This is a trail that is not to be missed if you can fit it into your Canadian Rockies itinerary. Reservations are a giant pain and can make trip planning tricky but if you like spectacular scenery, waterfalls, and glaciers this is an amazing hike! We were extremely lucky to find a reservation for Berg Lake campground only 3 weeks in advance of our trip. The downside of our last minute reservations was that we only had 1 night at Berg Lake which 13 miles and 2500 feet making for a whopper of an overnight trip (26 miles).
We were a bit apprehensive in the morning when we awoke and found a lingering haze from forest fires in western B.C.. Nevertheless we decided that the forecast for showers later in the day may significantly improve the visibility as the day went on. We drove up to the visitor center and were spoon fed information regarding the trail. We were short on time and skipped the optional video on the Berg Lake Trail.
The first 3 miles or so to Kinney Lake follow an old road through the forest along the banks of the roaring Robson River. This section of trail is slightly uphill and thankfully pretty easy considering the long day we had ahead. From there the trail levels out and follows the milky blue waters of Kinney Lake. Even with an overcast sky there were pleasant reflections off the surface of the lake. Kinney Lake is where most day hikers turn around. We stopped at the convenient cooking shelter (roof only) and had a snack.
From Kinney Lake there is a significant drop off in traffic on the trail and you have two options follow the flood plain or climb up the hills into the forest. In retrospect we should have taken the flood plains as it was flatter, shorter, and offered better views. We climbed up into the forest. Eventually the trail dips back down and crosses the flood plains with a series of iron beam bridges. From here it’s a steady climb up through the forest to Whitehorn campground. Right before reaching Whitehorn (6.8 miles) you will cross a neat suspension rope bridge. At Whitehorn you are greeted by expansive views of the valley with numerous cascades and waterfalls dropping into the valley. Some were a bit obscured with the weather but it was a great spot to pull over for lunch.
After lunch at Whitehorn we shouldered our packs and made the push up to Berg Lake. Be warned this climb is a workout and it never relents it’s only steep in a few spots but it is relentlessly uphill which makes for a real huff and puff. Thankfully along the way you are treated to several waterfalls that have great view points (White Falls, Falls of the Pool). We took our time and stopped at each falls to take pictures. Just before Emperor Falls the trail steepens and you make a last push up the hill. Although we were pressed for time we made the short (1/4 mile) side trip to the base of Emperor Falls. It was quite slippery as the wind had pushed the spray back onto the trail. We snapped a few quick pictures between the spray and headed back to the main trail.
After passing the small Emperor Falls campground the weather briefly cleared and we saw Mt Robson in all its grandeur. Mt. Robson is the highest and most prominent peak in the Canadian Rockies jutting out 9000 feet from the surrounding terrain. There are several glaciers that flow from Mt Robson to the terrain below. The valley beyond Emperor Falls campground was awesome just at treeline but yet exposed enough to see the dramatic alpine views. As the day was getting late we picked up the pace along the valley as the trail turned into rocks. Right before the shore of Berg Lake the trail completely levels out on the flood plain of the lake. At this point the weather was turning and the skies became ominous.
Just our luck as we reached the shores of Berg Lake it started sprinkling and I naively decided to push on without putting on rain covers. By the time I realized it was raining we were getting wet and had no cover to put on rain gear. After hastily putting on pack covers and rain jackets we sped along the shores of Berg Lake. We really picked up the pace once it began raining and the thunder was closing in. We were tired, wet, and getting cold both of us really wanted a hot drink so we just sort of eked out the last 2 miles to camp.
Berg Lake is by far the best campground along the trail as it has a fully enclosed shelter that stays nice and warm. We were lucky enough to get directions to an empty tent pad to pitch our tent. The campground layout is pretty confusing so don’t hesitate to ask around for an empty tent pad. We quickly threw up the tent got inside and changed into dry clothes and layers. We jumped back into the shelter (which is awesome) and it was nice and toasty warm from others cooking dinner. We caught the last light on Berg Lake and saw the last bits of light hit the glacier. After a delicious dinner we went to sleep hoping to stay warm.
When we awoke the next morning we were astonished by the spectacular views of Mt Robson, Berg Glacier, and Berg Lake. It’s a striking scene to see a glacier calve into a milky blue glacier lake. We kept hearing large chunks of the glacier tumble into Berg Lake all morning.
After a morning oatmeal we packed up and took a bunch of pictures from the shore and headed back. It was a long and well punishing hike back due to the accumulated distance over 2 days (26 miles!!!). Once back to the car we were tired, sore, but damned happy we had made the trek to Berg Lake.
Distance: 26 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 3200 feet