|Trailhead||The footbridge beside the swing in front of Skoki Lodge|
|Distance||3 km (1.9 mi.)|
|Elevation Gain||200 m (656')|
|Maximum Elevation||2,365 m (7,757')|
Merlin Lake may be the finest hiking destination in the entire Skoki area. The trail is a very pleasant hiking experience, thanks mainly to the diligence of Lawrence Grassi, who also built many of the trails at Lake O'Hara. Plus, although the trail ends at the outlet end of the lake, there is ample opportunity to explore the meadows and tundra above the lake, or to scramble up for a closer view of the rock pinnacles that form Merlin Castle.
The trail begins at the swing that is just in front of Skoki Lodge. Cross the creek on the footbridge and head south on the trail for a few hundred metres until you arrive at a signed junction - the Fork in the Trail. The main trail continues to Skoki Lakes and Packer's Pass while the right branch heads to Merlin Lake. After a short section in the forest, the trail begins a gradual ascent across an open boulder slope. About halfway up the headwall, there are striking views down to turquoise Castilleja Lake. There are one or two gullies near the top of the trail that may require the use of one's hands, but the scrambling is fairly easy (if the trail isn't icy) and the route is generally easy to find. However, for the return trip, it is a good idea to note the location where the trail climbs the final steep part and emerges onto a bench beside the lake.
If you walk around to the north side of the lake and head up the larch meadows in a northwesterly direction, you will eventually reach the stream that flows from the tarns below Merlin Castle. After ascending this stream for about half an hour, one is rewarded with a beautiful, level meadow that provides excellent views of Merlin Lake, Merlin Castle and the pool known as Dragon's Drink. This area can also be accessed by a fair trail that begins near the lower end of Merlin Lake. If you can spot the sign that marks the horse trail back to the camp along the north side of the valley, then you are about 100' from the first cairn that marks the trail leading up the valley to the Drink
Another trail to Merlin Lake begins on the west side of Merlin Meadows campsite, Sk 18. This trail crosses the south side of the meadow and ascends to Castilleja Lake, then joins the Merlin highline (Grassi) trail above the upper end of the lake. I found this way dry but rooty in September, but it might be a boggy mess in the summer. It's probably easier to ascend than descend in all seasons, and in any case it's less scenic than the highline trail which begins only 15 min. from the campsite and is high and dry all the way. This map (75 KB), based on a Parks Canada pdf brochure, indicates the general location of the trails. Click here to view a map of the Skoki Valley that is made from sections of the Hector Lake 82 N/9 and Lake Louise 82 N/8 topographic maps. Additional photos are posted here.