Situated just outside of Jasper lies Mt Robson Provincial Park, home of the highest mountain in the Canadian Rockies, Mt Robson, and the infamous Berg Lake Trail. The trail is one of the most popular back country hiking routes in BC offering epic mountain views and close up encounters with glaciers. It has been on my to do list since last summer so with some choice planning, myself, Marcus and his mate Jan decided to head out and spend a couple of days hiking/camping in the back country.
New gear: sleeping bag, tent, stove and cooking supplies
Everything packed down with professional flip flop scale
Marcus and I took off early from Fernie and drove the 6 hrs to Jasper, passing through Kootenay national park early on and then the Icefields parkway for the last part of the drive. Without exaggerating it was probably the most scenic drive I’ve ever taken with glaciers, lakes and snow-capped peaks around every turn. Promising to stop off to snap some pics of the drive on the way back, we drove on only stopping for fuel and reached Jasper in the mid afternoon to rendezvous with Jan at a Timmy Hortons. After picking up some final supplies we then made the drive to the Mt Robson Provincial Park visitor centre approx 84 km away. (Note: they have a gas station if you’re running low).
We hastily signed in at the front desk (as is required when camping overnight) and then went downstairs to watch the compulsory video on the national park. Like most government tourist productions, this gem had remained unchanged since the 80’s (I’m guessing) and filled us in on the general info on the park do’s and don’ts, finally concluding with some high-tech Powerpoint slide transitions and latin guitar. Slightly confused and entertained, we made a last trip to toilet to shed some extra weight before driving the 3km up the road to the trailhead car park.
Trail map with distances/elevations
We set off after 5pm with decently heavy packs in tow, heading for our campground for the night at Whitehorn, approximately 11km away. With rain and light snow forecast for the evening, we did our best to keep a good pace whilst enjoying the first portion of the hike which took us through some lush forest and around the first of many lakes, Kinney. We reached our camp after approx 2.5 hrs and managed to pitch our tents and eat some dinner just before the light had totally faded. To our luck, it was only when we were inside our tents ready for sleep that the rain started coming down.
Mountain plants and mosses
Jan crossing the bridge over to Whitehorn
We rose the next morning to some heavy fog and further forecast of rain and had some breakfast under the shelter provided at the camp (only a few of the campsites have a communal day use shelter). Neither of us had slept all that well due to the heavy rain and wind however still managed to muster and set off from camp around 9am. We made the decision to leave our tents pitched at Whitehorn and continue with less weight to explore for the day, this would also make our last day of hiking quicker and easier back to the vehicles. We kept spirits high talking about the usual garbage, old TV shows, weird fetishes and belting out old school 90’s dance classics including imitations of the German band Scooter. How much is the FISH!!! Siberia, the place to be!!! Jan probably wished he was hiking with other people.
Marcus delpoying garbage bag
Hiking in the fog we reached Emperor Falls relatively quickly and much to our surprise found the hike quite easy despite this being the steepest part of the trail. Hiking on to Berg Lake we travelled through open fields that used to be inhabited by the glaciers and even in the fog, the trail was easy to follow with several markers and cairns guiding the way. We passed the Marmot campground and reached the Berg Lake campground in quick succession, stopping for lunch and some pretty mediocre photos because of the low-lying cloud/fog.
Optimistic however that the weather would change, and happy that we hadn’t been rained on yet, we pressed on to the Snowbird Trail to see the Robson Glacier. Pressed for time we only made it part way on this trail however were rewarded with some great views of the glacier and by the time we had hiked back to Berg Lake, the cloud had lifted and for the first time we were able to see the glacier and mountain peak. Yay us.
We settled in for our final night after a good meal and a hot chocolate, pleased with our fortune with the weather and weary after a 30km day of hiking. The next morning we wasted no time packing up and heading back to the vehicles, Marcus taking slightly more time exhausting his supply of toilet paper in the dunny’s after consuming close to his weight in trail mix and dried fruit over the past few days.
We finished our adventure back in Jasper having a nice lunch at the Jasper Brewing Company, recommended to us by a random we spoke to on the street. The food was delicious and not just because we had been camping for a couple of days. I settled for the Elk meatloaf and we all tucked in whilst looking at some of the photos of the trip, finally saying goodbye to Jan who had been visiting Marcus from Germany and was carrying on with his trip through BC.
All in all I’d say that Berg Lake lived up to the hype, the trail and it’s surrounds hard to beat in any part of the world. We debated that it would be better weather wise to come back in the summer under clear blue skies however this would also be the busiest time to come when in contrast we had only passed a few handfuls of people the whole trip (a trade-off we were happy with in the end). A fun and relatively easy hiking trip, I would definitely recommend to anyone who is travelling through Jasper and the Rockies!
Final look up at Mt Robson from near the end of the trail
On a side note I was pleased with how my new gear had performed, from the ease of set up of my MSR Elixir tent to warmth of my Marmot Helium sleeping bag and the packing-power ratio of the stove and pot system (MSR pocket rocket and GSI dualist cooking set). With all these in the kit, I’m looking forward to some more camping adventures in the Fall and next summer.