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Hiking to Taylor Lake in Banff National Park

Taylor Lake in Banff National Park is an enjoyable hike up the lower slopes of Mount Bell to a beautiful mountain lake. The forest along the Taylor Lake trail is quite lush, in large part due to the creek the trail follows for most of its length.

While we think Taylor Lake is a highly enjoyable hike near Lake Louise all year around, it is especially nice in the fall when the lake is surrounded by golden larch trees. On a clear day, the sight of a glowing turquoise Banff lake surrounded by craggy mountain peaks and golden larch trees is a breathtaking sight.

In the Banff larch tree season, you can extend the Taylor Lake hike to a nearby meadow, which has a massive stand of larch trees. With a stream flowing through the golden larch forest and Panorama Peak in the background, this is an excellent larch tree hike in Banff, without the crowds.

Taylor Lake Trail – Quick Details

Trailhead: Taylor Lake trailhead

Distance: 13.7 km out and back

Elevation: 907 m elevation gain

sitting at Taylor Lake with larches on the shore - best Banff Larch Hikes

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Taylor Lake Hike Highlights

The Taylor Lake parking lot is a popular rest stop along the TransCanada highway, drawn in by the picnic tables and toilets. The trailhead for the Taylor Lake hike is along the back of the parking lot. To begin hiking to Taylor Lake you need to go up and over stairs and a gate through a fence designed to keep wildlife away from the Banff picnic area.

Picnic table in Taylor Lake parking lot

The first leg of the Taylor Lake trail begins on a well groomed hiking trail through a lush evergreen forest. The hiking trail is wide enough for 2 people to walk side by side, making it nice for hiking with friends or as a group.

Taylor Lake hiking trail in Fall in Banff National Park

In the fall, there are many brightly coloured bushes, with many bright red and yellow leaves on display. The leaves of the fireweed flowers are an especially nice display of red. The altitude at the bottom of the Taylor Lake hike is too low still for larch trees to grow, if that’s what you came to see.

Wildflowers along Taylor Lake - Banff National Park

After 600 m of hiking along the Taylor Lake trail, you’ll hear, then see the charming Taylor Creek, which will be your companion for most of the hike up Mount Bell. The Taylor Lake hiking trail can get a bit muddy in spots in this area, but there’s usually a way through.

Mud along Taylor Lake hiking trail in Banff

After an easy 1.1 km of hiking along the Taylor Lake trail, the trail starts to climb and the trail becomes less groomed. From this point onwards, you’ll encounter sections of trail with protruding rocks and/or tree roots. You’ll be happy to have proper hiking shoes for this hike for traction and ankle support, but the rocks and roots are never really an issue.

The hiking trail crosses a wooden bridge along Taylor Creek at 1.5 km. After the bridge crossing, the hiking trail follows Taylor Creek from above for a while, although you can still hear it rushing down below.

This leg of the Taylor Lake hike cuts across a steep side slope. Despite this challenging terrain, the Taylor Lake hiking trail remains 2-wide. The forest on the left nearest Taylor Creek is very lush, owing to the humidity of the nearby creek. Mushrooms of all shapes and sizes grow happily in the forest shade along the side of the hiking trail.

wildflowers along Taylor Lake - hikes near Lake Louise

The terrain on the other side of the trail is equally enjoyable with many moss-covered shale rocks protruding from the hillside. This section of the Taylor Lake trail is really quite beautiful.

The Taylor Lake trail is high above the creek at the 2.8 km mark, but you can still hear its flow down below. At this point, the trail turns away from the creek for a short bit.

Many hikers stop to remove outer layers at the 3 km mark of the Taylor Lake hike. Here, the trees thin a bit and more sunshine makes it through, warming hikers who have been hiking uphill for the past 2 km. Kids of all ages will enjoy walking along the wooden walkways in this section which help hikers pass over muddy sections.

boardwalk along Taylor Lake hike in Banff

The Taylor Lake hike becomes noticeably steeper at 3.2 km when the switchbacks start. Although this is a steeper section of the Taylor Lake hike, it is never a grind and should be manageable for most hikers.

The switchbacks only last for approximately 700 m, when the trail levels off to a less noticeable incline. You’ll be rewarded for your efforts with the sounds of Taylor Creek again.

You’ll navigate a very rocky section of the Taylor Lake trail around 4.5 km. This section lasts for a few hundred meters until you cross a bridge made of rocks over the trail. Although it may get a bit muddy around here, you shouldn’t get your hiking shoes wet though as the water is well below the rocks. This section also marks the last of the steep sections of the entire Taylor Lake hike.  

The hiking trail hints of the end when the summit of Mount Bell appears through the trees at the 5.8 km mark of the Taylor Lake hike. The main summit of Mount Bell and a lower, secondary peak are dramatic rocky, pyramid shapes. In addition to the new mountain scenery, the sound of the nearby rushing Taylor Creek is also present.

