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When our friends managed to reserve campsites on BC’s Berg Lake trail in Mount Robson Provincial Park, I jumped at the chance to join them. The trail, on the far side of BC near Jasper National Park, was one of those that was on my list but I never thought I’d convince Thom to join me. I think the fact that even Thom (who’s not a super keen hiker) enjoyed the Berg Lake hike speaks for itself. The trail is full of spectacular views of snowy mountain peaks, waterfalls, beautiful lakes and glaciers too. If you want to know more about the Berg Lake trail then read this Berg Lake hiking guide and hopefully, any questions you have will be answered!
Berg Lake hiking guide
Below you’ll find everything you need to know about backpacking the Berg Lake trail including Berg Lake reservations, camping, how to get there and more about the trail itself.
About the Berg Lake trail
The Berg Lake Trail is in Mount Robson Provincial Park and takes you from the Mount Robson visitor centre up to Berg Lake at the foot of the mountain. Mount Robson is the tallest mountain in the Canadian Rockies at 3,954m tall and it’s also a World Heritage Site! While you won’t actually be hiking Mount Robson, you’ll get some fantastic vies of the mountain.
The trail to Berg Lake is about an hour west of Jasper, and about 8 hour’s drive from Vancouver. It’s renowned for being one of the most spectacular trails in BC and, for that reason, it’s a popular one too.
Id’ recommend staying the night somewhere close to the trailhead before beginning your hike. The closest towns to the Berg Lake trailhead are Valemount (30 minute’s drive) and Jasper in Alberta (1 hour). There are also a couple of reservable campsites at Mount Robson Provincial Park: Robson Meadows and Robson River campgrounds which have both tent spots and serviced campervan sites available. We spent the night at Valemount Vacation Inn which had big comfy beds and spacious rooms.
Berg Lake trail statistics
Reservations for Berg Lake
Given its popularity, it’s vital to get a reservation before you plan on hiking the trail. In fact, all campsites are 100% reservable between June 14th and September 30th. Berg Lake trail reservations open October 1st for the following season. The campsites book up quickly, so you’ll need to plan in advance and keep your fingers crossed for good weather on the Berg Lake trail.
The Berg Lake trail campsites are booked through DiscoverCamping.ca. It costs $6 (plus tax) per tent pad, per night up to a maximum of $18 and plus $10 per person, per night for the backcountry camping fees. If you book over the phone there’s an additional $5 call centre charge per reservation. You’ll be emailed a permit which you must bring with you to the visitor centre at Mount Robson and you’ll be given a laminated permit tag to hang on your tent.
It’s important to note that groups cannot be bigger than 6 people, and each tent pad only comfortably fits one tent. Therefore, you’re going to need 2 or 3 tent pads for a group of 6 people.
All hikers, whether day or multi-day hikers, must get a permit from the visitors’ centre and this will be checked before you can drive the 2km up the road to the Berg Lake trailhead. For 2020, the number of day hikers is limited. You must get a day pass (free) and this can be applied for from 6am on the day of your hike. Since there is limited signal, your best bet is to stop in Jasper/Valemount (depending on where you’re coming from) beforehand to make sure you get a pass. You can get passes & more information here.
If you’re passing through the area and want to hike the trail but don’t have a permit or Berg Lake campground reservations, it’s worth stopping in at the visitor centre to see if they’ve had any cancellations. People cancel regularly or don’t show up, and so you may be in luck (particularly if the weather isn’t great!). We were able to get extra tent pads when we checked in for the hike.
Berg Lake trail map
The Mount Robson Berg Lake trail is well maintained, easy to follow trail. There’s plenty of signage and it’s hard to go wrong. The trail is well maintained with only a few sections that involve some clambering over roots/stones. You won’t need a trail map, but it’s a good idea to have the route downloaded on AllTrails and maps of the other nearby hikes from Berg Lake if you plan on doing those, just in case.
Berg Lake weather
About the weather…Our group of six were constantly checking the weather forecast before we started hiking. Some days it showed sunshine but mostly it forecast rain and a lot of it. There was also that time where Google was forecasting 18 degrees C and snow?! In the end, we realised it’s pretty much impossible for any website to predict the Berg Lake trail weather. Mount Robson pretty much has its own climate and you’ll notice that the weather changes very quickly.
For this reason, you’ll want to make sure you pack warm layers and waterproofs. The weather during the first week of July typically involved a few hours of rain in the morning while we were having breakfast at the camp, followed by clouds and sunshine for the rest of the day. Given the faces of people we passed coming down the trail as we headed up, there had been a lot of rain just a day or two before.
