There’s a few things I miss about living in the Southern Appalachians and fall color is at the top. The Northern Rockies are a majestic landscape, and put on a reasonable color show with aspens and various shrubs, but it leaves a bit desired when compared with the kaleidoscopes of colors that I was used to seeing in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. However, there is one amazing color display in the region that is absolutely stunning — subalpine larch.

Late September and early October are prime-time for larch in the Northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest and since I’ve lived here I try to never miss making at least one backpacking trip to enjoy them. This past autumn, I hiked into a subalpine basin that was filled with larch and timed it right at peak.

A well-trod trail led three miles to a popular lake and the larch on the hillside were in their seasonal splendor. I continued further up the basin and passed two additional lakes, the uppermost of which is one of my favorite places to camp on a short overnight trip. But the true prize awaited in a basin above that lake with a small meandering stream running through it and a forest full of larch. It was without a doubt one of the most magical places I’ve ever camped.