|Trailhead||The Fish Creek parking lot is in the Lake Louise Ski Area, east of Lake Louise Village.|
|Distance||10.4 km (6.5 mi.)|
|Elevation Gain||770 m (2,526')|
|Maximum Elevation||2,475 m (8,118')|
Packer's Pass is another option for backpackers travelling through the Skoki Valley, or it can be done as a day hike from the Fish Creek trailhead. Although its elevation is essentially the same as that of the nearby Deception Pass, I would rate Packer's Pass as a superior destination for day hikers because of the opportunity to scramble up Packer's Peak, the low peak that separates the two passes. If you are entering or leaving the vicinity of Skoki Lodge, Packer's Pass is a much more scenic and interesting option than Deception Pass, but it requires some simple route-finding and scrambling. Horse traffic is fairly steady over Deception Pass, but the Packer's Pass route is 'hikers only'. There is only a sketchy trail on the Ptarmigan side of the pass, but there is a well-beaten path for most of the way on the Skoki side. An excellent day trip would consist of taking the normal route to Deception Pass, followed by an ascent of Packer's Pass via the Skoki Lakes.
The first part of the route follows the Boulder Pass trail. After about 1 km from Boulder Pass, look for a grassy slope and possibly a cairn that indicate the beginning of the route to Packer's Pass. In fact, you should be able to identify Deception Pass, Packer's Peak and the grassy slope from the west end of Ptarmigan Lake. The direction becomes obvious after a short climb, and the pass is reached after about 20 mins. of hiking from the main trail. This map (75 KB), based on a Parks Canada pdf brochure, indicates the general location of the route. 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.
While the view from the pass is impressive, an even better one is gained by scrambling up the easy slope to the east. The climb takes about 15 mins. At an elevation of 2,605 m (8,544'), the summit of Packer's Peak provides a wonderful panorama of the area's lakes: Ptarmigan, Redoubt, Baker and Little Baker are visible, plus the two turquoise Skoki Lakes, Zigadenus (the upper lake) and Myosotis.
The route down to Zigadenus is straightforward; a trail reappears along the oddly tilted lakeshore. Cairns and a well-trodden path indicate the way to Myosotis Lake, and at the far end of Myosotis a prominent cairn marks the route down a gully to the floor of the valley. The gully is the most direct route down the approximately 15 m-high cliff that separates Myosotis from the valley floor. If you are approaching the cliff from Skoki Lodge, the gully is also well-marked and is just south of the outlet waterfall that is visible in the photo below. There is a giant rock lodged in the middle of the gully, near the top, that generations of hikers have remarked upon. It is easy to crawl underneath, even with a backpack.
After the gully excursion, the trail heads across a meadow and soon arrives at a junction: the right branch continues to the main Deception Pass trail, while the left branch crosses the Myosotis outlet and reaches the Fork in the Trail (literally) after about 2 km. At the Fork, turn left for Merlin Lake, or turn right and in a few minutes you will arrive at the (bridged) creek that flows in front of Skoki Lodge. Merlin Meadows campsite (Sk 18) is about another kilometre past the lodge.