Best time for Berg Lake, BC?
The best time to hike Berg Lake trail is from July – late September. This is when the trail is snow-free, you’ll get plenty of daylight and the weather is typically better. July and August are the most reliable months weather-wise, and many would argue they’re the best time to visit Berg Lake; they are also the busiest though! Also, it’s not uncommon to get snow in early July, or in September.
If you’re hoping to hike the Snowbird Pass trail then be aware that it is closed until July 1st. We hiked the pass just after it had opened and while it was mostly snow-free, it did have patches of snow the closer we got to the top.
How long for Berg Lake trail, Mount Robson?
While some people run the Berg Lake trail or bike to Kinney Lake then hike up and back in one day, most people will spend at least two days hiking Berg Lake. We spent 3 nights on the Berg Lake trail, starting mid-afternoon on a Thursday and finishing late Sunday afternoon. We stayed at Kinney, Berg Lake and then Marmot campsites. It all depends on what you’re hoping to get out of it (and how many night’s camping you’ve been able to book!).
Spending three nights on the trail meant we didn’t need to rush and it gave us a full day to explore some of the other trails in the area with 4 of us doing Snowbird Pass and the others hiking up to Toboggan Falls.
I would recommend at least 2 days, and 3 if you want to explore other Mount Robson hikes.
Water on the Berg Lake trail
Water is pretty abundant on the Berg Lake trail and you’re never too far away from a stream, river or lake. There’s one section at kilometre 11 as you begin the climb to Emperor Falls where it’s recommended you top up your water as there’s about 4km where you won’t be able to fill up otherwise. There are signs to remind you of this as you hike.
While the water appears to be super clear, you’re recommended to filter, boil or treat your water before drinking it. We bought Sawyer squeeze filters (one per couple) and they worked great for what we needed. They’re pretty quick to filter the water and lightweight so didn’t take up much space in our packs.
Berg Lake wildlife
There are many different animals along the Berg Lake, Mount Robson trail. Here are the ones we saw (as well as a few birds too!).
Bears: Berg Lake is in bear country so it’s important to carry bear spray and ideally to hike in a group. Regardless of whether you’re in a group or not, make some noise as you hike (conversation, banging a couple of small rocks) especially in areas where your smell or noise might be masked by the river or waterfalls. We didn’t see any Berg Lake trail bears and there hadn’t been any reports of any on the trail, but there are a few around the visitors’ centre. Refresh your bear safety knowledge here.
Porcupines: We spotted a porcupine up by the Berg Lake shelter that seems to spend their time there. Don’t get too close and give it some space!
Mountain goats: In the meadows on the Snowbird Pass trail we saw quite a few mountain goats and babies! This seems to be a popular spot to see them.
Hoary Marmot: There were loads of marmots along the Snowbird Pass trail and also a few between Marmot and Berg Lake campgrounds.
What to know before hiking the Berg Lake Trail, Mt Robson
There are a few rules and regulations in place to protect the beauty of the Berg Lake area. It’s important to respect these so people can continue to enjoy it for years to come.
- Always practice Leave No Trace. Not sure what that is? Here’s a reminder.
- Dogs are allowed on the trail on a leash but not overnight. You can only do a day hike if bringing your dog.
- You can bike the first 7km of the trail to Kinney Lake where there is a bike rack (just passed the campsite).
- Hammocks are not permitted anywhere on the trail.
- The maximum group size is 6 people (introduced in 2020).
- Fires are not permitted anywhere on the trail (except Whitehorn or Berg Lake shelters in emergency situations – firewood is provided). You’ll need a camp stove to cook on.
- You can get an idea of the Berg Lake trail conditions and Berg Lake trail report before you go. Or by reading reviews on Alltrails.
Berg Lake trail review
Now for the best part! What this Mt Robson hike, the Berg Lake trail, is actually like. Here’s a breakdown of our backpacking trip to Berg Lake.
The trailhead to Kinney Lake campground
The trailhead for Berg Lake is 2km up the road from the Mount Robson visitor centre where you pick up your yellow permit tag. There are a couple of pit toilets here with toilet paper (the last place that has toilet paper on the trail!).
There’s a little placard at the far end of the parking lot which has an introduction to the trail and you’ll cross a bridge over the Robson River to begin the hike!
The first part of the trail up to Kinney Lake (7km) is pretty easy. There are a few short, manageable uphill sections but nothing too strenuous.
