Taylor Lake Winter Hike

Taylor Lake is a great hiking destination during wildflower season. It’s also a somewhat under-the-radar larch season hike. And because it’s below treeline, we consider the trail to the lake outlet to have relatively lower avalanche risk. So in mid-November, we added Taylor Lake to our list of 2020/21 winter hikes. Mr. GeoK put together a Relive video recap of our half-day outing. And I’m finally posting our trip report here.

Getting There

Parking for the Taylor Lake trail is on the west side of the TransCanada Highway, between Castle Junction and Lake Louise. From the passenger seat, Castle Mountain looked beautiful.

Castle Mountain
Castle Mountain, like something out of a fairly tale. Taken through the windshield from the passenger seat while driving along the TransCanada Highway.

There were no other vehicles in the parking lot when we arrived about 8:30 on a mid-week morning. There are vault toilets, bear-proof garbage cans and recycling bins in one corner of the parking lot.

Trail to Taylor Lake

woman ready to hike
Mrs GeoK all kitted up and ready to get going!

To access the trail required a couple of steps up, passing through a gate in the wildlife fence, closing it and then a few steps down. A lost glove hung from the gate post, which got us wondering how often items found on a trail end up reunited with their owners.

man enters gate
Mr GeoK climbs up the steps to the gate through the wildlife fencing along the TransCanada HIghway.

Between skiers, folks on snowshoes and other winter adventurers, the trail was fairly well packed down almost all the way to the lake. A couple of downed trees pose a hazard for inattentive skiers, but just a bit of extra effort from hikers.

man climbing over fallen tree
Mr GeoK steps over a windfallen tree blocking the trail to Taylor Lake.

On the steeper parts, our MICROspikes were a welcome traction boost.

man on snowy trail
Mr GeoK on one of the steeper sections of trail on the way to Taylor Lake, fighting with clumps of snow on the bottom of his MICROspikes.

The only breaks we took on the way up were for photography, after noticing something interesting like the smiley face in the snow atop one spruce beside the trail.

tree topper of snow
It’s a bit hard to see, but the big ball of snow atop the tree has a couple of eyes and a nose – watching for winter hikers like Mr GeoK?

Once we reached the Y-junction the trail because much less packed down. This made us a bit uncomfortable, because the straight/right branch leads to the meadow above the lake, and into avalanche terrain. We hope everyone headed in that direction is aware of the risk and carrying appropriate equipment.

We headed left, remaining below treeline, for the final, short push to the lakeshore.

Taylor Lake

mountain lake
Dead evergreen? Or hibernating larch tree? Guess we need to make a return visit next year to confirm one way or the other.

While there was a faint track towards the campground/picnic tables, no one had been up this way since before the most recent snowfall. Mr. GeoK headed to the lake outlet to set up for a timelapse.

man at mountain lake
Mr GeoK beside the outlet of Taylor Lake, setting up a time lapse. Mount Bell on the left and center, Panorama Ridge on the right.

I tromped through the snow towards the picnic tables, almost buried under snow.

snow-covered picnic table
Snow-covered picnic table at Taylor Lake campground – no campfires allowed

The sun tried to warm things up a bit, but wind gusts and cloud soon had us pulling on every bit of clothing in our packs. Even so, operating camera gear requires exposed fingers, which soon grew extremely chilled.

Mount Bell
Mr GeoK in mid-thigh deep snow at the outlet of Taylor Lake, with snow blowing off the top of Mount Bell on the far side

I tromped back down the trail about, to find shelter from the wind where I drank a warm cup of tea and munched on a trail bar. Meanwhile, Mr. GeoK grew ever colder, shooting photos while babysitting his timelapse equipment.

open water
A bit of open water at the outlet of Taylor Lake

Return

Feeling a bit warmer, I headed back out into the wind to help Mr. GeoK pack up his gear. He was definitely ready to getting moving and get warmed up by the time we stowed everything away.

man hiking in snow
Time to get moving and warm up as we head back towards parking

We kept up a steady and fairly quick pace back to the parking lot.

snow covered bridge
Mr GeoK crosses the narrow bridge over Taylor Creek as we head back to the parking lot

The threat of snow turned to reality about 30 minutes from the parking lot. It was peaceful and quiet, with not even a single spruce grouse to watch – unlike our experience on the Boom Lake trail.

wlaking in snow
Snow started falling when we were about 20 minutes from the parking lot – totally changed the quality of light, look of the trail…and our speed!

Summary

The trail to Taylor Lake is entirely below treeline, which means it’s relatively lower risk for avalanche. It’s on the Park’s Canada list of difficult snowshoe/winter hiking trails in the Lake Louise area, with a warning of avalanche danger beyond reaching the lake.

Distance = 13.7 km
Elevation gain = 625 meters (625 net)
Hiking time = 3 hours 30 minutes plus 1 hour 15 minutes for photography/videography and rest stops (total 4 hrs 45 min)

One thought on “Taylor Lake Winter Hike

  1. Hmmm. Looks like a good snowshoe. Did this last year in the fall, missed Panorama ridge where the best larches were and Colin was not impressed. He thought it was boring. He is spoiled and likes a lot of scenery along the way.

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