Backpacking Berg Lake
The Berg Lake Trail from the parking lot all of the way to the Robson pass is world renowned for its beauty. It was a man named A.O. Wheeler who convinced the government to have the trail built and Donald “Curly” Phillips who received the contract to build it. Curly began his trail blazing around 1913 and was well known for the “flying” trestle bridge that he built on the way up the Valley of a Thousand Falls (this was later destroyed and a safer trail made).
The trail is 22 kilometres and includes 7 campgrounds and a suspension bridge. It travels from the south face to the north face of Mt Robson and passes Kinney Lake, Whitehorn Mountain, Emperor Falls before finally winding its way along Berg Lake to the Robson Pass (and the Alberta -British Columbia border). Over the course of the 22km the trail gains 800 metres and crosses through 3 biogeoclimatic zones. At the top , of course, is the beautiful turquoise Berg Lake named for the large chunks of ice that calve from the 3 glaciers (Mist, Berg and Robson) that feed the lake and then proceed to float in the lake.
passes and permits
Camping reservations for the Berg Lake trail can be made online at the Discover Camping website - note that reservations for the 2018 backcountry camping season opened on 1 October, 2017.
Alternatively you can day hike in the area but must still check in with the Mount Robson Visitor Centre before departing. There is even an annual marathon/ultra-marathon that takes place along the trail in early September.
All hikers must check in at the Mount Robson Visitor Centre during the following normal operating hours:
May 10 to June 14 – 8am to 5pm
June 15 to a day after Labour Day – 8am to 7pm
A day after Labour Day to September 30 – 8am to 5pm
October 1 to a day after Thanksgiving Day – 9am to 4pm
There is no fee for visiting Mount Robson Provincial Park outside of camping and backpacking permits but donations tot he park are welcome.
where to camp
Before heading out to Berg Lake you will need to choose which campground you are going to stay at and make a reservation. Make sure to plan your trip ahead.
The options are (see map below)
- Kinney Lake. 7 km’s from the trail head. This is an easy campground to get to and an excellent place to spend your first night, especially if you are travelling with littles. There is an open cooking area with a roof and several picnic tables.
- Whitehorne. 11 km’s from the trail head. Consider staying here for your first night if you plan on getting in late, or need to break up the day - this is the last campground before the majority of the elevation gain. There is a stove (when the rangers deem it necessary) and a cooking area (no walls)
- Emperor Falls. 16 km’s from the trail head at the top of the switchback section. In all honesty I can not imagine staying here unless everything else was booked up.
- Marmot. Located at the beginning (most westerly end) of Berg Lake but has no amenities other than toilets.
- Berg Lake. The largest and busiest site on the trail.This is also the only campground with a true shelter - if you are unsure what the weather will bring this is what I would recommend (and also where we spent our three nights)
- Rearguard. The smallest site on the trail only 1km past Berg Lake campground. There are only 5 sites and I have considered booking them all for a weekend for a more secluded camping trip with friends.
- Robson Pass. Last campsite on the trail. It is right next to the Jasper Park, Mount Robson Provincial park border.
hiking out to Berg lake, where to stop
Distance from Berg Lake Trailhead: 4.5km/2.8mi (to the start of the lake, 7km/4.3mi to the end of the lake) one way
Hiking time: 75 minutes one way
Elevation gain: 131m/430ft
Known for its reflective surface and popularity for day hikers Kinney Lake is a perfect place to stop along the trail. We left our car at 4am (checking into the visitor centre the night before) and watching sunrise over breakfast along the shoreline of Kinney Lake. On the way back our departure was slightly later than 4am so by the time we reached Kinney Lake it was time to jump in the water and cool down. Note that you are able to ride bikes the first 7km of the trail to the far end of Kinney Lake where bike racks are set up. I would recommend a mountain bike and don't forget your lock!
Valley of a Thousand Falls (Whitehorn Campground)
Distance from Berg Lake Trailhead: 11km/6.8mi one way
Hiking time: 2h 49 one way
Elevation gain: 244m/800ft
This is less of a stop and more of a slow down. A suspension bridge crosses the river between the Whitehorn Ranger Station and campground. It is not hard to see where this glacier-laden valley got its name from. Note that the lower rockface on the righthand side contains the switchbacks you will soon be ascending - so fill up on water at the river here.
Distance from Berg Lake Trailhead: 16km/10mi one way
Hiking time: 4h
Elevation gain: 762m/2500ft
A quick 500m off of the main trail a large sign will point you to Emperor Falls (it also reminds you not to leave your backpack on the trial unattended) - we forwent stopping on the way in with our heavy packs and instead opted to tack on an additional 10km (RT from Berg Lake Campground) to stretch our legs and carry less weight. In retrospect I think I would still do it the same way - but I much prefer distance over weight. It is a necessary stop no matter how you do it.
