Saturday, 2 August 2008

The Berg Lake Trail (British Columbia)

[1-click to enlarge]

Berg Lake is located within Mount Robson Provincial Park, at the foot of the north face of Mount Robson (photo shows south face at sunset), the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies at 3954m.

Berg Lake can be reached by following a marked hiking trail for 22 kilometres from the parking lot. To reach the parking lot, follow the Yellowhead Highway (#16) west from the Jasper townsite for 84 km (53 miles) to the Mount Robson Viewpoint centre. Here you will find gas, camping, a café and convenience store. On the north side of the highway follow a two-lane paved road for two km, ending at the good sized parking lot. Although some people go to Berg Lake on day one, consider making it a two-day hike (biking to the 7 km point helps a bit) and, you will want a full day or two at Berg Lake, minimum. Although the trail is easy to follow, this is wilderness, and be prepared for weather changes, bugs, and wildlife (i.e. bears). Bring first aid gear, sunscreen, good boots, food, and lots of water even if you are not spending the night.


[3] There are reminders from BC Parks about hazards along the trail at various locations.

[4A] This photo shows the rise in elevation from the parking lot which is almost 900m altitude. The altitude at Berg Lake campsite is slightly under 1700m. For those with asthma or other medical conditions it would be an extremely difficult hike after Kinney Lake as the oxygen level thins. It could be managed safely provided one used the general rule of thumb method of not ascending more than 300 metres (1,000 feet) per day to sleep, as well as approval from your family doctor.

[4B-First portion of trail before Kinney Lake - click to enlarge]

The Berg Lake Trail is well marked, progressing in several stages, appropriate for various abilities.

[4C-Berg Lake Trail bridge - click to enlarge]

Past Kinney Lake it is considered a difficult trail; for less fit hikers break the hiking into sections by stopping at one or more of the seven campsites along the trail: Kinney Lake, Whitehorn, Emperor Falls, Marmot, Berg Lake, Rearguard, and Robson Pass. Each campground has a cluster of tent pads for a single tent up to 10’ x 10’ and 1 to 6 people (all ages) per pad. Some of the campsites require a reservation with BC Parks.

[5-Berg Lake Trail - First 7km is like this]

A day hike to Kinney Lake and return takes approxi-mately 2.5 hours. The trail winds through old-growth cedar/hemlock forest as it follows the Robson River to Kinney Lake. The hike offers incredible scenery and wildlife viewing opportunities.

The first stage of the hike takes you on a very wide and well marked trail to Kinney Lake. Big trees, some interpretive signs, and rushing water characterize the first 5km. The trail climbs gradually alongside the Robson River (a tributary of the Fraser River) for 4.2 kilometres before reaching Kinney Lake where there is a primitive campground and a rest area. This is a nice destination for those out for a day hike.

[7- Kinney Lake - 7km mark]

The trail continues generally northwest, past the north end of the lake (bike lock up) where a sign offers two options: take the rocky boulder-strewn flood plain in the lowlands (not always passable, but shorter and easier), or, take the longer trail on the higher ground. Both reconnect with the main trail at the end of the lake (and a larger bridge). At 8.5 km cross a bridge to the Robson River’s west bank. Proceed onto a broad alluvial plain. At 9 km begin the steep ascent of Whitehorn Hill.

[8- Looking back to Kinney Lake, Robson River and gravel flats about 9km in trail]

Shortly afterward you will face an uphill section, with switchbacks, which flattens out and carries on for a few more kilometers to the Ranger station and Whitehorn Campground -- near the suspension bridge. This is another great day one stop from Kinney Lake. On the west bank is a ranger station. Cross to the east bank and arrive at Whitehorn campground. It has a spacious, open-air cooking shelter.

[9- Whitehorn campsite and ranger station]

[10- leaving White-horn campsite]

[11- one of the suspension bridges - click to enlarge]

In the next few kilometres, you then cross two steel bridges over the Robson River. The first is a suspension bridge. The next stage continues on 1 km beyond the campground and then 4km of daunting steep uphill towards Berg Lake via Emperor Falls. There are many lookouts in the Valley of a Thousand Falls.

[12 - Waterfall in Valley of a Thousand Falls - click to enlarge]

At 11.8 km cross another suspension bridge, back to the river’s west bank. Heading north, begins a steep ascent with switchbacks. The trail continues generally north, into Valley of a Thousand Falls.

