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 visiting or living in the Calgary – Canmore corridor. From the Baker Lake campground there is the option to do the beautiful Skoki Loop hike around Fossil Mountain on day two of your adventure.
It’s worth spending two nights at the Baker Lake 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 Skoki 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 Skoki Loop appreciating that you will be covering the trail from Deception Pass to Skoki Lodge on three occasions in total.
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Best time to go: July – September but be prepared for biting insects at the Baker Lake Campground until later in the summer.
Trailhead: Fish Creek Trailhead close to Lake Louise
Fish Creek parking lot to Baker Lake Campground – 13.1 km one way
Baker Lake Campground back to Baker Lake Campground via the Skoki Loop around Fossil Mountain – 12. 4 km
Optional side trip from Skoki Lodge to Merlin Lake – 3.8 km return
Total kilometres from Fish Creek parking lot to Baker Lake Campground (day 1) + Skoki Loop (day 2) + hike back to parking lot from Baker Lake Campground day 3 = 38.6 km + 3.8 km if you do the side trip to Merlin Lake
Fish Lakes trailhead elevation: 1,690 m
Boulder Pass elevation: 2, 345 m
Deception Pass elevation: 2474 m
Jones Pass: 2,250 m
Skoki Lodge elevation: 2,164 m
Baker Lake elevation: Approximately 2,250 m
Elevation gain over 3 days: Approximately 1,200 m
Level of difficulty: Moderate
Time needed: 2 – 4 days depending on side trips to Red Deer Lakes, Merlin Lake, Skoki Lakes
Beware: Porcupines have a nasty habit of eating hiking boots and hiking pole handles in the Baker Lake Campground. Keep both stashed in your tent when you call it a night.
Bears: Take easy to access bear spray. Grizzlies are frequently sighted in this area. Keep it in a bear spray holster, so you don’t set it off accidentally.
Dogs: Permitted on a leash:
Backcountry camping reservations: Make backcountry campsitereservations online. They open on January 29, 2024 at 8 AM MT.
Baker Lake Campground: It is equipped with outhouses, tent poles, picnic tables and tent pads – if you could call them that.
Skoki Loop hike around Fossil Mountain from Baker Lake
Before leaving the Baker Lake Campground for the day, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and didn’t actually hit the trail until 10 AM. Our plan was to hike the Skoki Loop around Fossil Mountain – about 12.4 km in length – 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 Loop hike: Skoki Lodge to Deception Pass
After we retraced our steps back to Skoki Lodge we had 3 km of hiking under a hot afternoon sun to reach Deception Pass. The views were sublime in this section – especially of the Skoki Lakes and Skoki Valley.
Skoki Loop hike: 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 Loop 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.
Here’s a look at some photos of Baker Lake Campground back to the trailhead
Where is the Fish Creek parking lot located?
The trailhead for Baker Lake and the Skoki Loop starts at the Fish Creek parking lot. It’s located off Whitehorn Road just 2 km up from the Trans-Canada Highway on the way to the Lake Louise ski area. There’s lots of free parking.
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.