While the trail up to Taylor Lake is far from exciting, once you finally reach the beautiful lake in Banff, you truly forget that you just slogged up a mundane 600 meters to reach this paradise. Wondering if the Taylor Lake hike is right for you? Let us help you decide!
How to Hike to Taylor Lake
4 – 6 hours
Easy to Moderate
Taylor Lake Trailhead off the Trans Canada
Where is the Taylor Lake Trailhead?
The trailhead to Taylor Lake is right off the TransCanada highway, just a few km past Castle Junction. If driving from Banff to Lake Louise, it will take about 30 minutes to drive to the Taylor Lake trailhead, despite what Google Maps says.
There is a turnoff for Taylor Lake, specifically from the TransCanada, so keep your eyes peeled for it so you don’t have to drive all the way to Lake Louise, do a Uturn, and waste time. There are signs for Taylor Lake, but they can be easy to miss if you are not paying attention.
When is the Best Time To Hike Taylor Lake?
Taylor Lake is a year-round hiking destination. In the summer, it’s a beautiful lake to hike to and enjoy a picnic under Mt Bell. In the winter, it’s a popular moderate winter hike, snowshoe, and even a ski tour as backcountry enthusiasts make their way to Panorama Ridge.
However, in our opinion the best time to hike to Taylor Lake is during the larch season, which typically falls between September 20th and October 10th. The larch needles turn a beautiful golden color during this time before losing their needles before winter. Plenty of larches dot Taylor Lake and even more if you continue hiking up around Panorama Meadows. We consider it one of the best larch hikes in Alberta.
Taylor Lake Hike Route Description
Ascending 595 m (1,952 feet) over 6.3 km, the Taylor Lake hike provides a challenging but rewarding adventure. However, if you think the hike to Taylor Lake is going to be an exciting one, you may want to choose another trail. Although Taylor Lake herself is stunning, the trail up is entirely in the forest, providing very little in terms of views. The good news? It’s a pretty quiet trail, and once you reach the wide-open meadow that Taylor Lake sits in, your heart will fill with joy.
Upon arriving at the trailhead, a wildlife gate marks the entry point that must be passed through before turning right to begin the hike up to Taylor Lake. There are drop toilets at the trailhead.
The initial section of the Taylor Lake hike is relatively flat, though don’t be fooled, this flat section is short-lived. Once past the flats, expect a continuous ascent towards Taylor Lake. The trail gets noticeably steeper at the 3.2 km, where hikers will encounter switchbacks. The trail lacks any notable scenery until you reach the lake, as it primarily winds through wooded areas with occasional peek-a-boo glimpses of the surroundings.
Around the 6 km mark, you’ll encounter a pair of footbridges spanning Taylor Creek. The second bridge leads to a wet meadow and it’s around here you can decide if you want to venture off and extend your day to include O’Brien Lake—a side trip that we did not have time for, as we hiked through Panorama Meadows instead.
Proceed a few hundred meters further to reach an open meadow and eventually your main goal – Taylor Lake. There are plenty of comfortable spots to take in the surroundings, either on a log or at a picnic table nearby, and savor the scenic views. On the opposite side of the lake, you’ll see that Mount Bell majestically rises, and with keen observation, you’ll spot a small waterfall at the west end as well as Mount Fay in the distance.
To the right of the lake, near the camping area, a trail leads up Panorama Meadows, eventually leading up Panorama Ridge, an extremely popular ski tour in the winter. We hiked to the end of Panorama Meadows, for great views of Panorama Peak, but turned around as the day was fading fast on us.
Gear We Recommend for the Taylor Lake Hike
Many hikers will enjoy the security, comfort, and value in the Merrell Moab II. It’s a great beginner hiking boot.
Arc’teryx Cerium is our pick for the best down jacket. It’s incredibly light, and we bring it on almost every hike in the Rockies.
This nifty clip from Peak Design secures a camera to my backpack strap for easy reach. No more digging in the backpack!
