Our extended stay in the Canadian Rockies saw Jennifer and me going on a lot of backcountry adventures. During those trips, we would make friends around the campfire and ask the locals, “What is your favorite backpacking trip in the area?” Almost all of them said that it was Berg Lake. The only ones that didn’t hadn’t been lucky enough to secure a spot and venture onto the trail. Even a few adventurous souls told us that the 26-mile journey was their favorite day hike in the Canadian Rockies as they had not been able to grab a campsite. All this hype left me wondering if it was all too good to be true and that we would ultimately be disappointed. Luckily that was not the case and our journey on the Berg Lake Trail quickly became one of our favorite adventures in the Canadian Rockies.
Many backpacking trails are about the destination or several destinations, but with the Berg Lake Trail, the journey is beautiful and worth every step. However, this trail is wildly popular and with only 98 campsites spread out across 7 campgrounds along the entire 14-mile trail (2 campgrounds are beyond the Berg Lake Campground) this can be a hard trip to plan and acquire a reservation for. Our recommendation is to start planning the summer before you wish to go so that you are ready on October 1st to go online and snag your reservations. After acquiring your spot start praying for amazing weather as you won’t be able to change your plans due to inclement weather.
If you miss the October (Moved to January for 2021) window for reservations but have flexibility, call the Mount Robson visitor center throughout the summer asking about cancellations. People often cancel their trips in the weeks leading up to the date as understandably a lot of people’s plans change in 9 – 11 months.
Kinney Lake Campground: 4.5-miles, 14 sites, shelter with picnic tables, communal bear boxes, pit toilets, greywater pit, easily accessed water from the lake.
Whitehorn Ranger Cabin: 7-miles, Emergency Radio located here.
Whitehorn Campground: 7-miles, 22 sites, shelter with picnic tables, communal bear boxes, pit toilets, greywater pit, easily accessed water from the creek.
Emperor Falls Campground: 10.25-miles, 9 sites, NO shelter, communal bear boxes, pit toilets, greywater pit, easily accessed water from the creek.
Marmot Campground: 11.75-miles, 7 sites, NO shelter, communal bear boxes, pit toilets, greywater pit, easily accessed water from the creek.
Berg LakeCampground: 13-miles, 26 sites, enclosed shelter with tables, communal bear boxes, pit toilets, greywater pit, easily accessed water from the creek.
Rearguard Campground: 13.5-miles, 5 sites, NO shelter, communal bear boxes, pit toilets, greywater pit, easily accessed water from the creek.
Berg Lake Ranger Cabin: 14-miles, Emergency Radio located here.
Robson Pass Campground:14.25-miles, 15 sites, NO shelter, communal bear boxes, pit toilets, greywater pit, easily accessed water from the creek.
July 1st is the earliest we would plan on being on the trail because Snowbird Pass is off-limits for the caribou calving season until then.
Late July to late August is peak season. Most likely warm weather with clear trails but the mosquitos will be in full force.
Mid to late September is beautiful with the aspens and lark trees changing color. This is when we decided to go but it can also be brutally cold and you should expect the likely possibility of getting snowed on.
For most backcountry trails found in the Canadian Rockies, you need only carry your reservations with you while on your traverse. This is not the case for Berg Lake. You must check-in at the Berg Lake desk at the Mount Robson Provincial Park Visitor Center (PST) before setting off on the trail. They will require you to watch a very dated video about the trail where you will learn about the terrain, what to expect and how absurdly large boomboxes were in the mid-nineties. They will also issue you a laminated camping tag that has your campsites listed on it that you are required to attach to your tent. Do not set off on your Berg Lake journey with the notions that you can camp wherever you like. You must stay at an established campsite in the campground that you reserved.
When to Check In
The Mount Robson Visitor Center has set seasonal hours and they are on Pacific Time. We recommend arriving the day before your hike starts and checking in then so that you can set off first thing in the morning before the crowds arrive. The Robson River Meadows Campground is a massive campground with hot showers that can be reserved ahead of time. They also have first-come, first-served sites available as well.
While the heart of the Berg Lake Trail is only a 26-mile adventure there is a lot to see and experience. Having 5-days in the backcountry gives you ample time to enjoy all that the landscape has to offer but also gives you some flexibility in case of inclement weather.
1st Day: Hike to the Whitehorn Campground. Stop at Kinney Lake and enjoy a lunch or snack on the scenic lakeshore. Enjoy the majesty of camping at Whitehorn inside the Valley of a Thousand Falls. Explore the area and discover the massive White Falls.
2nd Day: Climb past steep waterfalls on Berg Creek. Take the short spur to Emperor Falls and experience the overwhelming sound of the massive waterfall. Continue up the trail passing the Mist Glacier to the foot of Berg Lake. Set up camp at the Berg Lake Campground and enjoy the sunset. Listen for the icebergs to calve.
3rd Day: Using the Berg Lake Campground as a base camp take on the challenge of Snowbird Pass. Add on an easy stop at Adolphus Lake during your return.
4th Day: Once again set out from the Berg Lake Campground and explore the Hargreaves Lake & Toboggan Falls Trail. Add in Mumm Basin & Caves if time and trail conditions allow.
5th Day: Wake up early and bid farewell to paradise. It is a long way out but with light packs and downhill terrain most backpackers can make the journey. If you are less experienced plan on relocating the night before to the Emperor Falls Campground. It won’t shave off much elevation loss but it will take off a few miles.
A backpacking trip on the Berg Lake Trail is fairly easy by Rocky Mountain standards. Weather in this part of the world is unpredictable and can change very quickly. It is important to bring lightweight gear that is flexible for warm and cold weather. Our backpacking gear is perfectly designed for this kind of trail so check out our pack list. If you are new to backpacking the Berg Lake Trail is actually a great trail as the campgrounds are well equipped and the terrain is fairly moderate. We’ve done an entire series of detailed posts on how to choose the right gear for your adventure.
After the Berg Lake Trail Guide
Mount Robson Provincial Park is located in a fairly remote area of the country. You should come prepared to either stay locally in the park at the Robson Meadows Campground after your adventure or make the journey back over the mountains to the town of Jasper. While there is a small diner near the Robson campground called the Peppertree Family Restaurant and Steakhouse there are many more options in Jasper. Our favorite is The Raven Bistro which serves great Mediterranean fare.
Berg Lake Trail Guide
The Berg Lake Trail is by far our favorite backpacking adventure in the Canadian high country. We might even go so far as to say it is the best backpacking trip that we have ever taken, which is saying a lot. We do not write these words lightly and it is not just our opinion. This trail has a lot of hype surrounding it. So much so that you have to reserve your campsites nearly a year in advance to secure a spot. However, this is a trail that is hard to over-exaggerate the beauty of and should definitely be on everyone’s Canadian backcountry wish list.