When Banff, Jasper or Yoho National Parks are swamped by tourists who wish to experience all the beauty of the Canadian Rockies, smart travelers know that the pinnacle of the Rocky Mountains lies in the Mount. Robson Provincial Park. The world-class Berg Lake Trail winds around Mount. Robson, the highest peak of the Canadian Rockies, and leads you to the pristine glaciers, lakes for a close-up view of the awe-inspiring peaks. This trail is no doubt one of the most exciting backcountry hiking routes we’ve ever been to.
Berg Lake Trail quick facts
1- The Berg Lake Trail is a 23km (one way) backcountry trail with about 800m elevation gain. It takes you through different biogeoclimatic zones, offering views of waterfalls, lakes, glaciers and, of course, different angle of views of Mount. Robson.
2- There are 7 backcountry campsites along the trail, each with limited facilities and no food supply. For overnight visitors, you must bring your own camping equipment and food. Campfire is prohibited so a stove is mandatory.
3- The campsites are reservable from the Mount. Robson Provincial Park website. It is highly recommended to do so if you arrive during the popular season ( July & Aug.). All hikers must check in at the Mount Robson Visitor Centre.
4- Berg Lake Trail traverses wilderness areas where a large variety of animal species are found. The best-known mammals include black and grizzly bears, wolves, mountain goats, elk etc. Bear safety precautions are highly recommended.
5- Weather conditions can be harsh in the mountains. Snow is possible even in summer months. Please check the weather forecast and prepare accordingly.
Before the trip
There are few things to consider before the trip to the Berg Lake Trail. How many days should we spend there? Which campsites should we stay at? What are the activities around the Berg Lake? What are the essentials to bring?
Let’s first look at the campsites along the trail. From our personal experience, the Berg Lake campsite is the most popular one as it has an excellent view of the Berg Lake, the Berg Lake Glacier as well as Mount. Robson. Moreover, there are several day hike routes near the Berg Lake, making this campsite an ideal hub for a couple of days’ activities. If hiking 21km with ~800m elevation gain in a day is not a problem to you, the Berg Lake campsite would be a nice choice. Some people may prefer a quieter campsite, then the Marmot campsite is ideal – it lies along the southwest side of Berg Lake, with a very close view of Mount. Robson, and it is not too far away from those day hikes. If you want to hike the trail in a more relaxed way, then you should probably spend a night at the Whitehorn campsite and continue your hike to Berg Lake the following morning.
Personally, I would recommend a total of 3-5 days for your trip so you can have your days filled with activities while not feeling pressured by time. From the Berg Lake, the Toboggan Falls Route and the Mumm Basin Route are both excellent hiking options. Notably from the Mumm Basin trail, you will be able to view Mount. Robson from a different perspective and there are many photo opportunities.
As I mentioned previously, this trail is a backcountry trail where facilities are very limited and help is far away. You must be self-sufficient, which means proper clothing, camping equipment, food, stove are essential. Water is easily accessible from each campsite. However, boiling or filtering treatment of water is recommended by the park. It is also worth noting that all food and scented items must be secured in bear-proof food lockers in the campsites. And also, all trash must be packed out so don’t forget to bring some trash bags. Navigation along the trail and the day hikes are straightforward. For added security, you can download the trail map and our GPS trail recording (GPX file).
Our Berg Lake Trail hiking experience
1- From trailhead to Kinney Lake
Our Berg Lake Trail experience was during the offseason (early October). I didn’t realize that until we reported to the Visitor Center, learning from the ranger that no payment was needed and no rangers on duty inside the trail. The trailhead is very easy to find – simply follow the sign from the Mount. Robson Visitor Center for 2km and you will reach the parking lot. This section of trail is shared by hikers and bikers, as well as on-leash dogs. As we hiked along the trail, I found the sound of the stream rushing along the trail to be very loud. This reminded me of the bear safety lesson that bears in such environment may have a harder time noticing coming hikers. We didn’t really want a bear encounter so we tried to talk and sing loudly. Luckily, the easy trail didn’t put too much load on my lungs. But don’t feel too confident when you breeze through the trail – this is just the easiest part – steep climbs are waiting ahead.
2- Kinney Lake to Whitehorn Campsite
After the first 7km of warming up, there was a section of uncovered land with strong wind. We pushed through and started the climb. I later realized that we walked across dried river beds or streams when I looked back from high above. Having a backpack ~ 45lbs was no joke. It forced me to use my cell phone more often than my heavy DSLR to take pictures.
With nearly 4km of uphill trail, we reached a section of flat trail. After crossing this suspension bridge, we arrived at the Whitehorn Campsite, a nice stop for lunch. The stream close to the shelter made it very easy to get water to cook our meal.
3- Whitehorn campsite to Emperor Falls
After a brief lunch and rest at the Whitehorn campsite, we continued our climb. As we walked towards Emperor Falls, a different set of sceneries unfolded. The streams carved through barren lands, leading to distal views of mountain peaks decorated with golden colors. At that time I wasn’t confident about the photos I would get since for the most of the climb, I was photographing with my cell phone. When I came back to my laptop and edited all the photos from the cell phone, I was delightfully surprised. It was not about the camera, but the scenery itself.
