The Berg Lake Trail: An Ultimate Backcountry Camping Trip

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The Berg Lake Trail: An Ultimate Backcountry Camping Trip

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AngelaliggsTravelBlogBergLakeTrailHiking-21

The Berg Lake Trail is one of the most stunning hikes in the Canadian Rockies—from start to finish. I’ve made two trips there and I’d go back for more! This hike will take you along the Robson River, through an epic valley with towering peaks, and to the foot of waterfalls, turquoise lakes, and glaciers. My favorite part is that Mount Robson, the tallest mountain in the Canadian Rockies, is almost always towering over you as you explore.

The basics

  • The Berg Lake trail, in Mount Robson Provincial Park, is 21km long with 800m of elevation gain (one way).
  • I recommend spending 4 days in the park, but anywhere from 3-5 days would work.
  • Head to my ultimate backpacking checklist to know what to pack. It includes a downloadable checklist, too!
  • The best time to go to Berg Lake is July-August. June and September could be fine, but it differs every year and those months have a greater risk of unfavorable weather (and possible snow).
Gear: Patagonia puffy, Danner hiking boots and Beyond Yoga leggings
  • The weather in this park is known to be all over the place—aka classic mountain weather. I would look at the forecast, but also take it with a grain of salt and prepare for rain and even snow!
  • I’d say this trail is moderately difficult. Advanced hikers could crush the entire Berg Lake trail in one day, but beginners could split the hike into two days and be just dandy.
  • The visitor center at the entrance of the park is the best place to get additional information (and to get walk-up permits which I will cover below). The rangers will brief you with everything you need to know the day of, current conditions, if there were any recent bear sightings, and other important updates.
  • All hikers and campers must check-in at the visitor center before departure.
  • If you have a furry friend, they are allowed on leash, but only on day hikes.
  • No fires are allowed anywhere in the park.
  • As always, follow the Leave No Trace principles so we can keep these wild places pristine!

How to get permits

Like many popular parks in the Canadian Rockies, permits are needed to go backcountry camping. I love the permit system because it preserves the environment and controls the amount of traffic coming into the park. At the same time, it also makes it difficult to enjoy these parks. No fear though—there are a couple of ways you can snag permits. First, if you’re early enough, you can snag a permit online here on the day reservations open. The specific date changes every year but it’s usually in the spring. From experience, the BC Parks website usually crashes, it takes hours to land permits (if you are successful) and is an all-around pain. If you don’t get permits right away, don’t stress. There’s still hope! I suggest checking the website every day as people cancel their trips and you can swoop in and book those days.

Another way to go camping on the Berg Lake trail is to try to snag walk-up permits the day of. Get to the Mount Robson Visitor Center an hour or so before they open and wait in line (or create a line if you’re the first one there). This ensures you are the first person to choose from the selection of open tent pads. I did this and the ranger told me which tent pads/campgrounds he had available and I chose what worked best for me, and voila! I had permits and hit the trail an hour later.

Hot tip: Stay near the visitor center the night before you try for walk-up permits. You could stay in a hotel or Airbnb in Tate Jaune Cache, Jasper, or Valemount or car camp in the provincial park near the visitor center (which is what I did).

Gear: Osprey 65L backpack, Danner hiking boots and Beyond Yoga leggings

The trail overview

The Berg Lake Trail is one of the most stunning hikes in the Canadian Rockies because the scenery changes around every corner. It’s easy to follow and is rated as moderate. It winds through three biogeoclimatic zones (which is the combination of geology, vegetation, and climate that classifies an ecosystem). You can check out all the zones in BC here.

The beginning of the trail starts on a wide path that winds along the Robson River—which you basically will be following the entire time. Once you get closer to Kinney Lake, which is 7km in, you’ll start to feast your eyes on some incredible views. Kinney Lake is a great spot to have a snack and rest, before moving on. If you’re comfortable riding a bike with an overnight pack, you have the option of riding to Kinney Lake and storing your bike there (but not allowed to go any further on the trail with your bike).

After Kinney Lake, you start to hike in the valley with massive mountains on either side. This is one of my favorite parts because it makes me feel so small. Once you pass Whitehorn campground and you start to head up the mountain, make sure you have enough water because you’ll be climbing up 500m of elevation gain in only 5km. This is the hardest part of the trail, but there are loads of waterfalls on the way up and views of the valley (that you were just in)—so don’t forget to look up.

Once you make it to the top, you’ll hit Emperor Falls campground. The trail flattens out now and passes by Marmot campground and then reaches Berg Lake and Berg Lake campground. From here, you’ll be able to take in Mount Robson and it’s surrounding areas. Make sure you have a GPS, or offline map downloaded on your phone (ie. on the Mapsme app), so that you know where you are at all times on the trail.

