Skoki: Fish Creek to Merlin meadows, and Hidden lake

Skoki Valley should be at the top of your backpacking trip lists for Banff National Park. No wonder why it's been visited year round for over a 100 years; It is highlighted by its incredible subalpine ecoregion featuring pristine lakes, impressive passes and charming forests. Notably, you'll have the chance to admire many views over the treeline and vast meadows, and to visit many lakes such as Hidden lake, Ptarmigan Lake, Merlin lake, and more.

Is this Trip for me?

This trip was designed to really enjoy our time in the backcountry. Besides the first day that requires a greater effort for a fairly long distance, the remaining days are meant to be taken easy to make the most of our time in this fascinating environment.

 

This trip is rated easy to moderate based on distance, elevation gain and terrain.

We will be hiking at a regular and steady pace and we will travel an average of 9,7 kilometres/day with some elevation gain up to 785 metres carrying a backpack weighting up to 16 kg(35 lbs). Participants will be carrying personal clothing and gear, and equitable share of group gear and goods (food, tents, stoves, fuel, etc.).

All trails are generally in good shape but we will travel on rugged terrain.

Prior backpacking experience is not mandatory but is recommended. You must be in good physical condition and it it suggested that you train prior to this trip.

Itinerary

 

Day 1: Fish Creek to Merlin Meadows

At 7 am we meet at a prearranged location in Banff. We will go over the trip details with you and make sure you have all the needed gear before leaving for the Fish Creek trailhead.

Duration: Approx. 30 mins

We drive along the Trans-Canada Highway then we turn towards the Lake Louise Ski Resort and branch right to park at FishCreek trailhead.

Driving: Approx. 60 mins

Our day starts with a leisurely walk up the Temple Road which leads us to the back of Lake Louise Ski Resort. From there, the trail enters the forest and climbs slowly to the historical Halfway Hut and we will come out at treeline where we will remain for most of the day. A last little push up to Boulder Pass will reveal us the Skoki Valley, Ptarmigan Lake nearby and Baker Lake in the distance. The trail skirts that first lake and angles up to the top of Deception Pass; an open slope that climbs steadily. From the top of pass, it is a mellow descent back to tree line and we will pass by a National Historic Site; Skoki Lodge before we complete our long journey with a short walk to Merlin Meadows campsite that we will call home for 2 consecutive nights.

Distance: 15,8 kms. Elevation gain: 785 meters, 375 meters loss.

Day 2: Explore and relax. Lakes and wonders

This is meant to be a leisure day where time is not an issue and when we are ready, we will go explore the meadows and lakes closeby. There are many options for us today but a good option is certainly visiting the Red Deer lakes. This is the perfect day to  take it all in and make use of your photography talents! We can take as much time as we need before heading back to our campground 

Distance: +-9 kms. Elevation gain: low

Day 3: Merlin Meadows to Hidden lake

After a hearty breakfast and a smooth morning, we will pack our bags and get ready for another great day. Depending on the group's interest at that point, there's an option to visit the Skoki Lakes in the first portion of the day. Then, we will make our way back  to Boulder Pass before setting up our last camp at the Hidden lake campground. An easy walk to the nearby lake can be done either on that day or the next morning.

Distance: 8,5 kms. Elevation gain: 375 meters, 275 meters loss.

Day 4: Hidden lake to Fish Creek trailhead

On this last day of our trip, there's no need to rush. We will enjoy our meal while absorbing as much as we can from our environment before moving on. An optional walk to hidden lake seems like a perfect option to fill our morning. We will then come back to the Fish Creek trailhead. Extra activities for that day are available and can be discussed when booking this trip.

Distance: 7,3 kms. Elevation loss 510 meters.

What's Included

Professional Hiking Guide

Our Hiking Guide has 12 years exploring the Canadian Rocky Mountains and some other parts of the continent. He is a certified Hiking Guide of the ACMG (Association of Canadian Mountain Guides). He is also a member of the IGA (Interpretive Guide Association) and an accredited Wilderness First Responder.

Complementary certifications: ACMG Hiking Guide Winter Travel, AST1 (Avalanche Safety Training Level 1).

Your guide speaks 3 languages: French, English and Spanish.

Gear
We supply group camping and cooking equipment, as well as an emergency communication device, bear spray, water purification equipment and a backcountry emergency first-aid kit. You will need to bring personal backpacking equipment and clothing. 

Food

We provide all meals and snacks on this trip; from lunch on the first day to lunch on the last day. We make healthy and nutritious meals to keep you energized throughout the whole trip . You will be consulted for food preferences and allergies when booking.

Transportation

We provide transportation from your accommodation in Banff or Canmore to the trailhead and back. Different pick-up locations can be discussed as well. We can also offer a shuttle from Calgary to your accommodation for a reasonable rate. 

