Skoki Loop is a great hike, whether this is your first backpacking trip or you are an experienced adventurer looking to get away from the crowds of Lake Louise. The loop includes some elevation, but hikers will also enjoy scenic valley meadows. There are four backwoods campsites along the loop to help preserve the wildlife in the area. Camping at Baker Lake Campground and Merlin Meadows offers a three-day, two-night trip that splits the loop up evenly.
The trail starts at Fish Creek Trailhead. This is the service road for Skoki Lodge and Lake Louise Ski Resort, where you may be lucky enough to hitch a ride with one of the workers because this is the least fun part of the hike. From the access road, follow the trail signs to Skoki Lodge and then onto Baker Lake. The trail here is in a wooded area scattered with ski trail openings. About half way to Baker Lake you will reach the aptly named “half-way hut” as well as an outhouse (bring your own toilet paper). This is a good place for a quick snack. The first sign does not show Baker Lake; follow the sign for Hidden Lake for a short walk and you will find another sign that points you toward Deception Pass and Baker Lake. This section of the trail takes you toward Ptarmigan Lake. The combination of the elevation and the views looking back on the trail are breathtaking. Reaching Ptarmigan Lake is a very scenic location for lunch and even a quick dip if you not mind freezing glacial water.
Follow the trail around Ptarmigan Lake toward Deception Pass. There is a “high road” and “low road,” and both will take you to the pass. The “low road” is the path that the horses use typically use, so be on the lookout. Once you reach Deception Pass, take the left up the path if you are going to Merlin Lake; hikers staying at Baker Lake will stay to the right.
The second day includes very little elevation and will take travelers through an alpine valley spotted with creeks, wildflowers, and beautiful lakes. Keep an eye out for wildlife ranging from bears, moose, and elk to smaller creatures including ptarmigan, spruce grouse, marmot, and Richardson’s ground squirrel. With all the small creatures running around, large birds of prey can also be seen. Banff is active bear country for both grizzlies and black bears, and carrying bear spray is a must.
As you make your way through the meadows you will pass a horse paddock. Some of the signs here can be easy to miss, so make sure you are paying close attention. The trail dips into tight woods before making it to Merlin Meadows. Skoki Lodge is 1 kilometer away if you are not looking to rough it for the night.
The hike out from Merlin Meadows passes Skoki Lodge and then continues over Deception Pass. You will get views of the hidden Skoki lakes that are the eye popping bluegreen of glacial lakes in this area. Once you descend Deception Pass you'll backtrack around Ptarmigan Lake to the half-way hut and back to the access road and eventually the parking area.