FALL FOR AUTUMN
Like the song says, it’s “here for a good time, not a long time, so have a good time.” Ergo, it’s time to lace up those hiking and cycling shoes and hit the trails on the annual quest for that fall foliage money shot. Here are some ideas in our own backyard.
Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park
Choose from nearly 40 km of paved or gravel trails at Glenbow Ranch. A family favourite is the 4.7 km Bowbend Trail, part of Canada’s Great Trail (at 27,000+ km, the longest multi-use trail in the world) winding along the Bow River between Cochrane and Calgary. Or do the 3.4 km Bowbend Glenmore Loop.
One of the newest is the 2.5 km McPherson Trail which links Bowbend Trail and Badger Bowl. It’s a steep climb out of its namesake coulee, but then it levels out and the expansive views south and west make it all worthwhile. Hikers and cyclists share the gravel path.
Easy, moderate, or difficult, the hiking and biking trails crisscrossing the Elbow Valley suit every skill level. Perhaps the most well-known is the Elbow Falls Trail, an easy 1 km stroll along the Elbow River to the scenic Elbow Falls. Or do the Elbow Falls and Ridge Loop covering 2.7 km. Then enjoy a picnic lunch by the falls. The Elbow Valley Trail Report provides updates on all the major trails in the valley.
Sulphur Springs Trail and the Diamond T Loop start out at the same trailhead and put mountain bikers in their happy place. For more routes popular with mountain bikers, check out Trailforks.
Almost too many trails to mention but Alberta Parks has a great brochure you can download that provides maps and names of multi-use trails across the contiguous provincial parks and recreation areas that make up the 4,000 sq km of K-Country.
Nothing says autumn more loudly and clearly than the humble larch tree. There’s a bit of an identity crisis going on here – while coniferous by definition, come autumn their green needles turn brilliant yellow and are shed, like their deciduous cousins. Finding the best hikes to view this fall phenomenon has become a mission for many nature lovers.
These trees grow in the poor topsoil above the permafrost, at elevations of 1,800 metres and higher. This means they are extremely hardy but they are also long-lived. Canada’s oldest tree could well be a subalpine larch in K-Country – believed to be almost 2,000 years old!
Try any of these trails in the upper Highwood, Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, and Sheep/Elbow watershed.
- Pocaterra Tarn – 4.2 km return
- Arethusa Cirque – 5 km loop
- Ptarmigan Cirque – 3.6 km return
- Tryst Lake Trail – 6.6 km return
- Chester Lake Trail – 8.6 km return (my personal favourite)
If you are not up for a hike but want to enjoy some beautiful autumn colour in your own backyard, take a stroll through Anything Grows. They have a selection of fall mums, hardy for the cooler temps, and a great way to add a splash of colour at the end of summer.
So get your gear and cameras ready, FYI…best larch viewing is the last two weeks of September.
Guest Journalist: Jane Usher