In the mountains, autumn starts in the alpine and slowly fades down to the valleys over the months, with winter snow following behind! Use this guide for where and when to find the best fall colour on West Kootenay hiking trails.
First Signs of Fall
It starts in the alpine! Huckleberry bushes go red, Fireweed goes to seed, and the green of summer meadows fades to russet and yellow.
The alpine larches shift to yellow and then gold. The alpine is now awash in fall colours with dustings of snow on the peaks.
Rain in the valley turns to snow in the alpine, filling in hiking trails. But fall colour is now appearing at lower elevation, moving into the valleys.
Fall colours are now at their peak at low elevation with birches and mountain ash gold against the forest.
The end of fall. Down in the valley, hiking trails are littered with golden leaves and needles.
First Signs of Fall
Fall colours start to appear in the alpine in early September, with cooler nights and shorter days. At high elevation, the wildflowers have gone to seed, the huckleberries are ripe, and the alpine meadows start to loose their green. The firsts twinges of yellow appear on the larches.
Where to hike? Check out any of the alpine hikes and enjoy the start of autumn. Be prepared for shorter days and rainstorms, as September brings cool wet weather to the Kootenays.
In late September, golden larch season is underway! This is a special time in the alpine where the forests around Kootenay Lake glow with colour as the larches turn bright yellow and then start to fade to gold.
Where to hike? Check out trails in the Golden Larch category, but some of the top golden larch spots are:
Be prepared for snow starting to appear in the alpine. It can obscure the trail and make route-finding difficult. Bring extra warm layers, and make sure your headlamp and navigation equipment are handy. The days are getting short!
In early October, snow can really start filling in the alpine hiking trails. The snow-line varies year to year, but typically Thanksgiving weekend marks the end of alpine hiking. If you can get up to high elevation, the larches will turn bright gold before loosing their needles.
Meanwhile, fall has moved down to the valley and colours are starting to appear at low elevation.
Where to hike? Check out south-facing hiking trails with maintained access roads to minimize the snow and maximize the views.
Be prepared for snow on access roads at high elevation – you should have winter tires on! Bring gaiters if you’re planning to hike in the fresh snow.
By the end of October, the valleys are full of fall colours! Low-elevation larches have gone gold, along with birch and mountain ash. The towns are also bursting with colourful maples and overlook hikes are a great way to view them!
Where to hike? Check out any of the shoulder-season hikes for good access. For fall colours, check out:
By early November, the days are short and crisp and the leaves are scattering fast. The last colour is disappearing in the valley and the hiking trails shine with fallen leaves.
Where to hike?
The days are getting dark and rainy. Watch for early sunset when Daylight Savings Time ends.