This is the second month of our 12 Months of Hostelling promotion.
By Anthony Brook
I have always felt that the Lake Louise area boasts some of the most spectacular day hikes in the world. Yes, in the world. The places you can go, the scenery you can see, in just a few hours from your car and back, are astounding. Sure, you hear some complaints about the crowds and it is true; the shores of Lake Louise and Moraine Lake in July or August can be very busy. That's why September is the best month of the year.
September is for hiking what April is for skiing. Peoples' attentions have turned elsewhere. The kids are back in school, life has returned to the city and those frivolous days of hiking are done for another year. Well maybe for some, but for those in the know September days are clear and crisp, oh yes, and there are no crowds. Hikers have the playground to themselves. Morning often brings a light layer of frost and the larch trees don their golden cloaks.
There are so many secluded spots to find and hidden trails to explore; you could hike every day without crossing the same path twice. But if I were only able to do one hike, it would be Larch Valley to Sentinel Pass. This is no revelation to anybody familiar with the area. It is simply the most awe-inspiring half to full day hike in the area. Admittedly, in the summer, the experience is often dulled when you are forced to share the view with 50 other people. In the fall, this is not the case.
The hike starts on the shores of Moraine Lake, which presents a stunning photo opp in itself. The trail winds upwards through the sub-alpine forest for an hour or so. This may sound daunting to some, but the journey is broken up by startling views of the sapphire lake and imposing mountains. The grade of the path is quite moderate and with modest pacing, anybody can make the journey.
As you reach the apex of your climb, a bench comes into view, a welcome sight after hiking for a few hours. Then as you round the corner, a remarkable thing happens. You leave behind the world of the green spruce and fir and enter the domain of the larch. A golden canopy envelops you. Nowhere else in the park is the colour change so immediate and drastic. When there is a light covering of snow, the effect is even more dramatic.
Another kilometre or so brings you to an open meadow. The Ten Peaks of Moraine Lake tower above you to the east, while Eiffel Peak, Sentinel Peak and Mount Temple complete the enclosure. Half an hour more along a lightly forested, gradual uphill path brings you to the high alpine meadows by Minnestimma Lakes. The flowers of summer are gone but many hikers are still inspired to do a Sound of Music twirl when they think they're alone.
In front lay the sinister looking switchbacks to Sentinel Pass. They look much worse than they are. In fact, by this point, you have gained far more elevation than you will in this final push. The reward for your effort is well worth it. Sandwiched in a tiny col between Sentinel Peak and Mount Temple, you will have a bird's eye view of Larch Valley and the Valley of the Ten Peaks in one direction with Paradise Valley and the Grand Sentinel in the other.
If you stay in the pass long enough, you may be joined by a few other hikers. It’s quite entertaining to see your own experience mirrored in their reaction. In their last few steps, they will slow, look back to see where they came from, and then turn around to see the expansive view down the backside. After a short delay and a 360 degree skyward looking turn, all they can usually muster is very faint “Ohhh...Wow!”.
Where to stay:
Surrounded by majestic mountains, alpine meadows and glacier-fed lakes, HI-Lake Louise Alpine Centre is the destination of choice for budget conscious travellers who want to experience amazing wilderness activities and adventures. This unique mountain hostel is full of character and charm with vaulted ceilings, sunny outdoor patios, cozy fireplaces and a dry sauna. Bill Peyto's, our on-site licensed café, is a local favourite and is famous for its diverse menu, fair pricing and friendly service.
Take advantage of this special offer from HI-Lake Louise Alpine Centre and experience the beauty of the fall colors in Lake Louise.
Stay 2 nights, get the 3rd night free! From $70 + tax
Price per person based on multi-share accommodation.
Offer valid until September 30, 2011 and subject to availability. Terms and conditions apply. Reservations are required. Call 1.866.762.4122 or book online quoting LLAC12MTHS.