Hiking the Berg Lake Trail
The Berg Lake Trail is a world-famous backcountry hiking trail. It’s known worldwide, and people from all over the world travel to BC to hike this trail. It’s busy for a reason: it’s stunning, and the summer is relatively short, drawing the crowds in one busy summer season. The trail itself is quite easy, fairly even and wide.
The main trail is 23 km long and gains about 800 m through that distance. There are also several side hikes to explore, which means there are opportunities for every level of hiker, from beginner to experienced. It’s a great first hike for people, and in fact when completing it with a big group of friends, we had a few beginners. For one person it was their first backpacking trip, and the great trail conditions, and well organized campsites made the trip very comfortable for them as a beginner.
The reason to check this out is definitely the scenery – the views of Mount Robson are spectacular! You’ll find waterfalls, glaciers, wildlife and more. The campgrounds are also quite comfortable, and well equipped with bear lockers (or poles), tent pads, picnic tables, outhouses, and located near streams. The trails around the base of Robson are unique and traverse three biogeoclimatic zones.
There are seven really nice campgrounds along the way. The first is at Kinney Lake which is at kilometer 7, and Robson Pass is the last at kilometer 23.
Well maintained trail
The trail is very well maintained and wide in most places, allowing for easy hiking. It’s also a great trail run for this reason, and there is a big ultra trail running marathon here each summer. The marathon has trail runs as long as 50 km but also shorter circuits.
No fires are allowed in the park, so make sure you bring a lantern and adequate lighting. Though when you’re up this far north in the summer, you probably won’t need it as there is 18 hours of daylight on the longest day of the year.
The trails in the park
The Mount Robson area features many hiking trails. There are even a few more advanced wilderness routes, which don’t have a defined trail and involve some route-finding.
Kinney Lake Trail
This easy trail takes you through old growth cedar and hemlock forest and is 4.5 km long. It’s very gradual in elevation and easy to do, you can even ride your bike to the lake. Bike racks are available at the lake so you can lock your bike.
Hargreaves Lake Route
This route goes from Berg lake and climbs to Hargreaves lake and glacier. From the viewpoint the trail crosses toboggan falls route enroute to Mumm basin.
Toboggan Falls Route
This trails starts at Berg lake as well, and goes to the falls and surrounding alpine basin. It intersects the lake and mumm basin routes. If you go a little higher, you can reach a small cave, which is very refreshing if it happens to be hot out!
Mumm Basin Route
This steep alpine trail has great views of alpine lakes and glaciers. You can start this one from either the Robson pass or Berg lake campsites.
Snowbird Pass Route
This is a famous trail that is closed May and June due to caribou calving. This route is marked by rock cairns and gives incredible views of Mount Robson, The Helmet and Resplendent. It starts just north of the Rearguard falls campground. You follow the Robson river then up to the moraine from Robson glacier. Hike up to an alpine meadow, beyond which is Snowbird pass.
Moose river route
This is a 105 km route that typically takes about a week to complete. River crossings and route finding are a required, so it’s not a great beginner hike. Access this route from Berg Lake through Robson pass onto Adolphus lake to get into the Jasper National Park trail system. You’ll travel into Moose pass back into the Robson Park and follow the Moose River to highway 16, to the confluence of Moose and Fraser rivers. A day trip is also possible here. Trips going up this trail offer a view of Adolphus lake which is 7 km return to Berg Lake or Coleman valley, at 26 km return to Berg lake.
When to go
The best times to go are June through September. If you go later in September, you don’t have to reserve your campsites in advance, and there is a much better chance you’ll get the spot you want.
The summer up here is short, the trail is only in shape for hiking for two to three months or so each year. If you come early in the year, you’ll encounter snow and also the Snowbird Pass Route is closed for caribou. September is usually very nice. The nights are cooler in September and days are shorter though, and you even may get snow, but there will be less people and there are good odds you’ll get the campsite you want.
How to book
The Berg lake trail is permit only, and though you don’t need a permit to day hike, you’ll need a permit to camp. Book in advance if you can, permits fill up early. Book on the BC Provincial Parks webpage.
To hike the trail, you’ll need to attend a Parks Canada information session about the park. You attend this orientation just prior to starting the trail. Parks staff will let you know details when you book your spot. The Parks headquarters are very close to where the trail starts.
A popular route is to go into Berg Lake in two days, camping at one of the campgrounds along the way, such as Whitehorn, staying a few days at Berg Lake to hike around there, then hike out in one day.
How to get there
Mount Robson Park is located 100 km west of Jasper, 280 km east of Prince George, BC and 350 km north of Kamloops, BC. Most international traveller will arrive to Edmonton, Calgary or Vancouver. From the larger cities, Robson Park is far: it is a 6 hour drive from Calgary, 4 hour 50 min to Edmonton, 3 hours from Prince George, BC and 7 and a half hours to Vancouver.
You’ll need everything you’ll normally need for backcountry camping. There are pit toilets, so bring toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Since the trip is in the high alpine, be prepared for cold weather any time of year. Consider a warm sleeping bag (warmer than 0 degrees) in the summer.
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