Hiking a Loop Trail in the Skoki Area, Banff National Park
Last week I wrote about my backpacking trip up to stunning Baker Lake in the Skoki area. But what I didn’t mention is the beautiful loop hike that you can do starting and ending at the Baker Lake Campground. It’s worth spending two nights at the campground so you can do this.
Near Cotton Grass Pass
Before leaving the campground for the day we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and didn’t actually hit the trail until 10 am. Our plan was to hike about 15 kilometers with only a day pack. We chose to hike the trail in a counter clockwise direction – for no particular reason – heading first for the meadows en route to the Red Deer Lakes. It looked like bear and moose country to us but the only living creature we saw was the Richardson’s ground squirrel. Still my brother was prepared with bear spray and bear bangers - just in case.
We heard the Richardson’s ground squirrel before we saw it
My brother armed with bear spray and bear bangers
At the junction to the Red Deer Lakes we veered west towards Skoki Lodge. You have to cross Jones Pass but at most that’s a few hundred feet of climbing. From the campground all the way to Skoki Lodge the hiking is easy.
Heading west in the direction of Skoki Lodge over Jones Pass
A view of Skoki Lodge from the trail to Merlin Lake
From Skoki Lodge there is a trail up to Merlin Lake. We decided to investigate but didn’t end up going all the way – just enough to get a view of Skoki Valley and the rock wall hiding Merlin Lake.
The swimming hole near Skoki Lodge if you don’t mind freezing cold water
There really is a fork on the trail on the way to Merlin Lake
View of the Skoki Valley from the Merlin Lake trail
Merlin Lake is behind the rock wall in the distance
After we retraced our steps back to Skoki Lodge we had three kilometers of climbing under a hot afternoon sun to reach Deception Pass. The views were sublime in this section – especially of the Skoki Lakes and Skoki Valley.
The turquoise coloured Skoki Lakes are off in the distance
Looking down Skoki Valley from Deception Pass
Remnants of snow at Deception Pass
From the top of Deception Pass it takes about an hour to hike back to the Baker Lake Campground – and it’s all either flat or downhill.
The approach to Baker Lake from Deception Pass
We didn’t get back to the campground till about 5 – so with breaks and lunch we averaged a couple of miles an hour. At the campground the deer flies were nasty late in the afternoon – but fortunately slow, stupid and easy to kill. The area does have a reputation for lots of biting insects.
On the Skoki area trails you can expect to meet horses – which we did on the way down on the third day. We also found the wildlife and the birds far more prolific early in the morning – and if you leave early enough the light is fantastic for photography too.
Calm waters of Ptarmigan Lake early in the morning
Beautiful light on our early morning descent
Skoki Lodge gets supplies via horses
We came across willow ptarmigan in several places on the way out
A marmot on the trail
Three marmots remain frozen hoping we don’t see them
Although the Skoki area is very busy with hikers and backpackers – and is in fact one of the busiest in Banff National Park , it’s still worth visiting. You really need two nights and three days to get the full experience.
Have you done any hiking in the Skoki area?
Vote for my article on WorldTravelist.com, sharing the best travel content on the web.