A pair of durable and lightweight hiking poles are a great asset on the hiking trail.
20L feels like the ideal size for quick hikes and scrambles. We love the Nano from Gregory with a hydration reservoir.
There is not much cell service in the Canadian Rockies. In case of emergencies, we carry an emergency beacon with GPS.
Camping at Taylor Lake
On the northeast shore of Taylor Lake is a backcountry campground. It’s far from the most sought-after campsite in the park, but it is still popular, especially on weekends during the larch season.
How Long Does the Taylor Lake Hike Take?
The hike up to Taylor Lake (round trip) is 13km and 600 meters from the parking area. Up to Panorama Meadows is an extra 100 meters of gain plus 3 km of distance. It took our group 4.5 hours return to hike up to Taylor Lake and continue onto Panorama Meadows, with plenty of lunch and photo stops along the way. And LOTS of frolicking through the larches. We recommend allocating at least 4-5 hours for this hike at a moderate pace. Allow extra time if you hike to O Brien Lake or Panorama Ridge.
How Hard is Taylor Lake Trail?
Taylor Lake is an easy-to-moderate hike with no technical sections or scrambling involved. Just put one foot in front of the other, and you’ll eventually reach your destination. However, keep in mind there is some elevation gain involved.
Following the Taylor Lake trail is extremely straightforward. One would have to try very hard to get lost on this trail. However, the turn-offs for O’Brien Lake and Panorama Ridge are easy to miss if you don’t know they are there, so it’s best to go in with a plan of attack if you want to add these extensions to your day.
How Far is the Hike to Taylor Lake?
It’s about 6.5 km to Taylor Lake, and you can expect to climb 600 meters in that distance. At about 100 meters every kilometer, it’s nearly a constant walk uphill until you reach Taylor Lake.
How Busy is the Taylor Lake Hike?
Being right off the Trans Canada with a wide open parking lot Taylor Lake stays fairly busy, but these crowds are the most present on beautiful summer weekend days. While it’s far from the least trafficked trail in Banff, it’s nowhere near as busy as famous hikes like Johnston Canyon.
You likely won’t encounter parking issues unless it’s a Saturday or Sunday in the summer. We recommend getting to the trailhead early or later in July and August to avoid crowds. If the parking lot is full, have a backup plan of another Banff hike to enjoy nearby – Bourgeau Lake is not too far away (but that also has a small parking lot).
We hiked to Taylor Lake in early October to see the larches and were among one of the only groups on the trail. We’ve also snowshoed back to Taylor Lake in the winter and were among some of the only people on a mid-week winter day.
Is Taylor Lake Suitable for Dogs and Kids?
Taylor Lake is well suited for dogs as long as they are kept on a leash. Any kid who loves hiking will be able to complete Taylor Lake, though be forewarned, the trail is pretty boring until you get to the actual lake.
Taylor Lake in the Winter
Taylor Lake is a popular snowshoe in Banff in the winter and ski tour for backcountry enthusiasts. At nearly 7km all uphill, it’s not the easiest snowshoe in Banff, and truth be told, much of the route can be done as a hike, depending on conditions.
It’s important to stop at Taylor Lake in the winter and not follow tracks up Panorama Ridge, this is considered avalanche territory and you should have the proper knowledge and gear before continuing.
Wildlife Awareness On Taylor Lake
Even though you’re unlikely to encounter bears on this trail, hiking with bear spray anywhere in the Rockies is essential. You can read more of our tips for hiking in bear country here.
Other Nearby Banff Hikes to Check Out
From Taylor Lake, you aren’t far from Kootenay National Park in British Columbia. There are a few great hikes here, but our favorite easy one is Marble Canyon. If you are looking for another larch hike, consider adding Arnica Lake to your Banff itinerary. The area is alive with color come the fall season in Banff.
Hopefully, this helped determine if the Taylor Lake Hike is good for you!
If you have any other questions, comment or see our Canadian Rockies travel guide for more articles about photography spots, lakes, hikes, etc.
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