[13- Looking back down to White-horn Campsite]

[14- Indian Paint-brush]

[15-looking back on trail up to White Falls]

[17- river below White Falls]

Over the next few kilometres, you will pass White Falls as the trail gains 450 m in the next 3.5 km along the rugged Robson River gorge.

[18-White Falls - click to enlarge]

[19- above top of White Falls, lowest of the three]

[21- Falls of the Pool]

After Falls of the Pool comes the magnificent Emperor Falls.

[22- Emperor Falls - click to enlarge]

At 15.4 km take the short spur to pay homage to the mighty Emperor.

[22B-Mt Robson from Emperor Falls campground - click to enlarge]

Near Emperor Falls campground, at approximately 16 km, the trail levels. It heads northeast, then curves east entering rocky terrain in the upper Robson River Valley.

[23-Going around and above swampy area]

[24- Scree trail above swampy bit of valley]

[25- Mist Glacier] The cliffs of Mt. Robson now dominate the scene. Mist Glacier is soon visible to the east. Will reach Marmot campground at 18.8 km.

At 19.1 km, the Hargreaves Glacier/Mumm Basin trail forks left, ascending generally north-northwest. Bear right on the main trail, heading generally northeast, paralleling the northwest shore of Berg Lake. Reach Berg Lake campground at 21 km.

[26- Berg Glacier on Mt. Robson, Berg Lake]

When you reach Berg Lake you are treated to views of Mt. Robson and the Emperor Face. You can also watch the Glacier calve into the water. The turquoise colored Berg Lake is dotted with icebergs even in the middle of summer. There is primitive camping and a BC Parks hut at Berg Lake.


The Hargreaves Shelter (photo) serves backpackers who want to cook indoors. Just 100 m past the campground, immediately after the Toboggan Creek bridge, the trail to Toboggan Falls forks left and ascends generally northwest. If you want more privacy than is available at Berg Lake, and you’re willing to forego quick access to the shelter, continue up the main trail, past the lake’s northeast end, to Rearguard campground, at 22 km.

There are other trips to Hargreaves Lake, Tobbogan Falls, Mumm Basin, Snowbird Pass (closed in May and June due to caribou calving), the toe of the Robson Glacier, and Moose River which will be covered in later posts.

The Texqakallt, a Secwepemc people (also commonly known as the Shuswap) are the earliest inhabitants of the area, call it Yuh-hai-has-kun or The Mountain of the Spiral Road. The Shuswap are a First Nations group located in the area around Kamloops.

The B.C. legislature created the park in 1913, the same year as the first ascent of Mount Robson by a party led by Conrad Kain.

The first recreational trail was built in 1913 by Jasper outfitter Donald "Curly" Phillips along the Robson River to Berg Lake.

This park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, together with the other national and provincial parks that form the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks, for the mountain landscapes containing mountain peaks, glaciers, lakes, waterfalls, canyons and limestone caves as well as fossils found here.

Research: wikipedia,;
Photo credits: [1]-Dru! CC=nc-flickr, [2]-Mike the Mountain CC=nc-flickr, [4A][12]-merehikes CC=nc-flickr, [3][4B][4C][11]-kleinmantara CC=nc-sa-flickr, [5][7][13][15][17][19][21][23][24][25][26]-HandsLive CC=flickr, [8][10][12][14][18][22B]-brilang CC=nc-sa-flickr, [9]-mikewarren CC=nc-sa-flickr, [22]-Feffel CC=nc-sa-flickr, [27]-Loriane Zachery Agnes Nicholas CC=sa-flickr.


Alyssa Goodnight said...

Oh my gosh, how beautiful! I sooo need a vacation--to someplace lovely and cool. Thanks for posting!

Barbara Martin said...

Alyssa, this is about as cool as I could make it. At least you've saved yourself the gruelling hike up to Berg Lake. I've been on the trail to Kinney Lake too many years ago to count (or tell). I write these posts to satisfy my wunderlust while my vacation time crawls to me.

Charles Gramlich said...

Wow. Such gorgeous hiking areas. I'd really like to be well enough off to afford a cabin up in the middle of all that. What an amazing place it would be to write.

Anonymous said...

