trip report: Mount Robson Provincial Park – Berg Lake & Snowbird Pass, August 2019

From an aesthetic standpoint, what makes a mountain spectacular? What makes it impressive? This is one of those questions that provides for some interesting discussion around the campfire and of course is subjective based on who you ask. For me, it’s typically not the mountain itself that makes it memorable, but the context you find them. Snow dusting, glaciers, expansive forests, teal lakes, turquoise rivers, thundering waterfalls, and big ice that contrasts the mountains providing for the perfect scenery. These features were everywhere we looked on our walk through the trails under Mount Robson (Texqakallt name: Yexyexéscen or striped rock), the highest point in the Canadian Rockies sitting at 12972 ft or 3954 m (wikipedia).

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This is the fifth entry and fourth hike of our Canadian Rockies trip series. You can navigate to the other parts in the index below as they are posted.

index

click to expand
1 planning & research
2 trip report day 0-1: getting in
3 trip report day 2-5: Kootenay National Park – The Rockwall
4 trip report day 6: Yoho National Park – Iceline
5 trip report day 7-9: Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park
6 trip report day 10-14: Mt. Robson Provincial Park – Berg Lake & Snowbird Pass
      6.1 logistics
            6.1.1 Mount Robson hiking options
                  6.1.1.1 day hikes from Berg Lake
                  6.1.1.2 trails in other areas of Mount Robson Provincial Park
                  6.1.1.3 alternative access to the Berg Lake Trail at Robson Pass
            6.1.2 camping information
            6.1.3 our itinerary
            6.1.4 hike information
     6.2 trip report
            6.2.1 getting in & setting up
            6.2.2 Berg Lake trailhead to Berg Lake campground
            6.2.3 Snowbird Pass
            6.2.4 Berg Lake campgrounds to Berg Lake trailhead
            6.2.5 getting out to Hinton & zero
      6.3 final impressions
      6.4 useful links
      6.5 trip video
7 trip report day 15-16: Jasper National Park – Edith Cavell & Valley of Five Lakes
8 trip report day 16-17: Jasper National Park – Bald Hills
9 trip report day 18-19: Jasper National Park – Skyline
10 trip report day 20-21: Icefields Parkway – Wilcox Pass & Bow Summit Lookout
11 trip report day 22: Yoho National Park – Lake O’Hara
12 trip report day 23: Banff National Park – Beehives & Plain of Six Glaciers loop
13 trip report day 24-25: getting out
14 final impressions, rankings, & budget

logistics

Overall, the logistics for our visit Mount Robson Provincial Park were rather straightforward. The trail network in the main section of the park is limited to pretty much one specific trail (Berg Lake Trail). Backcountry campgrounds along this trail are all managed by Mount Robson Provincial Park, so only 1 reservation system is needed.

Mount Robson hiking options

The primary access to Mt. Robson Provincial Park is the Berg Lake Trail leaving from the Kinney Lake Rd turnaround and few miles behind the Mt. Robson Welcome Center off of Yellowhead Hwy (BC-16, google map directions). 

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Mount Robson Provincial Park visitor center

There are no other major trails that branch from the Berg Lake Trail until it reaches Berg Lake. So the majority of backpackers aim to basecamp at one of the campgrounds around Berg Lake with the option of day hikes from there.

day hikes from Berg Lake

Snowbird Pass Route is a 13.7 mile (22 km) hike from Berg Lake campground curving above Robson Glacier and then up to Snowbird Pass. It is closed in May and June for caribou calving (See BC Parks for current detail). This was our primary goal for our hike.

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some big ice at snowbird pass

Mount Robson (BC Parks) lists the Hargreaves Lake Route (Hiking Project), Toboggan Falls Route (heycolleen), & Mumm Basin Route (Hiking Project) as 3 separate hikes, however they all junction together allowing the formation of a loop hike by combining any of the 2 routes (e.g. Mumm-Toboggan from explor8ion or Hargreaves-Toboggan via Alltrails). View along these routes included Hargreaves Lake and Glacier, Toboggan Falls, a cave, and open views. During our visit in 2019 and at the time of this publication in 2020, the Mumm Basin Route was closed (see BC Parks for updates). So we had planned to hike the Hargreaves-Toboggan loop as a secondary goal for our hike.

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Hargreaves Lake Route junction on the Berg Lake Trail

The Coleman Glacier Route (est 9.6 miles or 15.4 km roundtrip) is in Jasper National Park and can be accessed by continued to the end of Berg Lake Trail at Robson Pass. This trails involves technical aspects of river crossing, off trail navigation, and scrambling on a moraine. For details see reports by Trail Project covering Robson Pass to the Smoky River Crossing and Coleman Glacier Trail. Consult with park rangers for more detail.

trails in other areas of Mount Robson Provincial Park

There are two isolated trails in the eastern section of Mount Robson Provincial Park that doesn’t connect with the Berg Lake Trail. They are Yellowhead Mountain Trail and Mount Fitzwilliam Trail (see BC Parks for general descriptions or consult with park rangers)

Yellowhead Mountain Trail is a short in and out hike covering 8.2 miles (13.2 km) roundtrip starting from Yellowhead Lake (google map directions). For additional details see Hiking Project and Alltrails.

