Lake O’Hara Fall Colors Camping

For the second year in a row, I decided to head to Lake O’Hara for some camping and fall colors photography.  I love this place.  Alongside awesome scenery including towering peaks and golden larches, access is restricted so its not too crowded.  Two ways to overnight at the lake:  Camping in the campground or staying at the Lodge.

Having no luck with the Lodge waiting list, I decided to camp for a few night and hope for good weather.  After an 11 hour drive from Seattle I was ready for an adventure.  I learned a lot from last year’s Lake O’Hara camping.  First was that it pays to bring real food and cook it at the campground.  Second, bring the warmest gear you have.

In the end, I overpacked a bit and got a lecture from the staff before boarding the schoolbus that takes you up the fire road to Lake O’Hara.

banff, lake ohara, camping, gear

Lots of gear and ready for cold overnight temps

I setup my tent on pad 26 and got situated for the days ahead.  There was a little less snow than last year so people were socializing around the campfire.  I relaxed for the rest of the evening since the skies were cloudy and the light wasn’t good.

My Mountain Hardwear Trango Assault tent at Lake O'Hara

My Mountain Hardwear Trango Assault tent at Lake O’Hara

I peeked out of my tent around 5am the next day and saw stars above so it was on.  I geared up and headed for the Opabin Plateau.  Having seen and photographed the view from the Plateau over the lakes, I decided to explore the larches and lakes farther in instead.

I found a winter wonderland of larches, frozen tarns and towering peaks.  A few of these are below.

Almost Frozen Opabin Lake and First Light on Peaks Beyond

Almost Frozen Opabin Lake and First Light on Peaks Beyond

Mount Huber Catching First Light

Mount Huber Catching First Light

Mount Schaffer Catching Morning Light Above Lake Opabin and Golden Fall Colors

Mount Schaffer Catching Morning Light Above Lake Opabin and Golden Fall Colors

Opabin Plateau Golden Larches and Towering Mount Schaffer

Opabin Plateau Golden Fall Colors  Larches

I wandered along the frozen trails for about an hour before the light lost its softness.  then I headed back down to the campground for breakfast and some rest. The lakeside cabins of the Lake O’Hara Lodge were basking in warm morning light.

Lake O'Hara Lodge Cabins Reflection Just After Dawn

Lake O’Hara Lodge Cabins Reflection Just After Dawn

Part 2 coming up…

 

Road Trip to Banff for Golden Larches and Fall Colors

The Enchantments Lakes Basin in Washington State is my usual Hiking to Fall Colors Larch Fest, but this year I put together a trip to the Banff area for some camping and Larch photography.  My friend and I had about a week to play with so I arranged some last minute camping at Lake O’Hara to start the trip.  From there we would head to Lake Moraine for Larch Valley and Sentinel Pass.  I’d heard reports that the colors were glorious mid September and a bit of snow had freed up some of the reserved months in advance camping spots at Lake O’Hara.

We spent two days at the campground and did a bit of hiking up around Opabin Prospect to capture amazing views that finally cleared up a bit on our last evening.  I brought my Mountain Hardwear Trango Assault tent, Mountain Hardware Phantom Zero degree bag and Kahtoola microspikes, all of which I was glad to have and made the trip a lot more pleasant.  We were warm and dry in the tent, I was warm in my bag and the spikes made getting up and back down the icy trails a lot safer.

 

View of Lake Mary and O'Hara from Opabin Prospect Voigtlander 10mm

View of Lake Mary and O’Hara from Opabin Prospect Voigtlander 10mm

We came back down after two nights and headed to Lake Moraine Lodge for some photography and hiking around the Lake itself and then up to Larch Valley and Sentinel Pass.  Lake Moraine was spectacular as always with a dusting of snow atop the Ten Peaks that surround the lake.

The next morning at 5am, we set out to hike into Larch Valley and up up to Sentinel Pass.  We hoped to hit the golden larches around sunrise and found ourselves in a wonderland of fall colors as the sun rose.

 

Fall Colors Wonderland in Larch Valley Lake Moraine Banff

Fall Colors Wonderland in Larch Valley Lake Moraine Banff

Eventually we headed back down the now-crowded trail, catching even more glimpses of Fall’s splendor in the valley.

The next part of our journey took us to Bow and Peyto Lakes, before heading back to Seattle. Peyto was crowded and not its usual impressive self so we headed up the road to Bow Lake and waited for dusk  The dusting of snow on Crowfoot Mountain made for a dramatic reflection.

The next morning, we headed back west towards the border and on to Seattle. In two weeks we would be heading into the Enchantments Lakes Basin for 5 days of backcountry Cascades fall colors and beautiful tarns.