Every year, at this time, there is a migration to Banff National Park just because of the trees. To be specific, the calling is to the Moraine Lake area to see the larch trees. The time frame for viewing the larches at their peak once they turn from green to orange is short, possibly two weeks, then the needles fall off. In that period, you pray for a decent day to hike the many kilometers to enjoy views, knowing too there would be hundreds others doing the same.
When we arrived at the Moraine Lake parking lot to see it was less than half full, I was quite pleased. Then when the cloud and the fog lifted right before our eyes while still in the parking lot and we were presented with this perfect picture, I already felt on top of the world.
While this hike is all about the larch trees, you can't help but appreciate the mountain scenery too. The light dusting of snow only added to the beauty. After the hike through the forest, we reached Larch Valley and that is where the true show began. The trail winds through the Valley and at each turn I had to take a photo. I love how the colorful trees frame the mountains.
At the far end of Larch Valley, out of the trees, the look becomes less colorful and more dark and dramatic. Dark and dramatic can be beautiful too! We ate lunch before we carried on with the steep ascent to Sentinel Pass. While we needed the fuel, this would give us time to sit by and admire Minnestimma Lake. Also, there was the possibility it could be cold and windy at the top.
The tight switchbacks make a doable ascent to Sentinel Pass. Once at the Pass, I quickly tackled the short, steep, rocky route to the edge of this rock for my summit shot. Now, I truly feel on top of the world. The spires at my side give this Pass its name of Sentinel. Below the back of me is Paradise Valley and it sure lived up to its name today!
Once the summit is surmounted and the serious shot is complete then it becomes play time. The child within comes out. Before leaving the summit, I inched my way to the edge of the rock for a yoga pose. The descend was quick and fun. On a +12 Degree Celcius day, with a light covering of snow, I could not pass the inviting chance to make a snow angel. Never, at any time, did I feel in danger but it is fun to make it look like I am living on the edge.
On the return trip through the forest, I got glimpses of Moraine Lake. With the lighting at this time of day, the Lake was gorgeous and I wanted a full on view with no obstructions. Once back at the Lake there is a short detour up a massive rock pile that affords you the perfect view. This is what you get after a ten minute climb!
I felt like the luckiest girl alive today to be where I was and to see what I saw! The stars were alined with perfect weather and fewer folks. For most, this is a once in a year trip, not for me. I will be back next Saturday to catch the last of the show but will be veering off down another trail for a whole different view. Stayed tuned!