The Mount Fitzwilliam Trail is described to be a more extensive trail with a distance of 17.4 miles (28 km) roundtrip starting along Hwy 16 next to Yellowhead Lake (google map directions). The turnaround point for the hike ends at a wilderness campground located at the end of the first alpine lake. Day hike possibilities are described by BC Parks to be available from the wilderness camp. There is a more established campgrounds half way to the wilderness camp along Rockingham Creek. The trail between the 2 campgrounds are less defined and more technical. No reservations are needed for these campgrounds. For more detail see trailpeak or Alltrails.

alternative access to the Berg Lake Trail at Robson Pass

The only other access to the Berg Lake area is from the northern end of the Berg Lake Trail continuing over Robson Pass and Jasper National Park. From this direction, the Moose River Route, North Boundary Trail (NBT), and the Great Divide Trail (GDT) connects to the Berg Lake Trail. All of these options requires a much longer trip and technical skills such as navigation and river crossing. Consult with park rangers for more details and up to date status.

The Moose River Route is the primary alternative listed by BC parks covering 5-7 days and roughly 54.7 miles (88 km) including the Berg Lake Trail. The eastern end of the trail is located on Yellowhead Hwy (Hwy 16) where the Moose River confluences with the Fraser River (google map directions) 29 km east on. From here the route follows the Moose River upstream until the confluence of Colonel Creek where it junctions with the GDT and shares the trail. The Route continues to follow the Moose River upstream before going over Moose Pass crossing into Jasper National Park. Next the route follows Calumet Creek until its confluence with Smokey River. This is where the trail junctions with the NBT and continued to follow Smokey River upstream passing Adolphus Lake and connecting with the Berg Lake Trail at Robson Pass. Information and trip reports are limited on this hike, with the only I found from a google search was possibly in Canadian Rockies Trail Guide (Amazon affiliate link, authors’ webpage) on Bivouac.com requiring paid membership. BC parks lists several campgrounds along the route with the certain ones located in Jasper National Park requiring previous reservations (Park Canada).

The Great Divide Trail (The Great Divide Trail Association; Hiking Project) is a long distance thru hiking trail with the southern terminus at the US-Canada border in Waterton National Park (bordering Glacier National Park in the US).

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It has 2 accepted northern terminus, the original being the visitor center at Mount Robson Provincial Park (the extended northern terminus is at remote Kakwa trailhead). Section hiking the GDT in either southbound or northbound direction would allow you access the Berg Lake Trail from Robson Pass. For the southbound section hike, you can start from the GDT extended northern terminus at Kakwa trailhead (section G, Hiking Project) covering 118.1 miles (190.1 km). For the northbound section hike, a natural starting point would be from Yellowhead Hwy (Hwy 16; google map directions) just after the infamous road walk covering roughly 13.5 miles (21.7 km) out of Jasper for the NOBO GDT hiker (section F, Hiking Project). From here, the GDT follows the Miette River to its headwaters before crossing Centre, Miette, Grant, and Colonel passes. Then the GDT follows Colonel Creek toward the confluence with the Moose River, where the trail joins the Moose River Route. The northbound section covers 55.3 miles (89.0 km) from Hwy-16 to the Berg Lake Trail 

The North Boundary Trail is a 114 mile long (184 km) hike to the Berg Lake Trail starting from Celestine trailhead in Jasper National Park taking 8 to 12 days. There is a shorter alternative starting point for the North Boundary Trail at Rock Lake (82.8 miles or 133.2 km to Berg Lake Trail) starting from Wilmore Wilderness park. Backcountry campgrounds from Jasper National Park (Park Canada) is required for the entirety of the NBT. The trail follows the Snake Indian River to its headwaters and then traverses the Snake Indian Pass. Then the NBT drops down to Twintree Lake before starting to follow Smoky River. Along the way, it will junction with the GDT section G at Chown Creek and then the Moose River Route / end point of GDT section F at the confluence of Calumet Creek into Smoky River. Lastly, the NBT will connect with the Berg Lake Trail at Robson Pass. Joey Coconato of My Own Frontier has an excellent video documenting this hike.

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camping

*EDIT 2020/6: COVID-19 restrictions for 2020 only allows for B.C. residents to make reservations, all non-residents reservations will be cancelled without refund (BC Parks)

There are several backcountry campgrounds located along the Berg Lake Trail in Mount Robson Provincial Park (BC parks). It is recommended that you have previous reservations due to the popularity of the trail, however walk up permits are possible with open sites.

The typical end point of the Berg Lake Trail or basecamp campground is the Berg Lake campground being the largest and includes a cooking shelter.

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Robson Pass, Rearguard, and Marmot campgrounds are all suitable for basecamp options. Some prefer them more since they are quieter and secluded with less capacity. Kinney Lake, Whitehorn, and Emperor Falls campgrounds allow hikers to breakup the hike to the Berg Lake area into 2 days, but it’s not necessary for stronger hikers.

