The backpacking trip to stunning Baker Lake in the Skoki area from a fire road near Lake Louise is one of the more accessible ones for anyone in the Calgary – Canmore corridor. From the Baker Lake campground there is the option to do the beautiful Skoki Loop hike on day two of your adventure. It’s worth spending two nights at the campground so you can do this.
However, you don’t need to stay at the Baker Lake campground to do the Skoki Loop hike. Other options include camping at Hidden Lake for one night and then hiking the loop with only a day pack. Strong hikers could opt to head to Merlin Meadows campground for a few nights. On the second day you could hike the loop appreciating that you will be covering the trail from Deception Pass to Skoki Lodge on three occasions in total.
You might want to read: Backpacking to Baker Lake in Banff National Park
Skoki Loop hike from Baker Lake – head for the meadows near Red Deer Lakes
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 km 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 on route to the Red Deer Lakes. (There is a campground here as well.) 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.
Onward to Skoki Lodge
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.
If you want to spend a night or two in Skoki Lodge reserve well in advance. The food there is amazing.
The option to hike 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.
Skoki Lodge to Deception Pass
After we retraced our steps back to Skoki Lodge we had three kilometres 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 hike from Deception Pass to Baker Lake Campground
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. But it’s hot going on a sunny, summer day.
We didn’t get back to the campground till about 5 PM – 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.
Baker Lake Campground back to the trailhead
Booking the Skoki Loop campsites
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.
For information on trails in Banff National Park, visit their website.
Backcountry websites in Banff National Park are open to book as of January 28, 2022 at 8 AM MST.
Further reading on hiking in Banff National Park
- The Helen Lake hike in Banff National Park
- 10 Breathtaking Lake Louise Hikes, Banff National Park
- 10 Beginner Backpacking Trips in the Canadian Rockies
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