It was later recommended to me again by a couple of friends I made whilst hiking in the Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park.
They spoke about it so enthusiastically, that my legs didn’t even get a chance to rest properly before I packed my backpack again and drove from Canmore to Mount Robson Provincial Park to tackle the trail, but oh was it worth the effort!
Brief info about Berg Lake trail
Berg Lake trail is a moderate 42 km backpacking trip taking hikers through the diverse landscapes of Mount Robson Provincial Park in the British Columbia province in Canada.
The highlights include turquoise lakes, waterfalls, glaciers and the highest peak of the Canadian Rockies – Mount Robson.
The trailhead for the Berg Lake Trail is just minutes away from the Mount Robson visitor centre and around an hour (ca 90km) drive west from Jasper on highway number 16, called the Yellowhead highway
The map of the Berg Lake trail
For showcase purposes only. This map should not be used for navigation
How many days are required to complete the Berg Lake trail?
To fully appreciate the views along the Berg Lake trail and tackle some extensions, which I will get to later in the post, I would highly recommend booking 2 or 3 nights for the trip. However, if you are fit but short on time, spending one night on the trail is feasible too.
The trail follows the same path there and back. Whilst hiking it myself I have met some trail runners who were completing it in a day. Not something I would go for!
When is Berg Lake trail open?
As with many other hikes in the Canadian Rockies, the trails become passable only from the end of June/early July and the winter often arrives in the Rockies as early as the end of September.
This leaves a 3-month window during the summer season when hikers can tackle the Berg Lake Trail. Considering its popularity, the reservations are pretty hard to secure.
I trekked the Berg Lake trail in the second half of September and loved my experience. The autumn colours were in full swing and the light was perfect for photography.
If you do hike in September though make sure to pack accordingly, with a sleeping bag with at least a -10 degrees comfort zone. July and August are the busiest with plenty of day hikers and trail runners along the trail.
Important: Due to trail damage caused by flooding Berg Lake Trail has been closed since 2021. In 2023 the first section to Kinney Lake reopened and in 2024 the second section to Whiterhorn campsite is scheduled to open. The upper part of the Berg Lake Trail remains closed until 2025. For more info read the BC Parks blog.
Reservations and permits for Berg Lake trail in 2024
When I first hiked the Berg Lake trail in September 2016, prior campsite bookings were not essential. I just rocked up at the visitor centre near the trailhead and paid for my camping permit on the spot.
Unfortunately, unless you are extremely lucky and a cancellation pops up in the system, showing up without a reservation would be unheard of today. If you are planning to do the hike during the official season you need to book your spot as soon as the reservation system opens. You can check for the opening dates directly on the BC Parks website.
TIP: Set up an account with BC Parks before the reservation opening dates and familiarise yourself with the system to speed up the booking process.
Once the system opens the spots are usually gone within a few hours. The same goes for the other multi-day backpacking trips in the Canadian Rockies.
If you haven’t booked your spot, I recommend that you still check daily as cancellations do occur.
TIP: You didn’t manage to get a booking? Receive a text message when a cancellation occurs. Just register with Outdoor Status, pick dates to track, and get notified when a spot opens.
The cost of hiking Berg Lake trail
If you are making a reservation on the website the fees are $6.00 (plus tax) per campsite/tent pad, per night, to a maximum of $18.00 (plus tax). Additionally, you have to pay for a camping permit. Charges are as follows (2023 prices to be updated):
- Backcountry Camping Fee: $10 per person/night (persons 16 years of age and older)
- Backcountry Camping Fee: $5.00 per child/night (persons 6 – 15 years of age)
For example: if you are camping for 2 nights with a group of 3 people, and require one tent pad your charges will come as follows:
(3 people x $ 10 x 2 nights) + (2 nights x 1 tent pad x $6) = $60 + 12 = $72
You can also use the call centre, but there is a $5 surcharge for transactions and from my experience, the call centres are always very difficult to reach.
The numbers for the reservation call centre are:
Where to stay before or after completing the Berg Lake Trail
There are two front-country campgrounds very close to the visitor centre: Robson Meadows Campground and Robson River Campground.
