The imminent end of summer always seems to creep up on me, especially living in Alberta where the weather is always unpredictable. Summer doesn’t always mean sun and heat, it usually comes with rain, storms and, all too often, the occasional snowfall. But Fall signals the start of a season when mountain ranges become less crowded, the temperatures more moderate, and the foliage starts to change into stunning colours.
If you’re looking for the perfect fall hike, and the chance of snowfall doesn’t scare you away, then you need to check out Sentinel Pass (also known as Larch Valley). The trailhead is easy to find, located just off of the Moraine Lake parking lot.
This was one of my first hikes of summer, and I experienced weather from all four seasons during the 12-kilometer trek. The hike begins when you hit the trail of switchbacks through the trees, with views of Moraine Lake peeking through along the way. Once we finished the majority of the ascent, we reached a beautiful meadow at the top of the pass. You’re enveloped in trees, and a few creeks line the trail before you. Heading back into the larches the weather started to change, and as we emerged from the tree line into the base of Sentinel Pass we were met with big snowflakes falling from the sky.
Surrounded by the Valley of the 10 Peaks, you feel as though you’re deep in the forest; the air is crisp, the crowds are sparse, and in the fall the golden hew of the larches mirrors that of the sun. We chose to stop here because the winds were gusting and the temperature had dipped about ten degrees Celsius from when we started. There are a few reflective pools to your right and up ahead as you make your way towards the pass. The views surrounding me were striking as the snow was gently falling, dusting the tops all ten peaks.
When the weather is more mild you can reach the point of the pass by following the switchbacks above the lakes (about 500ft). Here you’ll experience a 360-degree view. It’s a great spot to have lunch, check out Mt. Temple, and plan your next hiking adventure by picking one of the ten peaks surrounding you.
There is something so refreshing about being in the mountains when the sun isn’t shining. Not only are the trails sparse with people, but with big fluffy snowflakes falling softly from the sky I felt as though I was in a real life snow globe.
Nothing signals the changing of seasons better than nature. One of my favorite quotes is by John Ruskin, and he says: “Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces up, snow is exhilarating; there is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.” Living in Alberta, there is no better way to describe the changing seasons than this. Enjoy the mountains, whatever the season!