Golden larches in Banff in September

The Taylor Lake hiking trail crosses the Taylor Creek for a second time at the 6.2 km. There’s a small, but beautiful waterfall upstream of the bridge here, which is worth stopping for a picture. There’s an unmarked trail junction for the Panorama Ridge East Route trail on the right, just before the bridge.

The final stretch of hiking trail before Taylor Lake features an open meadow with plenty of rocks, roots and mud (there’s usually a trail of rocks to step on). Mount Bell looks so beautiful and majestic as it looms large overhead. If your travels take you to O’Brien Lake and/or Boom Lake, watch for the trail junction on the left.

Sign at junction to O'Brien Lake and Taylor Lake

The final steps before arriving at Taylor Lake is noted by the sign for the Taylor Lake Campground (TA6). You’ll start seeing the first larch trees along this stretch, before arriving at the shores of Taylor Lake.

The scenery around Taylor Lake makes the long, uphill hike all worthwhile. The jagged mountain peaks of Mount Bell (2,910m), Mount Fay (3,235m) and Panorama Peak (2,872m) hug all corners of the shoreline of Taylor Lake. There’s a small waterfall flowing into the lake at the far end, below a small glacier. On a sunny day, the water color of Taylor Lake is a brilliant turquoise blue, rivalling the color of some of the most popular lakes in Banff. 

Waterfall at end of Taylor Lake - hike near Lake Louise

If you are lucky enough to enjoy the Taylor Lake hike in September during the Banff larch season, you’ll be in for a huge treat. Not only do you get enjoy the stunning scenery around Taylor Lake, but there’s golden larch trees wrapping around the lake and up the slops on Panorama Peak. The overall effect of Taylor Lake in larch season is pretty amazing.

Reflections of Golden Larches on Taylor Lake

This is an excellent place to stop and enjoy the scenery on a picnic blanket along the shores of Taylor Lake or on one of the three picnic tables in the lakeside meadow.

If you are hiking Taylor Lake during larch season and you have more energy, there’s a short add-on trail which turns Taylor Lake from a good larch hike to an outstanding larch tree hike. Behind the picnic tables (on the left) is a food storage sign (for the Taylor Lake campers). Just behind the food storage sign is a well-hidden sign for the Panorama Ridge trail (which apparently also goes all the way to Moraine Lake).

Sign to follow to reach meadow past Taylor Lake Banff

The Panorama Ridge trail is not maintained, but is well established and is very easy to follow. It’s a little steep with plenty of rocks, roots and fallen trees to navigate.

After approximately 500 m of hiking on the Panorama Ridge trail, the trail levels out and you enter a meadow with an extensive larch forest. With a stream running through the meadow and Panorama Peak high overhead, this is magical Banff larch forest. Here, you can enjoy hiking for another 0.5 – 1 km though golden larch trees.

walking through golden larches in meadow just past Taylor Lake in Banff National Park

In the peak of the Banff larch tree season, the Taylor Lake / Panorama Ridge hike is one of the best larch tree hikes in Banff National Park. This makes sense as the very popular Moraine Lake larch tree hikes are all around Mount Fay.

Past Taylor Lake is a meadow full of larches - best Banff larch hikes

The Taylor Lake larch tree hike is not as well-known as some of the most popular Banff larch hikes such as Larch Valley trail and Saddleback Mountain, making it a good alternative if the Lake Louise and Moraine Lake shuttle buses and parking lots are full.

Taylor Lake Trailhead

The Taylor Lake Trailhead is found in the Taylor Lake parking lot that’s found along the TransCanada Highway 1 between Lake Louise and the exit to Highway 93. There are signs along the highway warning you of the upcoming parking lot. The trail starts at the back of the parking lot, where you’ll see a large locked gate plus a set of stairs with a gate at the top of the stairs.

Walking through the gate to Taylor Lake hike - Banff National Park

The Taylor Lake parking lot just 28 minutes from Banff and an hour and 45 minutes from Calgary.

Taylor Lake Hike Stats

How Long is the Taylor Lake Hike?

The round-trip distance of the Taylor Lake trail is 13.7 km (one-way distance of 6.8 km) from the Taylor Lake parking lot to the lake. If you continue on to the meadow you’ll add an additional 1.6 km to your hike.

Taylor Lake in Banff in early September

How Hard is the Hike to Taylor Lake?

Due to the length and incline, we rate the Taylor Lake hike as “moderate”.

At 13.7 km and 907 m elevation gain, the Taylor Lake trail is a moderate Banff hike.

Don’t let this scare you, there’s nothing technically difficult about this hike and there are no really steep parts. The Taylor Lake hike is just a consistent, but gradual climb with sections that level off.

hopping across rocks to avoid mud along Taylor Lake hike in Banff

You can expect roots, rocks and muddy sections. All which can easily be traversed.

Once at the lake, take the time to soak in the beauty of this area! Find a spot near the lake or sit at one of the nearby picnic tables (if they are unused by campers).

How Long Does the Taylor Lake Hike Take?

