Alas, the fall season is almost over.
I still can’t get used to the extremely short fall in Calgary. There are no crazy reds and oranges that characterize the autumn of the east, but we do have a vibrant gold for about 2 to 3 weeks. For avid hikers in the Rockies, it’s a small window that should not be missed, so when Ry (my bro) was here, I knew we had to hike in an area where the larches could be seen. Larches are conifers like pine trees, but change colour and lose their leaves in the fall. Calgarians and tourists alike will flock to the Larch Valley near Lake Louise each September to hike among the larches, but it’s ridiculously busy. Like, they need a shuttle bus kind of busy! And since I generally try to avoid crowds, I searched for other options. Pocaterra Cirque is my favourite place to go, but we opted for Burstall Pass in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, which consistently ranks as one of the best places for larch viewing in the Kananaskis region. It would be a sure win for Ry, and a new hike for me.
The trail is definitely a nice hike. I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the initial 3 km, which feels like a never-ending walk through the forest, but at 7.4 km each way and 470 metres of elevation gain, there’s a lot to the hike: dense forests; the Robertson Glacier in view; navigating the streams of the alluvial flat (follow the red markers!); gorgeous meadows; and fantastic views from Burstall Pass. A quick note: at the info centre, we were told that the water levels of the marshy area can be high, so sandals are recommended for crossing the water.
I wish I knew summit names because there were so many epic peaks to see from the pass! Of course, the larches were beautiful, but since it was cloudy, the golden glow wasn’t there…. not that I’m complaining!.. the larches are gorgeous regardless. If we had more time, perhaps we would have attempted Snow Peak, which is an easy scramble from the pass, but with the shorter days, we opted to head back. Next time :). As a suggestion, which we didn’t do: continue onward from the pass and into Banff National Park for a nice view of Leman Lake. The guy at the info centre also advised us to do this and a quick Google search shows that the view is not a disappointment. Another next time :).
To get to the Burstall Pass parking area from the Kananaskis Lakes Trail, head north on the Smith-Dorrien for about 20 km until the marked lot. As long as you follow the trail signs, it’s a pretty straight forward hike. Apparently it’s awesome for snowshoeing in the winter, so I have an inkling that I may be returning in the near future… like maybe in a couple of weeks?? Curse you winter! *sigh*