Six classic Invermere/Panorama fall walks
Fall is the best time of year for walking and hiking – with cool temperatures, clear skies, colourful foliage, salmon runs, snow-capped mountain peaks. Fall, of course, is summer’s denouement, winter’s prologue. A time to harvest carrots, beets and that last gasp at scarfless outdoor venturing.
Old Coach Trail
On the west side of the highway between Invermere and Radium, there is the Old Coach Trail. A flat walk through the spacious, grassy forest that overlooks the Columbia River wetlands and the Purcell Mountains across the valley. Views looking west from the Trail are expansive and spectacular.
From the Dry Gulch trailhead, walk to Radium if you so desire. Dip in and out along single track trails from the main stem out to the (safe) edge of the bluffs. Watch and listen to the odd train slowly chug on by down below. Look for one the many bald eagles that soar through these wetlands’ skies.
Markin-MacPhail Westside Legacy Trail
September 19th is the official grand opening for this paved, multi-use, non-motorized, dog-free pathway connecting Invermere to Fairmont on the westside of Lake Windermere. That’s a long day’s walk, the whole thing. Why not break it up? There are several points along the ~$10 million trail to park and start your walk. And once you do, wherever you start, look for interpretative signage, benches, viewpoints, restrooms, and so on.
A major community builder, the completion of this pathway is a watershed moment for collaborative, sustainable recreational development in the Invermere area. The north end has towering views of Lake Windermere and the Chisel Peak bejewelled Stafford Range of the Rocky Mountains to the south. The south end has a rolling forested field landscape that is much flatter than the north.
At the foot of Johnson Road at the trail’s north end is Abel Creek. Five years ago, the Abel Creek Fish Enhancement Project was completed. Kokanee can now swim as far upstream for prime viewing along the WLT of the annual fall fish run.
Ray Brydon Park
Located along the eastern shoreline of Toby Creek and south of the Panorama bridge, this park is perfect for flat, leisurely walks close to town. You can let your pup off-leash here while you watch Toby Creek rush by.
Dip into one of the paths carved out of the adjacent lush forest for variation. Sip your Stolen Church pumpkin spice latte while you solve all the world’s problems with fellow dog parents.
North of tiny Wilmer along Westside Road is the trailhead for the Wilmer Wetland Hike. It’s a nice walk along the west side of the Columbia River Wetlands. Across the valley, you’ll see from here the bluff you stood on the previous day along the Old Coach Trail.
Looking at the Wetlands from a western perspective gives alternative views on the same natural wonder. From this vantage point, the Rocky Mountains, with a splashing of early evening fall alpen glow, look positively Renoir, Monet, Lemaster (a local Invermere artist).
Lake Lillian Trail Network
Halfway between Invermere and Panorama is Lake Lillian: a fine little lake perfect for soulful early-morning kayaking or canoeing (no motors allowed). Across the road is the Lake Lillian Trail Network.
“The Johnson” as the area is commonly known has over ten kilometres worth of undulating trail, popular with walkers and mountain bikers alike. Well-mapped along the entire maze of path infrastructure, go for a walk in the woods and peer south across the valley overlooking Toby Creek Canyon. Vertical hoodoos drop directly down to the feisty creek from the edge of this trail system. Bring your dog, your bike, and your picnic for afterward on the shores of Lake Lillian.
Panorama Valley Trail/Fall Larch Walks
Avoid Banff National Park’s crowded larch hikes and check out the guided ridge walks from Playwest Mountain Experience at the top of Panorama Mountain. The larches are plentiful, the views are soaring, there’s chairlift access to the top, and more. One of the best fall walking experiences in the valley begins September 23, visit playwest.ca for more info and to book.
Wherever your legs happen to take you while walking trails in Invermere and Panorama, enjoy the crisp fall air and incredible scenery.
Author: James Rose
Author and Travel Writer based in Invermere