It should take a typical adult 3.5-4.5 hours to hike to Taylor Lake. Add on an additional 0.5-1 hour to go to the meadow to enjoy the golden larch trees on this beautiful Banff hike.

meadow past Taylor Lake (Banff) is full of golden larches in fall

We did this hike with our two kids (8 and 5 years old) and a group of friends recently. It took us just under 6 hours to complete the hike, which included a nice long break at the lake for lunch and treats.

Taylor Lake Trail Map

The Taylor Lake trail couldn’t be easier to follow. It’s a wide trail leaving from the parking lot and there is enough signage as you approach the lake to find your way. If you are feeling uncertain, you can use the Alltrails app while hiking to Taylor Lake, but you likely won’t need it.

Taylor Lake hiking trail in Banff National Park

To find the Taylor Lake trail map in Alltrails, simply search for “Taylor Lake”. Be sure to download your hiking maps prior to leaving as the cell coverage is spotty at the parking lot and non-existent as you approach the lake.

A paper map isn’t required for this Banff hike, but if you prefer to hike with a paper map and compass as an additional safety layer, we highly recommend Gem Trek hiking maps. We own the entire set of these excellent Banff and Kananaskis hiking maps. They are exceptional 3D topographic maps which we love looking at for hiking inspiration.

The Taylor Lake trail map is found in the “Banff and Mt. Assiniboine” map. You can order it before your trip, or you can pick it up here as they are widely available.

Hiking Taylor Lake Trail with Kids

If you are visiting Banff with kids, this is a more challenging Banff hike with kids. The distance may be challenging for some kids, but it’s well worth it to make it to the top. Even kids can appreciate a view like the one you get at Taylor Lake.

Hiking to Taylor Lake with Kids

Our kids, who are 8 and 6 years old, recently completed this hike. While they are capable of hiking this distance, it can be a struggle at times. We were glad to have friends along to keep everyone motivated.

Don’t miss these other best Banff day-hikes with kids.

Where to Stop for Lunch or a Break

The obvious place to stop for lunch is at the Taylor Lake. It’s well worth it to stop here for a break to take in this incredible scenery.

Picnic tables at Taylor Lake campground

Taylor Lake Hiking Safety

Aside from a few sections with roots and rocks plus some muddy areas, there are relatively few hiking hazards along the Taylor Lake hiking trail. The trail is well maintained and easy to follow up all the way to the Taylor Lake.

first view of golden larches near Taylor Lake hiking trail

That being said, it’s still important to educate yourself on Bear Safety in Banff National Park. This should entail carrying bear spray, hiking in a group and making plenty of noise on the way up.

Cougars also live in Banff National Park. Learn more about Cougar Safety in Banff National Park.

Chances of a dangerous wildlife encounter in Banff are very low, but you never know what will happen with Banff wildlife, so be prepared.

We recommend you check the Taylor Lake trail report (under Lake Louise Area) for the Taylor Lake trail conditions, wildlife warnings and possible closures before you head out.

Taylor Lake Trail Logistics

Meadow past Taylor Lake - best Larch hikes in Banff
  • On-leash dogs are allowed on the Taylor Lake hike.

  • Mountain biking is not allowed on the Taylor Lake trail.

  • There are toilets and picnic tables in the Taylor Lake parking lot.

  • Plan to pack plenty of water and snacks for this hike. Fill your hydration packs before you leave.

  • You won’t get cell service for the entirety of your hike, so don’t count on it for your safety.

What to Bring for Hiking Taylor Lake Trail

This is a longer hike so you should be prepared with layers and proper hiking gear. Check out our list of hiking essentials with the hiking gear and clothing we recommend to get the most enjoyment out of your hike, regardless of the variable Banff weather and trail conditions. The Taylor Lake trail is a moderate Banff hike and we especially recommend bringing these items:

  • Bear spray is a must. Cannisters are available to buy or rent at many locations in Canmore and Banff. Carry your bear spray in an easily accessible location.

  • Water – the Taylor Lake trail is a consistent uphill climb and on a hot summer day you’ll want to ensure you have enough water. A hydration pack is an effective and eco-conscious way to bring enough water for a hard hike.

  • Bring several layers of clothing with you. The weather can be quite variable hiking in Banff National Park, no matter the season. For hiking in Banff, we typically wear convertible hiking pantsT-shirts, a fleece top and rain jackets. Bring a daybag as you can expect to put on and take off layers all day. For fall hiking, pack a down jacket or a warm soft shell jacket.

  • We don’t use trekking poles, but they can help with balance and to take pressure off knees on the descent.
Meadow past Taylor Lake is perfect for seeing golden larches

Taylor Lake Footwear Recommendation

The Taylor Lake trail is in decent shape for most of its length, but with the sections covered in roots we recommend hiking shoes or hiking boots.

A truly enjoyable hike in the forest with an incredible pay-off at the end.

Other Alberta Larch Hikes

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Don't miss hiking to Taylor Lake in Banff National Park. While this hike offers stunning lake views, it's even better in the fall during larch season. This should be one Banff hike for your list!

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