Camping and parks fees

The backcountry camping fees as well as the Park ‘Wilderness Pass’ are included. Also, valid entry day passes to the National Parks for the duration of the backpacking trip are covered.

Equipement List

Having the right gear is key to safety in the mountains. We have to be ready for the Rockies' unpredictable weather and also to be ready to stay warm in case of emergency. Here's a list of the gear you need to bring:

Footwear
  • Hiking boots: ​You need hiking boots with a great ankle support, good tread and sturdy soles. They also have to be waterproof. Make sure you spend time to get used to them and that they are broken in before the trip. Uncomfortable boots could literally ruin your trip. 

  • Light Footwear: Crocs, active sandals or running shoes for the occasional creek crossing and use around camp.

Gaiters(optional)
  • ​Gaiters are really helpful, especially in early and late season and when encountering snow, rain or dew. They will help keep your socks and your boots dry and they will prevent the debris from getting stuck in your boots.

Clothing

Layers, layers, layers!

  • Socks​

    • Wearing an appropriate pair of socks can make a big difference on your footwear fit and comfort during the hike.  

    • Good choice: wool hiking socks. ​

    • Bring at least 3 pairs.

  • Base layer: short or long sleeves. 

    • Good choice: merino wool, synthetic materials.​

  • Mid-layer 1: Medium weight (i.e. fleece, wool).

  • Mid-layer 2: Thick layer (i.e. thick fleece, down jacket)

  • Waterproof Jacket: with hood.

    • Good choice: Gore-Tex or equivalent.

  • Light weight pants or convertibles. 

    • Good choice: nylon.

    • No jeans.

  • Gloves or mittens.

    • Good choice: Gore-Tex or equivalent.

  • Sunhat or cap.

  • Hat/Tuque, ear warmers or Buff.

  • Waterproof pants.

    • Good choice: with side zippers, Gore-Tex or equivalent.​​​

Gear
  • Large Backpack: 55 to 75 L. Keep in mind that you will be transporting your fair share of group camping gear and food(usually 10-20L of space)

  • Pack Cover: You need to keep your gear dry at all time so a cover big enough to protect the entire outside of your pack. It is also recommended to put your gear in dry bags or whichever plastic bags.

  • Sleeping Bag: We recommend a 3 season sleeping bag with a rating of 0ºC to –9ºC. At any time of the year, it is frequent to encounter cold temperatures that can drop below freezing at night.

  • Sleeping Mat – Lightweight “Therm-a-rest” mats are recommended. They should be at least the length of you body. 

  • Pillow – A small, compressible pillow or a spare stuff sack into which you can stuff extra clothes to create a pillow.

  • Trekking poles: helps reduce impact on knees and back, specially on the way down. Must be collapsible.

  • Water Bottle/bladder: 1-2 Liters capacity.

  • Sunglasses with 100% UV protection (with a hard case recommended).

  • Headlamp: Make sure you have fresh batteries. 

  • Sunscreen and lip balm: Strong with UV protection.

  • Personal toiletries including hand sanitizer: keep to minimum and chose unscented products.
  • Mosquito repellant​​​
  • Personal First Aid Kit – Our guide carries a group first aid kit so keep this small. Band-Aids, blister care, Tylenol/ibuprofen, etc.

 

If you are missing any of the above, contact us to see if we can provide it for you.

Interesting information

The Skoki Valley is situated in Banff National Park near the Town of Lake Louise. It is home to many lakes and passes and is popular among backcountry hikers, skiers and climbers because of the untouched snow in the winter and stunning views all year round. To accommodate skiers in the 1930s the Skoki Lodge and Halfway Hut were built out of logs by local outfitters. This area attracts many people throughout the season because of its notoriety and spectacular attributes which makes it an unmissable Canadian Rockies trip. Skoki is a native word for "swamp" which does not actually reflect the valley.

 

The Skoki Lodge -National Historic Site of Canada- was built in 1930-31 by members of the Ski Club of the Canadian Rockies.The design and construction work was carried out by local outfitter and builder Earl Spence with help from Spud White and Victor Kutachera. The lodge has remained unaltered since its last expansion in 1936 and is a beautiful example of the rustic building tradition.

 

The subalpine ecoregion lies between the montane and the treeless alpine ecoregions. It is commonly subdivided into upper and lower subalpine regions. The lower subalpine region covers about 27% of the park and is mainly vegetated with dense forests of lodgepole pine, Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir. The upper subalpine region makes up 26% of the park area. It is primarily forested by Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir, interspersed with dwarf-shrub meadows, and avalanche path communities. The boundary between upper and lower subalpine regions is at about 2000 meters. - Parks Canada website -