Outdoors blog

Backpackers bask in golden autumn glow of alpine larch

 Alpine larch beging their autumn golden glow in early October at Sunrise Lake high above the Methow River in the North Cascades. (Tanner Grant)
Alpine larch beging their autumn golden glow in early October at Sunrise Lake high above the Methow River in the North Cascades. (Tanner Grant)

HIKING -- The alpine larch are putting on their annual autumn show of golden brilliance in the region's high country, from the North Cascades across the high Selkirks and Purcell Mountains of British Columbia.

The Alpine Lakes Wilderness has reputation for a sensational larch display, but local backpacker Tanner Grant just got back from a spectacle in the North Cascades where no special permits are required.

"We do a trip every year in search of golden alpine larch," he said. "This year we went to Sunrise Lake high above the Methow River and it was spectacular."

The snow was patchy around 6,300 feet and consistent above 7,000, he said, noting the hike to Sunrise is 13.5 miles round trip with a serious 3,700 feet of elevation gain

Larch  feature branches with needles that look somewhat like those on fir trees except that they turn color and fall off in fall like the leaves of deciduous trees. 

The western larch of the lower forests such as the Pend Oreille Valley and even Lookout Pass, are still about two weeks from prime time for yellow color displays.

But Grant says the alpine larch displays at higher elevations are likely to peak around this week.

Other favorite North Cascades spots on Grant's apline larch fall colors list include Cooney Lake, Eagle Lakes, Crater Lakes, Cutthroat Pass, Maple Pass, and Blue Lake for starters.

"Always check the forecast this time of year and plan for winter conditions," he advised. "Any precipitation will fall as snow."

Click here to see more of Grant's photos from his recent larch extravaganza.




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Rich Landers
Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.

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