The Berg Lake Trail, in B.C.’s Mount Robson Provincial Park, showcases some of the best scenery in the Canadian Rockies. The 23 km / 14.3 mi backcountry route is a magnificent journey through deep valleys, along raging rivers, and past thundering waterfalls and glacier-studded peaks. Berg Lake, the star attraction, is a turquoise, glacier-fed lake that sits beneath towering Mount Robson. We just returned from our Berg Lake backpacking trip. There’s a lot of hype about this trail, but it exceeded our lofty expectations. What a way to celebrate the re-opening of travel in British Columbia!
The 23 km / 14.3 mi (one way) trail gains 800 m / 2625 ft. It is well-marked and in mostly excellent condition. There are seven campgrounds spread along the route providing options for beginner to expert backcountry hikers. Some people hike to Berg Lake campground in one go. This is demanding, especially with a heavy pack. Many people choose to split the ascent (and often the descent) into two days. We spent a night at Whitehorn campground, both on the way up and down, and three nights around Berg Lake (for a total of five nights). This unhurried schedule gives plenty of time for admiring the scenery and for day hikes near Berg Lake. Even if you’re fit and fast, I’d recommend spending at least three nights on this beautiful trail.
|Campground||Distance from |
|Elevation||Number of |
|Kinney Lake||7 km / 4.3 mi||984 m / 3230 ft||14|
|Whitehorn||11 km / 6.8 mi||1097 m / 3600 ft||22|
|Emperor Falls||16 km / 9.9 mi||1615 m / 5300 ft||9|
|Marmot||19 km / 11.8 mi||1645 m / 5400 ft||7|
|Berg Lake||21 km / 13 mi||1641 m / 5385 ft||26|
|Rearguard||22 km / 13.7 mi||1646 m / 5400 ft||5|
|Robson Pass||23 km / 14.3 mi||1649 m / 5410 ft||15|
The description below is divided into trail segments based on the seven campgrounds.
Trailhead to Kinney Lake Camp:
From the trailhead to Kinney Lake, the swift Robson River is our constant companion. The trail is wide and mostly shaded with a gradual uphill profile. It passes through an impressive cedar stand and offers teaser views of Mt. Robson, the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies.
At around 5 km we get to the south end of shimmering Kinney Lake, the first milestone of the hike. We find a killer picnic table for our lunch. The view over the idyllic lake to Whitehorn Mountain sets the bar high on day one.
Kinney Lake campground is another 2 km along the undulating terrain that hugs the east side of the lake. There, we find a pleasant, open-sided shelter with picnic tables and tent pads overlooking the lake. It’s a very appealing campground and would make a great destination for a relatively easy 14 km (return) day excursion if you’re not backpacking.
Kinney Lake Camp to Whitehorn Camp:
At the north end of Kinney Lake there is route choice: follow the main trail that rollercoasters up and down through the forest, or take a shortcut across the alluvial fan. We choose the latter on the way up to avoid unnecessary elevation gains. It’s a fun walk through the gravel and sand deposits with numerous little stream crossings. If water levels are too high, this shortcut may be closed. (On our return journey, we hike the forest route, and despite the hills, we appreciate the shade and the views.)
Beyond the flats, we reconnect with the main trail and it’s a steady but manageable uphill hike through the forest that eventually opens up to a spectacular canyon where Whitehorn campground is perched at the edge of the Robson River. This is where we camp for the night. It’s a beautiful location and the camp is outfitted with an open-air shelter and picnic tables.
We’re happy to have plenty of daylight left to relax on the gravelly river bank where we feel soothingly enveloped by the steep-sided mountains.
Whitehorn Camp to Emperor Falls Camp:
This is the toughest part of the trail, gaining 518 m / 1700 ft over 5 km / 3.1 mi. However, the relentless switchbacks aren’t so bad when you’re hiking through the Valley of a Thousand Falls. There are falls everywhere—endless ribbons of water gracefully drop down sheer-sided walls, and enormous cascades plummet right next to the trail.
We stop at the Falls of the Pool overlook for a much needed break. Like on other parts of the trail, there is a great little hand-crafted bench strategically positioned to drink in the views.