If you’ve got a mountain bike you can actually cycle this part of the trail and leave your bike locked up at the bike racks near Kinney Lake campground. It’ll certainly speed things up on the return journey!
Once you’ve crossed Kinney Lake Bridge, right where the lake meets the river you’ve got the option to veer left and walk along the shores of the lake which is great for scenic views. However, at the beginning of the season, or following lots of rain, you might be walking through puddles and/or mud as we were! Alternatively, you can follow the trail straight on from the bridge for a more direct, drier, route.
A couple more kilometres from the bridge and you’ll reach the campground. There’s an open-air shelter here with some picnic benches, and 14 tent pads, most with awesome views of the lake.
This is where we spent our first evening on the Berg Lake trail.
Kinney Lake to Whitehorn Campground
To continue on the trail follow the path out of Kinney Lake campground and take a bridge over a stream. The trail starts off nice and flat and you get the choice to either walk through the flats or follow the main trail through the forest.
I highly recommend walking through the flats as you’ll be walking out in the open with amazing mountain views.
There’s a little bit of a climb for 2km to get up above the flats and onto Whitehorn hill. When you reach the top there’s a big suspension bridge you need to cross to get to the Whitehorn campsite which is just on the other side.
Whitehorn campground would make a great place to spend your first night as it’s 11km in and is just before the big climb!
It’s a peaceful looking campsite on the river banks and the tent pads are quite hidden in the forest. There’s also a shelter with a fireplace for emergencies and a ranger cabin just across the river from the campground.
Whitehorn to Emperor Falls, Mount Robson
Are you ready?! This is the big climbing section of the Berg Lake trail. From Whitehorn campsite, you have almost a kilometre of flat terrain and another bridge to navigate then it’s time to sweat!
After the first few switchbacks, you’ll come to a viewpoint of White Falls which makes a great stopping place to catch your breath. Then you’ll come across the Falls of the Pool viewpoint and eventually come out to a junction with a sign pointing slightly downhill to your right to the Emperor Falls viewpoint.
Definitely go check out the viewpoint, it’s well worth seeing the roaring Emperor Falls from a bit closer! Take your waterproofs as you’ll get wet from all the spray from the falls.
Returning to the main trail, continue on for about half a kilometre and you’ll come to the Emperor Falls campground.
We stopped here for lunch at the riverside after hiking from Kinney Lake that morning and the clouds even parted giving us a view of Mount Robson.
Emperor Falls campground to Marmot Campground
Celebrate since reaching Emperor Falls campground means you’ve done basically all the climbing!
You can now enjoy relatively flat trail all the way to Berg Lake campsite. This doesn’t mean the views are any less spectacular; if anything they’re even better!
You’ll cross a rockslide that’s very easy to walk on and doesn’t require any scrambling. Look up to spot Mist glacier and take in the views of the river flats on your right too.
As you round the corner you’ll see Berg Lake with its beautiful blue colour and as you reach the beginning of Berg Lake you’ll get to Marmot campground on your left. There’s also a fantastic view of Berg Glacier as it drops down into the lake.
Marmot to Berg Lake Campground
From Marmot to Berg Lake it’s an easy 2km where you’ll follow a trail mostly in the trees and a couple of metres up from the lakeshore. There are some viewpoints every now and again of the lake, Mist glacier and Berg Lake.
Before you know it, you’ll reach Berg Lake campground! There are a few spots on your left in amongst the trees but stay on the main trail if you’re headed further on, or want to check out the other tent pads.
Berg Lake is the biggest campsite on the trail and there are tent pads before the shelter, then a couple more after the shelter once you’ve crossed over a bridge.
There are two more campsites after Berg Lake campground; Rearguard campground and Robson Pass campground. If you’re looking for something quieter, but still want to be near Berg Lake, I’d recommend Marmot or Rearguard as great alternative options to the Berg Lake campsite.
Additional hikes from Berg Lake
If you’ve booked an additional night on the Berg Lake trail, you can either spend it relaxing lakeside with a good book (in which case check out my favourite adventure reads!). Or, you can go on a Berg Lake day hike which I’d highly recommend doing!
There are a few options, but the one we did was the Snowbird Pass trail. I’ve included some basic information about each of the different Mt Robson provincial park hikes below and there’s a full breakdown of hiking Snowbird Pass here.
Hike to the foot of Robson Glacier
If you didn’t see any ‘bergs in Berg Lake, it’s well worth hiking out to the foot (or toe) or Robson Glacier. There’s a Mount Robson lake here which usually has a couple of icebergs floating in it, plus Robson glacier is even more impressive than Berg Glacier. In fact, it’s the largest glacier on Mount Robson!
