Sunday, August 11, 2013

Moraine Lake & Larch Valley

Trip Date: October 2010

It was such a beautiful fall we decided to take advantage and hike into Larch Valley to see the golden Larch Trees.  I couldn't believe the weather we were getting.  I went on this hike only wearing shorts and a T-shirt and this was in October, in the mountains!  We couldn't have asked for anything better.  Moraine Lake is located 14km outside the village of Lake Louise along the Moraine Lake Road in Banff National Park.  The trailhead for Larch Valley is just beyond the Moraine Lake Lodge.  The hike up to Larch Valley is about 8.5km round-trip with an elevation gain of 535m.

Like Spruce, Pine, or Fir trees, Larch are also conifers, but unlike most conifers, Larch Trees will lose their needles in the fall, but not until after they've turned a beautiful golden colour.  This is why we, and what felt like half of Calgary, were out on the trail today.  

Mt. Temple as viewed from the Moraine Lake Road
Tower of Babel as seen from the Moraine Lake Road
Like it's neighbour Lake Louise, Moraine Lake is also very beautiful and extremely photogenic.  It also gets its bright blue colouring from the refraction of light off the rock flour that is constantly being deposited into the lake.  Moraine Lake sits at the bottom of the Valley of the Ten Peaks.  Like the name indicates, the valley is crowned by ten notable peaks standing high above the lake.  The peaks were originally named by Samuel Allen, an early explorer in the area, who named them simply by using the numerals one to ten in the Stoney First Nations language.  Over time all but three of the mountains were renamed in honour of notable individuals, including Allen himself.  You may, or may not, remember that Moraine Lake and the Valley of the Ten Peaks was also featured on the Canadian twenty dollar bill between 1969 and 1979.

Canadian twenty dollar bill featuring Moraine Lake and the Valley of the Ten Peaks
Moraine Lake sitting at the bottom of the Valley of the Ten Peaks
Mt. Fay with the Fay Glacier as seen from the trail
Larch Trees
Mt. Temple standing above Larch Valley
The golden Larch Trees of Larch Valley
Sarah and Rome on the trail
Looking out of Larch Valley
Sarah, Rome, and I in Larch Valley
Mt. Deltaform and Neptuak Mountain above the valley
Kola scratching her back
Eiffel Peak, Pinnacle Mountain, and Mt. Temple
Larch Valley
The perfect spot to stop and have lunch
Chris, Rome, and I
Mt. Fay and the Fay Glacier behind some golden Larches
The Valley of the Ten Peaks include Mt. Fay, Mt. Little, Mt. Bowlen, Mt. Tonsa, Mt. Perren, Mt. Allen, Mt. Tuzo, Deltaform Mountain, Neptuak Mountain, and Wenkchemna Peak.  You can see nine of the ten peaks in the photo below.  The only one not visible is Wenkchemna Peak.  Now I know what you're thinking, "there's ten mountains in that photo" and you'd be correct, except that the mountain at the far left is Mt. Babel, which is not considered part of ten peaks

Panoramic view of the Valley of the Ten Peaks
Tower of Babel over Moraine Lake on the hike out
Christine, Rome, and I with Moraine Lake
I wrote a brief story for the Calgary Guardian called Those Golden Larches that was featured on their blog in October 2014.  We returned to Larch Valley with some out of town visitors a couple of years later, which you can read about right here.

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