A little further along, we come to to the turnoff for Emperor Falls. A 200 m path leads to the largest waterfall along the trail. We’re hot and tired but are soon rewarded by the refreshing mist of the falls. The thundering water is incredibly loud and it’s irresistibly scary to be so close to such a force of nature. Don’t miss this short detour!
Back on the main trail, it’s another 2 km to Emperor Falls campground—our lunch stop. I am blown away by the beauty of this small campground. Tent pads line the edge of the rushing Robson River and pyramid-topped Mt. Robson commands the skyline.
If you can’t get a reservation at the popular Berg Lake campground, I think Emperor Falls would be a great option. It’s quiet, scenic and only three flat kilometres from the south end of Berg Lake.
Emperor Falls Camp to Berg Lake Camp:
Excitement builds on the final approach to Berg Lake. It’s flat, open terrain with expansive views. The trail builders have carved an impressive path on the side of a rockfall that travels above a large gravel plain crisscrossed with dozens of streams.
Soon we get views of Mist Glacier and see a small speck of crazy turquoise Berg Lake. The panorama unfolds with Mount Robson and Rearguard Mountain, intersected by blue-tinged Berg Glacier, towering above the lake. Hearing the glacier ice calving and plunging into the lake is icing on the cake.
Berg Lake has two campgrounds directly along its western shore. The first is Marmot, 19 km from the trailhead, at the south end of the lake. It has seven tent pads and is very serene. Berg Lake camp, our home for two nights, is 2 km further along and is the largest camp on the trail. It’s a stunner with its head on view of the Berg Glacier and Mount Robson. The camp’s “luxe” amenities— benches, picnic tables and a day use cabin—make it very comfy.
The camp’s tent pads are mostly occupied, but it doesn’t feel crowded. For relatively more seclusion, I recommend the first few tent pads approaching the camp or the ones at the far end of the camp beyond the bridge.
We spend our “free” day exploring the Toboggan Falls-Hargreaves Lake loop. It’s my favourite day of the trip and I’ll devote a separate post to this beautiful hike.
Berg Lake camp to Rearguard and Robson Pass Camps:
As there is no availability at Berg Lake for a third night, we pack our stuff and hike to Rearguard campground, only one kilometre away. Although this is a tad cumbersome, it’s interesting to see anther camp. I like Rearguard; it is compact, peaceful and we score a tent pad with an awesome view.
We spend the morning exploring the trail to the toe of Robson Glacier and take a dip in Adolphus Lake (both are easy day hikes). Our plan to hike up to the Mumm Basin viewpoint is waylaid due to rain (next time). The signature day hike of the region Snowbird Pass is closed in early summer due to caribou calving (another reason to return).
On our way to Adolphus Lake, we pass by Robson Pass camp, the last campground along the trail at kilometre 23. It too looks lovely despite the gloomy skies. Bottom line is that you can’t go wrong with any of the campgrounds along the Berg Lake trail.
- All campsites need to be reserved in advance. The Berg Lake Trail is extremely popular and you need to be on this as soon as reservations open through Discover Camping. This year, reservations opened on March 1 and the spaces were fully booked for July and August within minutes. If you are flexible, cancellations come up but you need to check Discover Camping frequently.
- Trail details including distances and elevation gains, maps, and campground facilities can be found on the Mount Robson Provincial Park website.
- Mount Robson Provincial Park is located in eastern British Columbia, near the Alberta border and adjacent to Jasper National Park. Closest hotel and food options are in the town of Valemount about a 20-minute drive from the park. It’s a good place to overnight before the hike.
- Like all backcountry hiking/camping trip you must be prepared with the essentials of food, shelter, first-aid, clothing for all types of weather, and appropriate hiking shoes/boots. Water is plentiful along most of the trail but it needs to be treated. It’s bear country, so carry bear spray/noise makers. The mosquitoes were bad during our trip in late June. Sun protection is essential on this largely exposed trail.
Here’s a sneak preview of the scene along the Toboggan Falls-Hargreaves loop—my next blog post.
Update: The Berg Lake trail is currently closed due to damage sustained by flooding. It is not scheduled to open until at least August 5, 2021. Please check the B.C. Parks website for most current information.