The hike is generally flat and takes you to the far side of Berg Lake campground, past Rearguard campsite and over to the glacier following the beginning of the Snowbird Pass trail. If you want a view of the Robson glacier from higher up, you could do the first part of the climb to Snowbird Pass.
Snowbird Pass is a full-day hike with a lot of elevation and stunning scenery. If you’ve got a day to spare it’s well worth doing for the views of the Robson glacier, the hike through some meadows and the final climb up to the pass where you’ll be looking down into Alberta!
It’s not an easy hike and you’ll need to be well prepared for changing conditions. We even got snowed on at the top of the Pass when we visited in early July!
Note: Snowbird Pass is closed until July 1st every year.
The Mumm Basin trail at Berg Lake goes up from the Robson Pass campground and offers great views of Berg Lake and Rearguard and Robson mountains. If you visit at the right time you’ll go through an alpine meadow full of wildflowers. At the moment you’ll have to do this as an out and back trail as part of the route is closed due to landslide activity. There are plenty of signs in the area to tell you at which point you have to turn around.
Toboggan Falls and Hargreaves Lake
Toboggan Falls are a series of stunning falls that feed down into Berg Lake. This moderate hike gives you views of the falls, Berg Lake and there’s the option to hike on further to reach Hargreaves Lake too.
Camping on the Berg Lake trail
There are seven campgrounds on the Berg Lake trail, some more popular than others, and all of varying size. We stayed one night at Kinney Lake, one at Berg Lake and another at Marmot campground, before returning back home. Berg Lake campground is the most popular campsite on the trail as it’s right on Berg Lake and is a great location for doing some of the additional hikes listed above. However, Marmot campground, Rearguard and Robson Pass campground are within 2km of Berg Lake and offer quieter, more private camping opportunities while still being close to other hikes.
While Berg Lake campground would probably still be my first pick of campsites were I to do the trail again, I enjoyed our night at Marmot and Rearguard campsite looked like a great spot too.
Wondering what Berg Lake camping is like? Here’s a bit more information on what to expect.
Camping on the Berg Lake trail doesn’t come with luxuries. Each of the campgrounds has a pit toilet (with the larger campgrounds having a few), but you are required to bring your own toilet paper.
Shelters and/or picnic tables
Some of the more popular campsites (Kinney, Whitehorn and Berg Lake) have shelters which can be used to shelter from the rain. At Kinney and Whitehorn these shelters and open-air; they have a roof, but no walls. At Berg Lake, the shelter is more like a basic cabin and has some cards games leftover from other hikers.
We were told the Berg Lake trail shelters were closed in 2020 but found this not to be the case.
Washing & wastewater
It’s important to only do your washing at the washing stations provided. These usually include a sink area, with a bucket which you can fill up from one of the nearby water sources.
The wastewater must then be poured onto the ground by the wastewater sign (usually close to where you’ve washed up). At Berg Lake, the washing station has a pipe so you don’t need to empty the water separately. If everyone put their wastewater into the lake it would quickly become ruined, so please follow the rules regarding this to keep the area beautiful.
Each campground has tent pads. In some cases these are just patches of dirt with a wooden border around them, in others, they are raised wooden platforms. The tent pads are about 10ft x 10ft. But, we noticed some seemed to be slightly bigger or smaller than this in practice. When reserving your campsite, note that while you can have 6 people per group, each tent pad is only meant for one tent. So, if there are 6 of you, you’ll need to reserve 2-3 tent pads. You can fit 2 small two-person tents on one tent pad at a push but it’s a very tight fit!
While on the Berg Lake trail you’re hiking in bear territory. We didn’t see any but you are required to put all food, cooking equipment and toiletries in a storage locker. The lockers are provided at each campsite. The easiest way to do this is to keep all your food in a dry bag which you can just put in the locker and remove as needed. If you’re leaving your campground for a day hike, remember to put your food in the locker and don’t leave it in your tent.
What to pack for Berg Lake
I’ve got a full packing list for Berg Lake here. The items listed below are essential backpacking items for this trip.
- Camping equipment: Tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mats, food & snacks, water, camp stove and gas
- Water filter/tablets: We all used Sawyer water purifier, one per couple
- Bug spray: There’s quite a few about!
- Bear spray
- Toilet paper: Since none of the outhouses will have it
- For 2020: Hand sanitiser and masks (in case of rescue) are required