Berg Lake Campground and Shoreline
Distance from Berg Lake Trailhead: 21km/13.1mi one way
Hiking time: 5h 30
Elevation gain: 788m/2685ft
day hikes from berg lake
Hargreaves Glacier Lookout
Distance from Berg Lake Campground: 3km/3.8mi roundtrip
Hiking time: 1h45 roundtrip
Elevation gain: 200m/656ft
From Marmot campsite near Berg Lake, this route climbs to Hargreaves Lake and Glacier. From the viewpoint you are able to see both the Hargreaves Glacier to the north and Berg Lake, Berg Glacier, Mist Glacier and Mount Robson to the south. This trail also has an extension with which you can connect to the Mmmm Basin loop.
Toboggan Falls and Mumm Basin
Distance from Berg Lake Campground: 8km/5mi roundtrip (this hike is a loop)
Hiking time: 3h roundtrip
Elevation gain: 300m
A steep alpine trail leads to views of the alpine lakes, mountains and glaciers. The trail can start or end in Robson Pass or Berg Lake campsites.
As of July 12, 2017 Mount Robson Provincial Park has this trial closed:
Due to recent landslide activity affecting the Mumm Basin Route and the Tobboggan Falls Route, they are closed for safety reasons until further notice. The Hargreaves Lake Route, accessed from Marmot Campground, is open to the Hargreaves Lake Lookout only; beyond that, it is also closed.
Robson Pass and Adolphus Lake
Distance from Berg Lake Campground: 5km/3mi roundtrip
Hiking time: 1h roundtrip
Elevation gain: 8m/25ft
A short but sweet hike. This trail passes the remaining two campgrounds as well as the Berg Lake Ranger Station and the Helicopter landing area. You will also pass the turnoff to Snowbird Pass. Adolphus Lake is located in Jasper National Park, Alberta and is the perfect nature walk to take after a large meal!
Distance from Berg Lake Campground: 22km/13.6mi roundtrip
Hiking time: 6h30 roundtrip
Elevation gain: 758m/2487ft
Snowbird Pass is closed May and June due to caribou calving. A challenging route marked by rock cairns (caution required), it provides spectacular views of the back of Mount Robson. From berg Lake campsite the trip is 22 km, return. Start north of Rearguard campsite, follow Robson River then travel up to Robson Glacier’s moraine. Hike up to an alpine meadow, beyond which is Snowbird Pass.
Distance from Berg Lake Campground: 25km/15.5mi roundtrip
Hiking time: 5-10 hours
Elevation gain: 1200ft/3937ft
Continuing on from the Snowbird Pass I considered this a 'no brainer' for a summit junkie like me. There was also a rumour that for the Mount Robson Provincial Park centennial celebration the Rangers had stuffed the summit register full of commemorative pins. For some reason this really set my decision. The scramble is fun and relatively straightforward but seemingly endless when you're on your way up. Upon arrival to the summit I found out that a school group had come a few weeks prior and cleaned out the pins. I cried. We didn't get to see the summit of Robson, it was pouring rain and were only able to get camping reservations at the Whitehorn Campground (making this a 50km+ day) it is still one of my favourite vantages from the park.
packing list for three nights at Berg Lake
- Hiking boots - I brought the Merrell Women's Siren Q2 Sport Mid Waterproof Hiking Boots
- Waterproof jacket - I brought my red North Face Venture jacket
- Lightweight wind jacket - I haven't gone anywhere without my little yellow Patagonia Houdini Jacket in over a year
- Down or synthetic jacket - I brought a Patagonia down jacket for early mornings on the lake
- Wool hiking socks - at least 3 pairs
- Long sleeve thermal shirt
- Underwear/sports bras
- Camp shoes (I wear flip flops)
- Refillable water bottles - I brought a 21oz HydroFlask for day hikes, and 48oz Nalgene for backpacking
- Backpacking backpack - I brought my 50L North Face Women's Banchee and had more than enough room on all of our trips.
- Small compact daypack
- Raincovers for backpacks
- Headlamp - I use the Petzl Actik Core headlamp
- Sleeping bag - I brought my North Face Women's Blue Kazoo
- Sleeping mat - I use a Nemo Astro Lite Sleeping Pad
- Camping pillow - This is something I swear by, camping pillowes are a game changer, my go-to is the Nemo Fillo
- Water Filtration system
- Small camp stove is mandatory for the Berg Lake trail
- Camp dishes and cutlery
- Breakfast,lunch and dinner for four nights (always pack one more night than you are camping)
- Snacks - I try to pack an energy bar a day and meat snacks for each day
- Nuun Electrolyte tabs
- Toilet Paper - no TP is provided on the trip although there are pit toilets at each campground (and composting at Whitehorn, Berg Lake and Robson Pass campgrounds)
- Toothbrush & Toothpaste
- Face Wipes - I am obsessed with the Ursa Major wipes
- Bug Spray!!
- Camera - I use the Sony a6000 - don't forget extra batteries
- Camping towel
- Bear Spray
Thank you to Caroline Foster and Erik Read for helping with several of the images featured in this post - tripods are awful conversationalists.