Merlin Lake is a 1.9 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Alberta, AB that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking and is accessible from June until September.
1.9 mile out/back trail from Skoki Lodge. Easy trail, except part crosses rock slide, requiring care, and a rock step also requires care. At top of rock step is short, narrow ledge. Return via Merlin Meadows involves downhill of 492', crossing boggy meadow, and 210' climb in 1 mile. The trail starts at Skoki Lodge, elevation 7100'. After crossing a footbridge, it climbs up through the forest to the treeline and above. It then follows along the lower contours of the Wall of Jericho. At this point, the trail crosses rock slide area, roughly evened out to define the trail. While the trail is basically easy and level, the rocky section requires careful footing. If you have knee problems, it can be challenging. Below, there are panoramic views of Castilleja Lake. Trail climbs steeply over the bluff at the end of said lake. Part of the last 1/2 mile involves a rock step about 4' high (Another challenge for bad/replacement knees, and crosses a short, narrow ledge. It then ascends to Merlin Lake, elevation 7382'. An alternate return via Merlin Meadows involves finding a green sign and some cairns at the north end (base) of Merlin Lake, and a sometimes steep descent through forest to the Meadows, elevation 6890'. After crossing a log bridge, the meadows can be boggy, and the undefined trail requires you to head by route of choice to a white sign on the opposite (northerly) side. At the sign, it is a 210' climb over 1 mile to get back to Skoki Lodge. About 10 minutes before the lodge, you come to a log bench overlooking a very scenic ravine carved by Skoki Creek.
My wife and I took this as a day hike from Skoki Lodge. There, the manager described it as an easy hike. I have to admit, it would have been easy, or at most moderate, if I didn't have bad knees, and my wife didn't have knee replacements.
We started in a rapidly melting 1/4" of snow from the night before. The hike across the rocks at the Wall of Jericho was easy for me, but a challenge for my wife, who had to pick her way very carefully. As we spotted beautiful Castilleja Lake below us, we also spotted a pretty, wooded trail beside it. We decided that we must have missed a trail junction, and had taken the wrong route - Wrong! We agreed to scamble/butt-slide down the rockslide to the other trail - about 1/3 mile. At the bottom, we set out on the nice trail, only to find that it soon ascended steeply and joined the higher trail we had left!!!! To make matters a little more worrisome, it started to snow - Thankfully, it didn't last, and it didn't accumulate (A group of "real" hikers who started with us, quickly outpaced us on their way to Merlin Ridge. They returned almost an hour after us (Odd considering our lengthy detour), and were turned back from the ridge by the same snow we hiked through - and through which we could clearly see the ridge).
After a brief snack, we continued on to a rock step about 4' high. Not a real strain for me, but it was tricky for my wife to figure out how to position herself to get up with fake knees. We then confronted the short, narrow ledge we had been told about. It wasn't too bad except that I have some issues with heights that mad the crossing interesting. A short hike then brought us to scenic Merlin Lake, surrounded by the Wall of Jericho and the Merlin Ridge. After lunch, we sought the green sign we had been told to find for a return via Merlin Meadows. It took only a few minutes to find the sign and trail cairns.
The trail was, as we had been warned, a sometimes steep, nearly continuous drop of 492', over about 2 miles to the meadows. After crossing a log footbridge, we found that the meadows were very boggy, and our boots were soon soaked. We spotted the white sign we had been told to look for on the other side and made our way to it.
The map we had been given indicated that Skoki Lodge was just past the meadow. In fact, the sign informed us it was another mile, and we discovered that it was a 210' climb! Thank goodness for the log bench overlooking the ravine, where we could rest, so that we weren't limping and so bedraggled looking after our adventure! Also, we got to see a very interesting woodland croquet set, with ramps to guide the balls over the very uneven ground. It gave us a good laugh that carried us back to the lodge.