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The Taylor Lake hike in Banff National Park is a hike that’s more often chosen for the destination rather than the journey.
Taylor Lake Trail itself is unremarkable, with nothing much to look at other than trees, but the end point is a gorgeous lake and meadow nestled in a hanging valley overlooked by rocky peaks.
For those that are interested in a shorter backpacking trip, there’s a five-site campground in the fringe of the forest beside Taylor Lake.
Taylor Lake Hike
Distance: 14 km round trip
Elevation Gain: 602 m
Surface: Packed dirt, some sections have a lot of exposed rock
Trail Type: Out and back
Time: 4- 5 hours
Trailhead: About 8 km northwest of Castle Junction at the Taylor Lake parking lot on the southwest side of Highway 1.
Taylor Lake Trail Description
The Taylor Lake hike starts directly from a large parking area beside the Trans-Canada highway. There’s a board with some information about the hike and a simple map of the route.
To reach Taylor Lake Trail, you need to go through the gate in the wildlife fence. On the other side of the fence the dirt trail turns right and heads towards Taylor Creek, then proceeds west to roughly follow the creek upstream.
For the first kilometre of the hike the trail is fairly flat as it starts making its way through the forest. In places there are views of Taylor Creek flowing near nearby.
After about 1 km the trail begins gaining elevation. From this point it’s a long, sustained climb to Taylor Lake, but the incline is moderate and not steep. You’ll soon come to a wooden bridge crossing Taylor Creek.
As the trail continues upward through the forest, Taylor Creek becomes further away from the trail. There are a few places where you can look down and see the creek through gaps between trees, but eventually the creek curves away from the path and out of view.
On and on the trail goes, zigzagging through the forest with no change in scenery. Along the way there are some makeshift bridges crossing muddy sections on the trail.
As you get higher on Taylor Lake Trail, the surface changes from dirt to rock. There are so many rocks it’s almost like walking down a cobblestone street, except with an uneven surface and larger rocks. Having hiking boots with thick, sturdy soles will make travelling on this type of trail more comfortable.
Eventually there’s a slight change of scenery when the trail reaches another wooden bridge crossing Taylor Creek. This is a nice spot to rest before embarking on the final approach to Taylor Lake.
Beyond the bridge, the trail continues to gain elevation and finally you get glimpses of some mountaintops. These brief views are a welcome sign that the end of the trail is near.
It’s not long now until the trail exits the forest and arrives at a flat, grassy meadow near the lake’s outlet. Mountains overlook the meadow and Engelmann spruce, alpine fir, and larch trees frame its edges.
The ground here is often damp and the trail muddy, so try to choose the driest route without straying too far from the main trail.
Once you cross the meadow you’ll arrive at the east end of Taylor Lake. Mount Bell rises sharply from the shore forming a wall along the south side of the lake and Panorama Ridge is to the north. At the far end below Consolation Pass you can see a small waterfall flowing into the lake.
Taylor Lake is a beautiful place to enjoy a picnic and the scenery feels particularly inviting after a rather dull hike. The lake would be especially pretty in the fall when the larch trees scattered around the shore turn golden yellow.
For those that are really in no hurry to leave this delightful spot, you can camp overnight in the small campground beside Taylor Lake, but only if you’ve made reservations and secured a backcountry permit in advance.
If you’d like to extend your hike by exploring the area further, there’s a trail that ascends to Panorama Ridge Meadows to the north, and a trail going south 2 km to O’Brien Lake (you’ll see the signed junction when walking through the meadow towards Taylor Lake).
Once you’re ready to leave Taylor Lake, head back on the same trail you hiked in on. The return hike should take less time since it’s all downhill.
Review of the Taylor Lake Hike
The Taylor Lake hike is not exciting by any means, but will appeal to people who enjoy long walks in the forest. If you prefer a variety of scenery during a hike, then Taylor Lake Trail can feel like it’s never going to end, especially if you’re eager to see the mountains.
As uninspiring as the trail is, the same can’t be said for Taylor Lake. It’s a wonderful place made even better by the lack of tourists, who instead crowd around the similar-looking Lake Agnes in nearby Lake Louise.
Tips for Hiking Taylor Lake Trail
Location: Taylor Lake Trail is in Banff National Park located between the town of Banff and Lake Louise. It’s approximately 14.5 km from Lake Louise village.
Getting to the Taylor Lake Trailhead: The trailhead is accessed from the Trans-Canada Highway (Hwy 1). From Lake Louise drive south on Hwy 1 and from Banff drive west on Hwy 1. The parking lot at the Taylor Lake trailhead is on the southwest side of the highway about 8 km northwest of Castle Junction.
Best Time to Hike to Taylor Lake: Taylor Lake Trail is best hiked in the summer and early fall (September to see golden larches). The trail is muddy in the spring.
Facilities: There’s an outhouse in the parking lot at the trailhead and one at the campground by the lake (but you’ll need to bring your own toilet paper for that one).
Camping at Taylor Lake: It’s mandatory to get a backcountry permit if you plan on camping at Taylor Lake. Reservations can be made by calling the Parks Canada Reservation Service or through their website.
Visitor Guidelines and Safety: This hike is in bear country so bring bear spray and know how to use it.
- Leave no trace by carrying out all your garbage.
Gear and What to Bring: Sturdy hiking shoes with ankle support are recommended because of the rocky, uneven terrain in places. Waterproof shoes come in handy if the meadow is really wet.
- Hiking poles are nice to have for balance on the “cobblestone” sections of trail and if you want to take stress off your knees during the descent.
- Dress in layers and bring rain gear because the weather can change quickly in the mountains.
- Bring bug repellent if hiking in the summer.
Nearby Hikes and Activities
You may also enjoy these nearby trails and outdoor activities in Banff National Park:
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