fleeting fall colours.

But don't let the crowds keep you inside. For this week's Outdoor Report, Paul Karchut shows us how to navigate one of the busiest spots in Banff National Park.

Just how busy is the Lake Louise parking lot?

The little drive from the Lake Louise Village up to the actual lake itself, can take up to two hours. It's the same story with the road that branches off up to Moraine Lake.

Normally, that drive would take four minutes.

And while Parks Canada has started a shuttle service and they've hired traffic controllers, it's just getting crazier.

But you also can't deny the area's supreme beauty and for some people, hiking season just isn't over without a larch trip up into this area.

The crowds are descending on Lake Louse, Alta. to get a glimpse at the fleeting, golden fall colours. (CBC)

So how can I skip the camel train?

It's actually pretty simple.

When you get to the village, don't drive up to the lake. Ditch your car, grab a coffee and walk there. 

The Louise Creek trail starts just on the other side of the railroad tracks from town. It's a well-maintained trail with a consistent, not very challenging grade that follows the flow of Louise Creek right to the lake itself.

It was pretty, too. Almost rainforest-like.

And it's wide enough that you can walk side-by-side and chat with your hiking buddy.

Think of it as a sort of three kilometre warm-up that also avoids a lot of parking frustration.

The view from Saddleback Pass in Lake Louise, Alta. (Paul Karchut/CBC)

Where did you go from there?

Most visitors to Lake Louise tend to trend right, taking the trails past the Chateau and up to the two tea houses.

We zigged instead of zagged and went up to Saddleback Pass which, after hiking just three kilometres past Lake Louise, gets you into high larch country.

Up there, you get a commanding view of the glacier spilling off the north face of Mount Temple — which is framed beautifully by the turning larches.

Then, if you still have a bit more jam and feel like getting a bit higher, the steep but very doable 1.5 kilometer climb up to the top of Mount Fairview would get you a bird's eye view of those changing larches and what is probably the best alpine view of Lake Louise around.

But I was sick and it was sleeting — so we just kept it to Saddleback Pass. It was still a phenomenal day and not nearly as busy as many of the other larch hikes that top people's lists.

Even with that little walk up the Louise Creek, all in, this was a 12 or 13 km hike.

Now, normally I would let my guide, Jamie Carpenter, extol the virtues of this trip. 

But I record all my interviews on my phone — which I sat on and broke. Suggesting that, perhaps, I need to go on a few more hikes before the season is over.


With files from The Calgary Eyeopener