If you would like to sleep in a normal bed the nearest hotels along the Yellowhead Highway (no. 16) are Mount Robson Heritage Cabins, Mountain River Lodge and Mount Robson Lodge.
Campsites and facilities along the Berg Lake trail
If you are heading into Canadian Wilderness expect very limited facilities. The track is set up with multiple campsites that contain the usual: bear lockers, running water, grey water pits, outhouses and cooking areas. Don’t expect any luxury though.
|Distance from the trailhead
|No. of tent pads
Sample itineraries for the Berg Lake Trail
2 days/1 night:
If you plan on spending just one night on the Berg Lake Trail, I recommend staying overnight at either the Marmot or Berg Lake campground.
3 days/2 nights (most popular):
Option 1: 1st night – Whitehorn Campground, 2nd night – Berg Lake Campground
Great for those who plan on starting late or simply want to take it easy on the first day.
Option 2: 1st night – Marmot campground, 2nd night – either Berg Lake, Rearguard or Robson Pass campground
Marmot was my favourite campground on the Berg Lake trail due to the proximity of the Berg Glacier and the very limited number of tent pads.
Option 3: 1st and 2nd night at either Berg Lake campground or Rearguard
The most convenient as you will only need to set up your tent once. Great for those who plan on doing extension hikes (see the extension hikes at the end of the post)
4 days/3 nights
If you have the luxury of spending 3 nights on the Berg Lake trail I do recommend taking it easy and booking the first night at the Emperor Falls campground or Marmot campground then the next 2 nights on the Berg Lake campground or Rearguard.
Before you set off on the Berg Lake Trail
Check-in at the Mount Robson visitor centre
On the day of your departure, you will need to register at the Mount Robson visitor centre. The opening hours are as follows:
- June 15 – Sept 29: 8 am to 4 pm
- The last check-in of the day begins at 3:30 pm
Upon registering, other hikers and I had to watch an old-school video about the proper conduct on the trail. The video gives you some information about the park and how to be a responsible hiker.
Take only photographs and leave only footprints, and don’t leave any trash behind!
It’s worth mentioning check-in at the visitor centre is mandatory and you are better off following the rules. You are heading into the backcountry! You don’t want to end up like the guy from “127 Hours” movie, do you?
Check the important trail notices
Berg Lake trail is subject to flooding, avalanches and wildlife encounters, all beyond human control. Make sure to visit the main page for Mount Robson Provincial Park and read any notices that could interfere with your trekking plans.
Parking at the trailhead
The hike starts a few hundred metres away from the visitor centre at the Mount Robson car park. The parking is free of charge.
If you are a traveller and don’t feel comfortable leaving your valuables in the car, you can rent a locker at the visitor centre for a few dollars/day and have peace of mind knowing your stuff is safe.
Berg Lake trail: stages breakdown
Stage 1: Trailhead to Kinney Lake
From the trailhead, the wide well-maintained path leads slightly uphill following the left-hand side of the Robson River.
After 7km of hiking through the beautiful forest, you’ll arrive at the first campsite on the shore of Kinney Lake.
Although Kinney Lake is stunning I don’t think it’s far enough in to maximize your experience. Take a break at the lakeshore, have a snack and let’s keep going! You are only just getting started!
Stage 2: Kinney Lake to Emperor Falls via Whitehorn Campground
Leaving the lake behind you eventually head out onto the valley bottom. Hiking in between huge peaks on either side, it’s spectacular and you’re probably thinking “Wow this is so easy, I should do more hikes like this”.
Don’t be fooled, the difficult part is coming up pretty quickly.
After passing the second campsite at Whitehorn you start to head up the mountain and into the Valley of a Thousand Falls. To put things in perspective, so far you gained 350m elevation in 11km. Easy peasy eh? You’re now about to gain over 500 m elevation in 5km.
Now, this sounds achievable to day hikers but just remember you’ll be wearing a big backpack.
If you want to take it easy or if you plan on leaving the trailhead later in the day you can hike to Whitehorn campsite on the first day, stay the night and tackle the more challenging part early the next day when rested.
If however, you are relatively fit and plan on leaving early, you shouldn’t have any trouble continuing onward.