Gear: MSR stove, Danner hiking boots, Marmot sleeping bag, Hydro Flask coffee mug and Beyond Yoga leggings
Gear: Osprey 65L backpack and Black Diamond hiking poles

Campgrounds:

There are seven campgrounds. I suggest staying the first night at Whitehorn (or any of the first three) then at least two nights at Berg Lake (or any of the last three). In order of the trail, they are:

  • Kinney Lake (7km): There are some stunning tent pads right along this incredibly blue lake and you can even bike right to it. I stayed at this campground, and it was incredible, but it made for a long day to Berg Lake the next day. I’d say that this is great if you’re only able to start late in the day or want to take the trail slow and have 5-6 days for the entire trip.
  • Whitehorn (11km): This is a great campground for people who want to break up the hike to Berg Lake in two equal(ish) days. The tent pads here are a bit closer together and close to the trail, but it’s a great all-around place to sleep.
  • Emperor Falls (16km): There’s a 5km section of the trail that gains about 500m of elevation and that is just before this campground—so be ready if you’re starting from the trailhead and sleeping here. It’s an incredibly beautiful place to camp because the tent pads are right along the Robson River.
Gear: MSR tent, MSR stove, Danner hiking boots, Marmot sleeping bag, Hydro Flask coffee mug and Beyond Yoga leggings
  • Marmot (19km): Along with Emperor Falls, this campground is on the smaller side. That said, it has beautiful views of Mount Robson and Berg Lake and is quieter than the main campground.
  • Berg Lake (21km): There are a couple of tent pads with views of Mount Robson but most are tucked away in the trees. There’s an incredible cabin that acts as a cooking shelter that is great if the weather turns not-so-good. This is the busiest campground, so if that’s not your jam, you may not want to sleep here.
  • Rearguard (22km): This is a great option to camp as well since it’s only 1km (a 15-minute walk) to Berg Lake. It’s the smallest campground but is also central, quiet, and serene.
  • Robson Pass (23km): This campground is 2km past Berg Lake and is bigger than Rearguard, so many people choose it over Rearguard. It’s really close to the start of the day hikes like Snowbird Pass and Mumm Basin which is a plus.

The kilometers listed above are how far they are from the trailhead. At all of the campgrounds, there are tent pads, outhouses, food storage lockers, wash stations, and grey water disposal pits, and some have cooking shelters (Kinney Lake, Whitehorn, and Berg Lake).

Gear: Osprey 65L backpack and Black Diamond hiking poles

Day hikes around Berg Lake

Sourced from BC Parks:

  • Hargreaves Lake Route (1/2 day): From Marmot campsite near Berg Lake, this route climbs to Hargreaves Lake and Glacier. From the viewpoint, the trail continues and crosses the Toboggan Falls Route on course to the Mumm Basin.
  • Toboggan Falls Route (2 hours, return): From the trailhead at the Toboggan Creek bridge near Berg Lake campsite, the trail climbs to Toboggan Falls and the surrounding alpine basin. This route intersects the Hargreaves Lake and Mumm Basin routes. Continue up beyond this junction for an extra 45 minutes and you will reach a small cave.
  • Mumm Basin Route (1/2 day): 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.
  • Snowbird Pass Route (1 day): 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.
Gear: Osprey 65L backpack and Black Diamond hiking poles

What to pack

If you’re anything like me, packing for a multi-day hike never gets easier. Head to my backcountry camping gear blog post to see exactly what I use on my trips—it even includes a downloadable checklist that I use myself. Below are some of my favorite pieces of gear that I’ve used for years.

For a complete list of gear and more info, click here. If you have any questions about the Berg Lake trail please comment below. I’m happy to help you get on the trail and have an incredible experience yourself!

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6 Comments

  1. Tay on June 12, 2021 at 8:40 pm

    Wow this is one of the most thorough descriptions of this hike, thank you so much!

    • Angela Liguori on June 17, 2021 at 3:54 pm

      Thank you, Tay! That’s an incredible compliment. Hope you have fun out there!

  2. Raja Rajeswar on June 13, 2021 at 4:07 am

    Been following your videos on insta and your blogs for the last three months and been absolutely loving it – thanks for proving us with such detailed information regarding the Berg Lake trail. Can’t wait to go on it soon!

    • Angela Liguori on June 17, 2021 at 3:54 pm

      Thank you so much for the kind words, Raja. It is my pleasure!

      • Eric on July 5, 2021 at 2:12 pm

        Is drinking water available along the hike?

        • Angela Liguori on July 8, 2021 at 12:27 am

          Yes, there are a lot of streams/rivers to drink from. The only section of the trail that doesn’t have water is the steep section and there is a sign that reminds you there is no water for the next 4km. Hope that helps!

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