Mt Robson Provincial Park - Berg Lake Trail Guide by Lonny Barr
- Distance: From parking lot to Berg Lake is 21 km, with 790m of elevation gain
- Difficulty: From parking lot to Whitehorn is easy, with only 240m of elevation gain over 11km. From Whitehorn to Berg Lake is moderate, with 545m of elevation gain over 10km.
- Hiking Time: About 3-4 hours one-way from parking lot to Whitehorn. About 4-5 hours one-way from Whitehorn to Berg Lake. I would recommend giving yourself minimum 4 days, 3 nights for this trip, longer if you have time.
- Camping Fees: $10 per person per night camping fee paid at Mount Robson Visitor Center. If you are going in July or August (especially on a weekend) it is better to reserve your campsites through Discover Camping (at a cost of $6 per night) You must register at the Visitor Center if you are camping, whether you have a reservation or not.
- How to get there: Mount Robson Provincial Park is located along Highway 16, just west of the BC/Alberta border and border to Jasper National Park.
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- This trail is probably best between early summer and late fall. There is significant snowpack at higher elevations until June or so, depending on the snowpack/weather. The weather can deteriorate quickly at higher elevations. Always dress appropriately and watch the weather carefully.
- Once you make it to Berg Lake, there are so many options for day hikes in the area that can be done. You could easily spend a week up there and not tire of the scenery.
- Water is easily available from rivers and lakes. Above Berg Lake water sources are less common so use your judgment based on where you are heading. All water should be treated before consumption.
- There are many campsites along the trail to choose from. There are wooden platforms for tents and outhouses as well as bear caches.
- There are no fires permitted in Mount Robson Provincial Park at any time of year.
- Dogs are not allowed on overnight trips and must be leashed at all times if visiting the area for a day-hike.
- Snowbird pass is closed during May and June due to caribou calving.
The Rocky Mountains are one of the most spectacular places in the world. They provide a setting that is unmatched for outdoor recreation. With gigantic peaks, turquoise lakes, and rumbling glaciers, it is one of the most scenic areas that you could ever imagine. Mount Robson is the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, and provides a backdrop to the Berg Lake Trail. The trail follows the Robson River and ascends through the Valley of a Thousand Falls to Berg Lake, where you can make a home base for tons of unbelievable day hikes in the alpine.
I did this hike with my fiancée in July 2012 during a 10-day road trip through the Rockies. We were incredibly lucky with the weather, having clear skies 3 out of the 4 days we spent there. Mt. Robson is so massive that it creates its own microclimate. The peak is often hidden behind clouds, and the forest in the valley below hosts an old-growth forest that more closely resembles the west coast of B.C. than the Rockies. In fact, the rainforest found in the Robson Valley is the world’s most extensive inland rainforest. Following the trail up the valley you pass some massive red cedars that are over 1200 years old, 3.5m in diameter, and 45m high.
Since it was about 34 degrees, Jordan and I decided to take advantage of the long days and not start the hike until about 4pm. This helped us to avoid hiking in the heat of the day and also helped avoid the big crowds on the lower portion of the trail below Kinney Lake. The early part of the trail is incredibly easy, with lots of families, bikers, dogs, etc heading up for day trips to Kinney Lake. The trail follows along the Robson River and because of the hot weather there were some parts of the trail that were actually flooded over with high water. There are a couple of spots as you approach Kinney Lake with great views of a gulley on Mt. Robson’s south face that cuts through 200 million years of rock layers.
We soon arrived at Kinney Lake, which has a teal green colour to it and is surrounded by some big peaks. It was still really hot out, so I took a refreshing swim in the cold green water before continuing up towards Whitehorn. At this point the trail starts to gain a little bit of elevation, and you begin to climb above the river delta that flows into Kinney Lake and into a large valley. Just before Whitehorn, there is a large suspension bridge that crosses over the Robson River. The campground here is beautiful, right along the river with a large sheltered area for cooking meals and meeting new friends. After setting up camp, we had dinner with a guy who hiked up the trail pulling a hard-sided cooler on wheels with all his camping gear duct-taped to the top instead of a backpack. Then we shared some backpacking stories with a few other groups of people from around the world before heading to bed.
We woke up to another beautiful sunny day and had a good breakfast before packing up camp and starting our trek up to Berg Lake. As I was filtering some water from a nearby stream, a porcupine wandered out of the bush about 10 feet away. After staring at each other for a few seconds, he puffed up his spikes and then returned back into the bush where he came from. The trail continues along the river until it crosses over a bridge with a good view of White Falls. From here, you really start to gain elevation as you climb into the Valley of A Thousand Falls. There are a few nice viewpoints for various waterfalls as you climb the valley, but by far the most impressive is Emperor Falls at the top. There is a short side trail that takes you to the base of Emperor Falls, which has an unbelievable view of this giant waterfall and Mt. Robson looming above it, and allows you to look down the valley that you just climbed.
After this point the trail starts to level out a bit, and soon the views begin to open up as you approach Berg Lake. When you first reach the shores of the lake, you get a great look at Mt Robson’s heavily striated Emperor Face, with the Mist Glacier hanging below. The trail follows the shoreline of the incredibly turquoise lake to the northwestern corner, where the Berg Lake Campground is situated. From here, you have an amazing view of Mt. Robson and the Berg Glacier from the shoreline as well as many of the campsites.
It was the middle of a hot afternoon when we arrived at the lake, and we decided we should go for a swim in its frigid waters. The lake gets its name from the many icebergs floating around in it, which are a result of the Berg Glacier calving large chunks of ice into the lake below. We fell asleep that night listening to the glacier rumbling like thunder in the distance.
Clouds had rolled in overnight and we had an overcast and drizzly day to head up into the alpine. There are many different routes to choose from, we opted for Mumm Basin. The trail begins slightly past the Campground, and climbs the Toboggan Falls route steeply up the mountainside and has some great views looking down at Berg Lake. At the top of the Toboggan Falls route, you can head west towards the Hargreaves Glacier, continue straight ahead further to Toboggan Falls, or head East towards Mumm Basin. As you climb the trail towards the basin you cross a few huge boulder fields, with some rocks the size of houses. From here, we saw a giant piece of ice come crashing off the glacier and into the lake.
The trail rolls through the high alpine, with a maximum elevation of around 2125m. It crosses the BC/Alberta border to a cliff with a great view of Adolphus Lake and the Robson Glacier across the valley before heading steeply back down the the valley floor at the Robson Pass Campground.
We woke up early to clear skies and packed up camp and start the 21km journey back to the trailhead. We detoured for another view of Emperor falls, had lunch at Whitehorn and stopped for a swim in Kinney Lake. The scenery was just as breathtaking on the way down, and Jordan and I decided that this was the most beautiful hike we’d ever done.
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