Barbara thanks for visiting me and leaving your kind comment. This is a wonderful hike with spectacular scenery. No wonder it was declared a UNESO site.Kept wondering what was going to be around the next bend and was not disappointed.I can imagine the roar of the Emperor Falls!Thanks for the fun.

Travis Erwin said...

And I'm stuck hrre at work. thanks for giving me a beautiful taste of the outside world.

BernardL said...

A simply gorgeous review of the area.

Barbara Martin said...

Charles, you can always visit mountain areas to write, although I suspect there may be too many distractions.

Pam, I plan on posting more hikes. Its like writing a story: beginning, middle and end, with suspense thrown in.

Traivs, nice to see you're enjoying your break time.

Bernard, thank you for your appreciative words.

Rick said...

We just left BC and drove from Seattle, WA all the way back to Detroit, MI. Arrived back home about an hour ago with tons of photos on the way that we took and are proud of, but it's tough to match the photos and narrative you posted. The lady I drove back with is absolutely envious of your work.

We'll post some of our photos on my blog next week. But I think we'll stick with Montana, since you've taken fist prize for BC. We're going back next spring, she loved it so much.

Barbara Martin said...

Ferrel, welcome. Please post your photos about your BC trip. It's always interesting to see other viewpoints on an area. Often I have to rely on material from outfitters or hikers for distance locations or commentary which are not always accurate. The areas I post about in detail are those I have been to, either in childhood or as a young adult.

The marked trail with its railings and bridges are an improvement from the 50s and early 60s where it seemed as if some of the trails were only animal tracks through the wilderness. The more popular areas in early tourism had trails and only bridges with railings, and said bridges had to be rebuilt every spring due to the spring runoff. Hiking certainly has improved over the years.

laughingwolf said...

i love 'wild' canada... make that, the world... thx barbara

[home again, stiff/sore from fall, thursday, nothing broken]

Steve Malley said...

Thanks for that virtual walk! Until the weather here improves, it's the closest I'll get to a good and proper tramp.

Barbara Martin said...

Laughingwolf, hope you had a nice break away from it all. If you have a bruise use Vicka Vaporub so the bruise disappears faster.

Steve, there are such wonderful mountains in New Zealand. You should post something about them!! How about your next tramp?

L.A. Mitchell said...

These photos are such a welcome sigh. It's hotter than Africa here. Thanks for letting me dream for a bit :)

Barbara Martin said...

L.A., it can get quite hot in the mountain valleys in the summer. A chilling thought would be to take a dip in Berg Lake. I did come across a photo of two men who had, but decided to pass it by. It gave me goosebumps.

laughingwolf said...

i'll pick up some tomorrow, thank you...

Barbara Martin said...

Laughingwolf, you need just a thin layer (don't use if you have a cut or broken skin). I suppose I should post about what first aid items to take on a hike.

laughingwolf said...

ok, i won't get any then, skin is raw, oozing blood at times

btw - you may call me tony, shorter to type ;)

Ruth L.~ said...

What an absolutely beautiful place. Great photos. Thanks for the tour. I'd love to be there in person.

Barbara Martin said...

Tony, too bad you have an owee: best to leave it to the air and keep it clean.

Ruth, thank you. The wilderness areas of Canada and the United States have that refreshing "away from it all" aspect.

laughingwolf said...

thx barbara, what i'm doing... and keeping it clean with hydrogen peroxide, though they now say it's not a good choice

lots of tylenol before bed, just so i can get IN bed... pain still drives me nuts at times....

Barbara Martin said...

Tony, using the hydrogen peroxide initially was fine, but if the open part shows infection see a doctor or put polysporin on it sparingly. A good alternative is using a bandaid with a silver mesh (without topical ointments) which works wonderfully. I've tried these.

laughingwolf said...

thx... i used the hp on three occasions, now i leave it to air... nurse put on gobs of polysporin in hospital, but it was still seeping a bit three days later... dry now, beginning to scab over...

Maria said...

The tour looks extremely beautiful. I do some hiking in Austria, too, but your tour looks great! The waterfall- ah!

Barbara Martin said...

Maria, waterfalls during a hike are quite refreshing, if only from getting some of that cold, wet spray on you while passing. Later, in the fall, I hope to get away from the office to travel to Banff in the Rockies.