Active Fall Travel in the Canadian Rockies

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If you’re looking to spend some time in the beautiful outdoors this fall, why not head up north to the Canadian Rockies? This majestic mountain range is full of active travel opportunities like hiking, biking, boating, etc.

There’s so much to do, in fact, that pinpointing a destination among the many incredible options can be an overwhelming task. Thankfully, guest contributor Jacqueline Louie, is here to tell us about a few must-see spots for active fall travel in the Canadian Rockies.

When fall in all its splendor arrives in the Rocky Mountains of Canada, the colors are unforgettable. With the gold of changing foliage, brilliant blue skies, and the white of early snow on the peaks, you’re in for an unforgettable trip.

Here’s how to get out on the trail or explore a scenic overlook before winter gets an icy grip on Alberta and British Columbia.

Are you a boomer hiker? You’ve lucked out.

Fall in in the Rockies means trails filled with color combined with great views of splendid mountain scenery. And when you tire of experiencing autumn’s natural beauty out on the trail, consider one of the many special events and festivals to enjoy as well.

Hiking in Kananaskis Country on a fall trip to Canada

Located an hour’s drive west of Calgary, Alberta on the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies, Kananaskis Country offers a wide variety of hikes, from short and sweet, to strenuous. Even the drive, which takes you through Kananaskis along Highway 40, offers superb views.

Here are some of the best fall hikes in the Canadian Rockies, along with my recommendations for where to stay.

Boomer Travel Tip

Take a look at our day hiking essentials before heading down the trail.

Ptarmigan Cirque

At the top of Highwood Pass—the highest paved pass in Canada at 7,238 feet above sea level—you’ll find the trailhead to Ptarmigan Cirque, a great place for viewing larch trees as they turn from green to gold.

Fall mountain scene with yellow surrounded by Canadian Rockies.
On top of the world at Ptarmigan Cirque. (Photos by Chuck Newyar.).

Ptarmigan Cirque is one of my favorite Kananaskis hikes for fall color, because you get so much bang for your buck. You’ll have superb views of the surrounding mountains, with slopes covered in larches (the only conifer that sheds its needles) as you walk through a beautiful alpine landscape.

It’s a short walk that heads steadily uphill (2.6 miles round trip, 755 feet in elevation gain) on a very popular loop trail.

Where to stay in Kananaskis Country:

Yellow larch trees and mountains
Beautiful golden hues blanket the mountain views. (Photos by Chuck Newyar.)

Plain of Six Glaciers and Lake Agnes Teahouse, Lake Louise

Lake Louise is one of the classic hiking areas in Banff National Park, offering stunning vistas of snow-capped mountains, waterfalls, and glacier-fed turquoise lakes.

Aerial view of a mountain lake surrounded by rugged mountain peaks.
Aerial view of Lake Agnes. (Photo courtesy Banff & Lake Louise Tourism.)

The area’s most popular hike is to Lake Agnes. As you walk up through open forest, gaze down at Lake Louise and marvel at how high you’ve come.

You’ll pass Mirror Lake, before walking up a staircase by a roaring waterfall to reach the tranquil shores of Lake Agnes. You can stop for tea and snacks at the red roofed Lake Agnes Tea House. (Approximately 4 miles return.)

Hikers on a colorful trail during a fall hike in the Canadian Rockies.
Beautiful yellow Larches around Lake Louise. (Photo courtesy Banff & Lake Louise Tourism.)

Plain of Six Glaciers is a slightly longer walk, at nearly 7 miles return, offering stunning views of Mount Victoria and the Victoria Glacier. You can reward yourself when you reach the end of the trail, by stopping for tea and treats at the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea House.

Blue mountain lake surrounded by green trees and mountains.
Hiking around Lake Agnes is an unforgettable experience. (Photo courtesy Banff & Lake Louise Tourism.)

Little Beehive and Big Beehive, Lake Louise

From the Lake Agnes trail you can reach two high points with wonderful views of the surrounding mountains. The Little Beehive and the Big Beehive are rock formations named for their distinctive beehive-like shapes.

The Little Beehive trail branches off from the main Lake Agnes trail (2.7 miles from Lake Louise), while you reach the Big Beehive Trail (slightly more strenuous) via Lake Agnes. (one mile from Lake Agnes)

Where to stay in Lake Louise:

Boomer Travel Tip

Fall Festivals in the Canadian Rockies

Later in the fall, when hiking season draws to a close and right before ski season starts, there is still plenty to see and do in the Canadian Rockies.

Jasper Dark Sky Festival, Jasper National Park

The drive from Banff National Park to Jasper National Park is one of the highlights of the Canadian Rockies, with dramatic peaks, glaciers and alpine lakes. When you arrive at the picturesque town of Jasper, an approximately three-hour drive from Lake Louise, you’ll find it’s less busy than Banff, with plentiful wildlife viewing opportunities.

Man looking through telescope into the dark night sky.
Jasper Dark Sky Festival is a perfect event for star gazers.

Jasper is also home to one of the world’s largest Dark Sky Preserves. If you can swing it, try to visit in October for the Jasper Dark Sky Festival

This dark sky extravaganza features a star-studded line-up of guest speakers: a panel of North American astronomy and media professionals, including NASA astronauts. Photography workshops, and a little night music (Symphony under the Stars, with the Edmonton  Symphony Orchestra) are also on the festival agenda.

Where to stay in Jasper:

Scratch those itchy travel feet!

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