I often read articles titled, “Top Ten Hikes.” These may be hikes in Canada, the Rockies or Banff depending on the newsletter or magazine. They tend to be areas that are easy to access and appeal to the general population. Do I always agree with these lists? Yes and no. Yes, they are beautiful but I am spoiled living in the Rockies and am thankfully physically capable of hiking more arduous, longer trails.
What makes it on my list of top places to hike? Over the next few posts, I will run through my “Top Three”. On my list (this one might appear on a standard list for fall hikes) is Larch Valley in September, when these unique deciduous conifers turn a golden yellow. Lake O’Hara makes it on my list as well, a stunning jewel with alpine lakes surrounded by towering mountains. This one doesn’t normally make it on a “top” list because it is highly restricted, requiring an elusive bus reservation or failing that, an eleven kilometre hike on a gravel road just to get to the starting point. Finally, Skoki Lakes in Lake Louise is another favourite, which I elaborate on in this post.
What is it about Skoki Lakes that brings us back every hiking season? My attachment to this place is highly emotional, so maybe my “Top Three” is not the most objective but few lists truly are. How else is beauty defined? There is no scientific formula, though I suppose “Lakes + Mountains + Wildlife + Wildflowers = Wow”, is pretty close! What Skoki brings to me is all these elements plus a sense of inner peace, of amazement and contentment.
To get to paradise, one must start the journey on a rather un-scenic four kilometre fire road. I promise the rewards are worth it. Sometimes, however, the road is not so boring. We did run into a grizzly once (not an uncommon occurrence), which Gabor scared off with his booming voice.
The actual trailhead starts right before the ski area and winds through forest, eventually opening up to a generous vista of mountains and springtime wildflowers flourishing in the valley. Here, sits “Halfway Hut”, a good place to snack and rest up before continuing onward. The first lake is Ptarmigan Lake and if you only make it here, it would make that initial four kilometre stretch already worth it. With a little extra time and effort, hike along the lake and over Packer’s Pass. Skoki Lakes (which consists of Zigadenus Lake and Myosotis Lake) are within reach.
Although there are probably bluer, more spectacular lakes, Zigadenus and Myosotis Lake are breathtaking. Is it because it was a heart pounding, oxygen consuming journey to get to it? Perhaps. It is perhaps the sense of awe as mountains provide a backdrop to these peaceful lakes, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, with few, if any, people in sight. There is this sense of serenity, this absolute feeling that in that moment, time stops for me to appreciate everything in my life. Skoki Lakes charms- so much so, that my sister decided to include it in her book, ” My Great Canadian Adventures.” For more details, visit http://www.canadianadventurebooksbymonica.com.
There is an option to continue to Merlin Lake, which we did pursue one summer. At thirty-four kilometres, it was a long day indeed, and although we were happy we hiked it, Merlin Lake was not the magical a place we had hoped it would be. After hiking seventeen kilometres one way, I honestly pictured we would stumble upon Shangi-La from “Lost Horizon”. Unless you are planning to stay at Skoki Lodge or do a backpacking trip, Skoki Lakes is sufficient for a day hike, with a high reward to effort quotient. There were some highlights hiking past Skoki Lakes though, which included crawling through a hole in collapsed rock.