Even though it was off season when we came, we were not alone. People were enjoying the sunshine, the rhythm of water and some good time with friends.
Another section of uphill trail led us through some beautiful waterfalls and we finally got to see Mount. Robson. Remember how it looks at this point as later on, when you view it from a different angle, you will be amazed at how the overall shape changes. I bet you will also see the little rainbow on a sunny day at the waterfall.
4- Emperor Falls to Berg Lake
The trail eased off gradually, with mild fluctuations of elevation till Berg Lake. The afternoon warm, golden sunshine made the walk enjoyable even with my backpack on. Mount. Robson constantly changed its appearance, drawing our attention. However, there were other beautiful mountains to look at too. Whitehorn was standing right behind us, and at some point, it just appeared taller than Mount. Robson.
As the trail wound around Mount. Robson, it got closer and closer to us. And suddenly I started to feel the pressure this giant put on me. It seemed so overwhelming that my mind couldn’t process the whole scene. These numbers could give you an idea why I felt that way. We were walking on the trail ~ 1600m altitude while Mount. Robson peaks at 3954m. This 2300m height difference was packed into only 3-5km distance (approximated from the map) in front of my eyes. I had never experienced such close examination of this huge a mountain. No picture was enough to express such dominance.
We soon passed the Marmot Campsite right at the southern tip of Berg Lake. After 2km of easy walk, we finally reached our destination of the day – Berg Lake Campsite.
5- Activities around Berg Lake
Watching the milky way and the moon rising over Mount. Robson
The super clear sky and low light pollution made it a perfect location for star gazing or astrophotography. We didn’t plan this photograph before our trip: as we walked to the lake shore for a night photograph, I saw the shimmering light coming behind Mount. Robson. It got stronger and stronger and I realized that the moon was rising, and about to come into our view. Over the right side of the mountain peak, the milky way was soon to be washed away by the light of the moon. I set up my tripod as fast as I could and configured the camera for a selfie of Tammy and myself. Then the magic happened. The moon climbed above the mountains casting its gentle presence over the rocks, lake and us. That was truely a memorable moment.
Watching the sunrise at Berg Lake
Waking up early in the morning was usually a difficult thing for me, but the cold weather here in Berg Lake made the morning call louder than my alarm. I took some quick snacks and walked to the lake shore. For a moment, the lake was as quiet as a mirror.
Hiking the Toboggan Falls Trail and the Mumm Basin Trail
These are probably the most traveled trails from the Berg Lake Campsite. A morning hike up to the Toboggan falls offered an excellent view of Mount. Robson, with forest and streams as the foreground. We couldn’t help again taking a picture of us enjoying the scene.
The route soon led us onto the Mumm Basin Trail, where we experienced some amazing views of the glaciers, lakes, and Mount. Robson. Viewing the mountains from a higher vantage point made me feel less pressured. Eventually, I started to notice the collage of patterns from the river bed, streams and lakes.
As we continued our hike on the Mumm Basin Trail, the Adolphus Lake revealed itself from the forests. The color was dense and pure, just like an emerald.
The day hike was full of discoveries and physical exercises. We came back to the Berg Lake campsite and took a rest in the day use shelter. What is a better end for the day than watching the sunset at the lakefront?
Take a dip in the Berg Lake?
We weren’t brave enough to swim in the Lake but we saw people who did it. That could be something to brag about!
6- Back from the Berg Lake Trail
Hiking back from the Berg Lake was joyful. We were on the downhill road most of the time and I lost about half of the weight in my backpack. However, we still felt a bit tired near the end of the hike. Several days’ active walking did put some pressure on our toes. Looking back to our days spent along the Berg Lake Trail and around the Campsite, it was well worth the time and effort! This route is no doubt one of our all-time favorites.
We hope you enjoyed reading our blog. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to let us know.
Hiking The Lake O’Hara Alpine Circuit Trail, Yoho National Park
Alaska road trip – Photographing the Denali National Park
Is it ok to hike/camp alone on this route in October? I have camped one time at Garibaldi lake by myself and did some hiking in the North shore mountains alone. So was wondering if doing this trail alone is a good choice from a wildlife safety perspective. Thanks
From my personal experience, I don’t see it a problem, if you follow the guidelines regarding wildlife safety (some examples, keep food in bear proof containers, carrying bear spray etc.) When we hiked there, we met several solo hikers. There are still hikers in October so you are unlikely to be alone in camping areas. This is one of the best trails in the world, highly recommended! Hope you have a good time there.
Thank you for this post and the wonderful pictures. Is it ok to hike/camp alone on this route in October? I have camped one time at Garibaldi lake by myself and did some hiking in the North shore mountains alone. So was wondering if doing this trail alone is a good choice from a wildlife safety perspective. Thank you.