Berg Lake backpacking trail
The Berg Lake Trail is renowned as one of Canada’s best, and it would be hard to find someone who disagrees. You’ll pass through lush valleys, impressive waterfalls, and rocky slopes to reach the aptly-named Berg Lake, below the towering Mount Robson. The views of the Berg Glacier toeing off into the lake are unforgettable, and the day hikes from here will take you to icefields, caves, and stunning viewpoints.
From Jasper, take Highway 16 west for 90.0km to the Mount Robson Provincial Park Visitor Centre. You’ll need to take a brief orientation and get your permit, before you drive the 2.0km to the Berg Lake Trailhead, where you leave your car.
|When to do|
Trailhead, and all campgrounds
Older Children only
Out and back
Route Description for Berg Lake
The Berg Lake Trail is very popular and requires early booking to get the dates you want. Reservations open on October 1, the year before you will be hiking it. It is recommended to book in advance as cancellations in prime season are rare. Before starting your hike, you are required to check-in with the Visitor Centre, complete an orientation, and acquire your permit.
The first day of the Berg Lake Trail is often an easy one, as guests arrive from Edmonton, Calgary or Banff after long drives. As such, the first day is usually a shorter day hiking to either Kinney lake (7.0km, 180m elevation, 2-3 hours) or Whitehorn (11.0km, 280m, 3-4 hrs) campgrounds.
You’ll need to start off by going to the Mount Robson visitor centre, where you’ll sign-in and get an orientation. You’ll also need to show a confirmation of your reservation to get your permit tags (one for each tent), which you’ll need to keep handy in case rangers ask for them while you’re on the trail. Once you’ve done all this, drive the 2.0km to the trailhead, and park your car and set off on the backpack to Berg Lake.
The first section of the Berg Lake Trail is quite easy on an old gravel road. In fact, bikes are allowed on the first 7.0km, though it can be a tricky ride for inexperienced riders with a big backpack. We find that biking this section really pays off on the exit on your final day.
The trail travels through old-growth forest, and comes in close contact to the Robson River. Along the way, the trail has a mild elevation gain. After 4.5km you cross a bridge over Robson River, and soon come to Kinney Lake. Follow the east side of the lake and you will come to Kinney Lake Campground (7.0km from starting). Kinney Lake Campground is a pleasant campground with a shelter and 14 tentpads. This is a good option if you are starting very late in the day.
If you are riding your bike, continue along the lakeshore trail until reaching some bike racks where you can lock your bike until you return. You can’t take bikes past this point.
For the first day we prefer to continue past Kinney Lake Campground to Whitehorn or Emperor Falls Campgrounds. Continue on the trail as it eventually splits – both trails end up converging in about 1.0km, though we prefer the higher route which is on the right. You’ll gain some elevation through forest and cross and re-cross the Robson River. Soon you cross a bridge you are at Whitehorn Campground (11.0km from start).
You are now in the other-worldly Valley of a Thousand Falls. This wide, lush valley is a great place to spend the night, as the Whitehorn campground has 22 tent pads and is equipped with a covered cook shelter.
Enjoy a hearty breakfast and stretch your legs, because your second day will take you 10.0km to Berg Lake Campground. Along the 4-hour backpack, you’ll gain 550m, almost all of it during a 5.0km slog at the start where you gain 500m of elevation between Whitehorn and Emperor Falls campgrounds. You’ll arrive at Berg Lake in plenty of time to setup your tent and take an afternoon stroll.
Despite being the most difficult portion of the trail, the views here are incredible. Begin with up-close views of White Falls and enjoy changing scenery as you climb towards the famed Emperor Falls.
You’ll reach a junction for Emperor Falls, and this is a must-do detour. The view of Emperor Falls is spectacular, and an easy and worthwhile diversion.
Once back on the trail, another 500m and you reach the Emperor Falls campground. This is a nice campground, and fit backpackers usually make it to Emperor Falls Campground on Day 1.
The trail flattens out after Emperor Falls, where you will start to see your first glimpses of the incredible Mount Robson. Follow the trail and you soon round a corner that will open up with views of Berg Lake. Enjoy the stunning Mist Glacier as you pass by Marmot Campground (7.8km from Whitehorn campground), and continue hiking along the lakeshore watching the namesake Berg Glacier cap off into the lake, leaving icebergs floating in the icy blue waters.
The heavily populated Berg Lake Campground is near the NW end of Berg Lake, and has 26 tent pads and a cooking shelter. Once your tent is setup, we recommend a quick side trip, maybe the 2.5-hour trip over to Toboggan Falls and Hargreaves Lake for some great views. This route is 6.0km and gains 300m along the way.
Note that if you can’t get the Berg Lake campsite, consider nearby Rearguard and Robson Pass campgrounds. They don’t offer a cooking shelter, but are nearby. Rearguard is preferable, as it is a very small campground with 5 sites and in a very nice location. The Robson Pass campground about 2.0km from Berg Lake and has 15 sites, and is often used for commercial groups.
Leave your tent setup and head out for a long day to the spectacular Snowbird Pass. This 22.0km hike gains 785m and will take 6-8 hours, depending on your fitness.
If the weather is clear, make sure to set your alarm and wake up for sunrise on the Berg Lake lakeshore. If you’re lucky, you’ll be treated to morning colours hitting the peak of Mount Robson making for quite the show.
The trail for Snowbird Pass is a 22.0km round-trip gains roughly 800m and can be strenuous if you are tired from your previous approach to the Berg Lake area. This hike traverses the lateral moraine of the incredible Robson Glacier, before gaining steadily towards the pass. From the pass you will be graced with captivating views of the Reef and Coleman Glaciers.
Return the way you came for some much-needed rest.
If you are looking for something shorter to fulfil your day, consider the 6.0km trip to the Toe of the Robson Glacier (which is partway on the Snowbird Loop). You could also do the 10.0km out and back loop to Mumm Basin, which gains 450m.
Get a good night’s rest before returning to the trailhead the way you came on day four.
Today is the day to hike out. If you’ve eaten all your food and drank all the wine you carried in, then your pack should be light, and you can do the whole distance in one day. Point yourself downhill and follow the Berg Lake trail all the way out for 21.0km, back to the Berg Lake Trailhead.
Note: Total GPS distance varies from each days distance due to side trips and slight route variations each day.
Day 1: Trailhead to Whitehorn Campground (11.0km/244m)
Day2: Whitehorn to Berg Lake Campground (10.0km/518m) + optional afternoon hike
Day 3 : Day hike to Snowbird Pass (22.0km/758m)
Day 4: Berg Lake to Trailhead (21.0km/-794m)
Bike to Kinney Lake for your first 7.0km to make for a thrilling and gratifying exit on your final day. This can also allow you to push to Berg Lake in one day if you are in good backpacking shape.
Book in October the year before to ensure the dates you want.
If continuing west, stop in Valemount at the Swiss Bakery for some delicious treats.
Be prepared for all kinds of weather at Berg Lake. Even in the middle of summer we take a quality Gore-tex shell, rain pants and a down coat.
Similar backpacking trails to the Berg Lake backpacking trail
The trip to Nigel, Cataract and Cline Pass covers vast meadows, uniquely-coloured rock, glacial streams, and the glaciers of Cataract…
The Tonquin Valley is a backpacking paradise. The prize of the trip is the Ramparts, a series of 10 castellated…
Maligne Pass is a wonderful alpine pass in a rarely-visited area of Jasper National Park. Maligne Pass is one of…