After a challenging 5k uphill battle take a well-deserved rest at the Emperor Falls Campground. Congratulate yourself as you’ve done the hard part. I hope you stopped at all the beautiful waterfalls, especially the very impressive Emperor Falls.
Stage 3: Emperor Falls to Marmot Campground
Once you go past the Emperor Falls campground the trail flattens out again. After another 3 km, you will find yourself at the shore of Berg Lake and will get the first glimpse of the beautiful reflection of the northeast-facing side of Mount Robson and its glaciers.
Stay the first night at the Marmot campground and find a spot on the lakeshore to capture the last light illuminating the top of Mount Robson.
At night you can hear colossal pieces of ice calving off the nearby glaciers, falling on the mountain slopes & into the lake.
The loud noise woke me up a few times at night, with my heart pounding and my mind half asleep, telling me it was a grizzly bear growling just outside of my tent.
Stage 4: Marmot to Berg Lake Campground
Early the second day pack your backpack and head to the Berg Lake campsite which will be your base for exploring the area. It’s only a further 2 km easy stroll through the forest, along the west side of Berg Lake.
I highly recommend staying 2 nights at the Berg Lake Campsite to get a good taste of what the park has to offer and to be able to explore beyond the trail.
There are a few day hikes you can do from the Berg Lake campsite which offer spectacular views of the surrounding areas.
Additional hiking routes near Berg Lake trail
From either the Marmot or Berg Lake Campsite there’s a myriad of hiking trails going further up into the mountains or out to the quickly retreating Robson Glacier.
My favourite side trip from here is the Toboggan Falls Route, which leads steeply up the falls and then swings right onto the Mumm Basin Route, from here you’ll have spectacular views of well, pretty much everything. Just look at the photos above.
Below information source: BC Parks
Hargreaves Lake Route (1/2 day)
From Marmot campsite near Berg Lake, this route climbs to Hargreaves Lake and Glacier. From this viewpoint, the trail continues and crosses the Toboggan Falls Route on the course to the Mumm Basin.
Toboggan Falls (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.
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 at Robson Pass or Berg Lake campsites.
Snowbird Pass Route (1 day)
Snowbird Pass is closed in 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.
Packing essentials for the Berg Lake Trail
With camping gear, I believe that if “you buy cheap, you buy twice”. You’re always better off investing slightly more money in a better, long-lasting product, that will make your experience more enjoyable.
Over the years I’ve been through all different types of equipment but I can finally say that the gear I have now, is the best I’ve ever owned.
Getting a good night’s rest after hiking the whole day is essential. The Sea To Summit Ultralight sleeping pad will not only keep you insulated from the ground, but it will keep you comfy too. My advice is to go with the larger size.
The water filtering system is essential to avoid waterborne diseases such as Giardia. I use the lightweight Platypus GravityWorks. Although the initial cost is higher than other options (e.g. tablets), in the long run, the cost per liter is unbeatable.
One of the best gifts I’ve ever received. The LuminAid solar lantern is always attached to the outside of my backpack where it recharges during the day. The light it gives is enough to play games in the tent or cook dinner in the evening.
Get it on Amazon
Frequently asked questions about the Berg Lake Trail
Are the reservations transferable?
No, if you hold a reservation and try to transfer or sell it if caught your reservation will be forfeited without a refund.
How many tents can a single tent pad hold?
You can set up one tent and have up to 6 people sleeping on one tent pad.
Can I change or cancel my reservation?
Yes, you can change your reservation online up to 48 hours before the start of your trip. It costs $6 /campsite/tent pad to make changes to your booking. If you are cancelling via call centre additional charges of $5 / campsite/tent pad apply.
Can I bring my dog with me to backpack Berg lake trail?
Unfortunately, it’s a no. Dogs are not allowed on overnight trips. You may only bring your dog if you are a day hiker using the trail. Leash laws apply at all times.
How many people can I have in my group?
You can have a maximum of 12 people in your group. It is encouraged that group reservations are done under one name to speed up the check-in process and avoid any delays at the start.
Can I use a mountain bike on Berg Lake trail?
Bikes are only allowed as far as the Kinney Lake campground. After that, you have to leave your bike and continue on foot.
Can I drink water on the Berg Lake trail?
According to the BC Parks website, all surface water sources should be filtered, boiled or treated before use.