Distance to Taylor Lake: 6.3 km
Elevation gain to Taylor Lake: 600 m
This is a hike to do when the larches are in season, which is usually around the end of September. The area around the two lakes in the area (Taylor and O'Brien), the surrounding hills, and the meadows are filled with brilliantly gold larches and jagged mountains and streams add to the beauty of the region. I've never been there in early summer, but apparently the meadows fill with wildflowers at that time too.
The trail to Taylor Lake is wide and reasonably graded, but you are gaining almost 600 m over about 6 km so it is a strenuous hike. It's viewless too, so make sure you make it to at least Taylor Lake. Most people do come this far, but a surprising number turn around before the meadows. GO! Don't be discouraged by the sign indicating a sketchy trail - it would be near impossible for a competent hiker to get lost or lose the trail; it's just not road-width anymore. While the remaining distance is officially 2 km with about 130 m elevation gain, this is to the back of the meadows. Only a 10 minute climb no more strenuous than what you've already done will lead you to open meadows filled with larches. From there you can wander about to your heart's content, sticking to bits of trail following a creek. Any elevation gain after this point is minimal and unnoticed.
Another worthwhile detour is to O'Brien Lake, the trail to which forked left (south) off the main trail just before you reached Taylor Lake. Again, the sign indicating sketchy trail must be aimed at the utterly incompetent as it's wide and obvious the entire way to O'Brien Lake.
While all these sights can be easily seen on a moderate day hike, we were eager to spend a night out in the mountains and so camped at Taylor Lake. I would not recommend this again, however. While the campground must be one of the prettiest around, it is ON the trail, and in larch season especially this means you will get no peace and will need to deal with nearly 100 tourists/day, many of whom do not realize the area is a campground.
It's worth noting that once the wind died down and the tourists left, Taylor Lake came alive with trout jumping for flies, and there were some big ones there too! There were easily many over a foot in length and I wouldn't be surprised if 16+ inches was common too.
As always, the photos are far more spectacular full-screen. Use the mouse-over function "dim-the-lights" or use the slideshow button.
Category:Lifestyle and Recreation
Keywords:Banff, Larch Meadows, Mt. Bell, O'Brien Lake, Panorama Meadows, Taylor Lake, larch