Banff in September: Moraine Lake, Larch Valley & Sentinel Pass


For my birthday last year, I decided to check out the Canadian Rockies. We stayed in Calgary the first night. The drive from Calgary to Banff was only 1.5 hours. I liked Calgary a lot – there were a lot of hip restaurants and bars, and outdoor art installations (free interactive musical see-saws!) at the Riverwalk.



First thing we did after arriving in Banff: went on a boat and cruised around Lake Minnewanka. Then we walked around the town of Banff. I was unprepared for the cold weather in September, which gave me an excuse to buy a new down jacket (love shopping in Canada, feels like a bargain with the Canadian dollar: 1USD=1.3CAD).


Lunch at Park Distillery – pretty good meal and extremely friendly service. Highly recommended.


Did the touristy gondola thing.


This view though.

We camped out that night at Tunnel Mountain Village 1 Campground – it was perfect, clean, and I highly recommend it. Much better than Lake Louise Campground which we later on discovered.

Breakfast at The Bison – pretty good bison burger!




We passed by the parking lot leading to Lake Louise and there were long lines of cars outside the entrance waiting to get in. For Moraine Lake, we got lucky. If you wait a bit inside the parking lot, you’ll eventually get a spot – seems like there were fast turnover rates for people visiting the lakes.


Moraine Lake – where you go to start the hike to Larch Valley. September is the perfect time to see the golden larch trees!


Sentinel Pass via Larch Valley



Those larch trees.



Loved the wide open landscape here.


Hiking through Larch Valley was easy, but going up to Sentinel Pass was a little more strenuous. Worth it though.


After this point, turn around and proceed to the top…



Waiting for sunset at Moraine. There was a huge rock pile for people to scramble up. The higher you go, the bluer the lake looks. It was nice to relax here after the hike.

Hiking: Breakneck Ridge, Hudson Valley New York (Phone pics)

I’ve been meaning to hike up to the Breakneck Ridge for a while, since a bunch of my friends have done it and recommended it. According to this helpful website, its difficulty is rated as 10/10 due to the steepness and rock scrambling (which I love).


We started off with breakfast at 168 Tea Shop. Then we drove for about an hour and a half (from Queens) and took the wrong turn — the sign for “Cold Spring” seemed to have come out of nowhere and we couldn’t make the turn in time. But after the detour, here we were! We parked right next to the tunnel:

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There were a few parking spots here, and to the right began our trail (follow the white markers).


Take a map here or print it beforehand.



Now, I usually LOVE rock scrambling and climbing up big rocks. I love the challenge of using my arms to hoist myself up and looking for places to put my feet on. But because of the snow and ice (it was 30 degrees F), I had to be more careful in looking for rocks to step on, especially since they were covered. I would like to come back in the spring/summer/fall.

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There were some parts of just straight climbing.


This was a beautiful lookout point. The snow covered some trees… but this was only the beginning.

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At some parts we had to figure out alternative routes to go around the thick snow.


A sign! Telling us there is a less steep way.

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After lots of scrambling over snow covered rocks, we finally got the the turning point: the red trail aka “Breakneck Bypass”! This was the descent part of the route, which was actually more tough for me to go through because the snow was up to my calves at some parts. Going downhill in snow and ice was frustrating because it was VERY easy to slip and slide; for half the trek I just sat and slid down, which resulted in bruises on my behind.

Note: before we got to this red marker, there was a sign pointing to the right for the yellow trail — that’s not the way to go if you want to make a loop to go back to your car…

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And here ends the red trail, back to the “Route 9D” trail aka back to the starting point! This was another descent that was a little bit less annoying (less slippery I suppose) with the hope that we were almost back to civilization.


Here we are! I hiked this with new hiking boots that I just purchased the day before, the Salomon Quest 4D GTX. The high tops definitely helped prevent the snow from invading my socks and feet. The reviews were mixed on the waterproofness of it but I can say thank God I wore these! I could NOT have done this with sneakers (which we saw a few hikers wore).


We walked a small section of this road back to the car. Overall, it was an exhausting hike and not that many great lookout points; only one beautiful view which was seen in the beginning. Probably would not make it to my list of top hikes, but it IS a short drive from NYC — I will make another assessment when I come back under better weather conditions.

After a long hike (4-5 hours?), we went to the nearby Hudson House in Cold Spring for steak as per recommendation from my friend. Great complimentary popovers with strawberry butter to start with. I enjoyed my rib-eye more than the T-bone.

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