Mt. Robson Berg Lake Trail

Should all the campgrounds in Mt. Robson Provincial Park National Park are full, you can walk a little further into Jasper National Park and reserve a campground along the North Boundary Trail (Parks Canada). Specifically, you’ll want to book a night at Adophus Lake campground since it is the closest to Mt. Robson Provincial Park.

*EDIT 2020/6: While there are no camping sites reserved for first come first serve, a ranger on reddit explained that any open spots are up for grabs. To determine open sites, they call big groups the evening before, otherwise when they don’t arrive.

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our itinerary

Our itinerary for the super popular Berg Lake Trail came together piece by piece from cancellations possibility due to the extraordinarily wet season experienced in the region.

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We started with only 1 night at Berg Lake campground. To that I first added 1 night at Adophus campground in Jasper National Park on the NBT a short distance from the northern end of Berg Lake Trail. Then I started to get lucky by finding another consecutive night at Berg Lake, followed by a third night. With 3 consecutive nights now at Berg Lake, we decided it was unnecessary to move our basecamp during our trip so we cancelled our night at Adophus campground. This also gave us a dedicated travel day (day 10) after our finishing our hike to Mt. Assiniboine. So our final itinerary was as follows:

  • day 10: drive to Valemount or Jasper and prepare for hike
  • day 11: hike into Berg Lake campground and setup basecamp
  • day 12: day hike from Berg Lake campground
  • day 13: day hike from Berg Lake campground
  • day 14: hike out

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hike information

  • name: Berg Lake trail & Snowbird Pass
  • type: in & out, basecamp at Lake Berg campground
  • distance: 37.9 miles (61.0 km)
  • elevation change: 7566 ft. (2306 m) ascent & descent
  • time: 3 days (16:06 hours moving)
  • location: Mount Robson Provincial Park, near Valemount, British Columbia, Canada (google map directions)

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trip report

getting in & setting up

We pick up on day 10 of our trip in Canmore having finished our hike to Mt. Assiniboine the previous day. The day would consist of setting up for our hike in Mount Robson and making the 5-6 hour drive north on the Icefields Parkway. We would also lose an hour by crossing into British Columbia on our drive making it effectively a 7 hour trip.

With laundry done the night before, we decided to do our grocery shopping in Canmore since the Safeway there is well stocked. We also picked up some day old bagels from Rocky Mountain Bagels (tripadvisor). Pictured below was our food carry for 4 days and 3 nights with a few more perishable items not shown.

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not shown are 1 summer sausage, pack of pepperoni sticks, 1 block of cheese, smoked salmon clippings, few nectaries and bag of greens

We opted for a hotel night at the end of our drive for convenience sake so the cheapest option was using 15,000 Wyndham points (USD$105 equivalent based on Frequent Miler valuation) for a night at the Days Inn in Valemount, the closest town to the trailhead. It also turned out to be the nicest Days Inn I’ve ever stayed at.

Our drive up to Valemount was uneventful along the Icefields Parkway.

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Even though it was tempting to stop every few miles, we saved the hikes along the road for our return drive. We did make the obligatory stop at the toe of Athabasca Glacier to stretch our legs.

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We reached Valemount in time for dinner so we checked out the local Three Ranges Brewing Co. (tripadvisor) and The Funky Goat food truck next door (tripadvisor). Both were decent, but not too memorable.

After dinner, we turned in early in anticipation for our hike.

Berg Lake trailhead to Berg Lake campground

After nice breakfast at the Days Inn, we headed for the trailhead arriving just after 9 am. It was cloudy to start, but that changed by the time we arrived. Our first of many jaw dropping views on the day and we hadn’t even started.

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Before we can start our hike, we needed to check in with the rangers at the visitor center. As we walked up to the ranger, she told us to hold on a moment since they were getting ready for a group picture with all the rangers. It was the first time they saw Mount Robson in month. Lady luck was on our side today.

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The check in process required us to watch a very dated 15 minute safety video. The most important lesson we learned from the video was that we probably shouldn’t be rocking the boombox on the trail. After the video, the ranger had our fancy laminated permit for us.

trail information

  • distance: 13.2 miles (21.2 km)
  • elevation change: 3593 ft. (1095 m) ascent & 914 ft. (279 m) descent
  • time: 6:43 hours (4:51 hours moving)

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By the time we drove the few miles to the trailhead on the road behind the visitor center, the parking area we packed. We ended parking along the side of the road about a third of a mile from the actual trailhead.

Right of the hop, the trail start off by crossing the booming Robson River.

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The trail starts by following the Robson River uphills at a moderate 5.9% grade on a wide trail to accommodate the droves of both day hikers and backpackers. The steepest of the trail lead us to an open bluff with another full on view of Mount Robson.

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For the next 2 miles, the trail is even milder at a 2.4% grade continuing through patches of older growth with some thick trees. Though, we didn’t stop often in efforts to get pass the many day hikers in this section. A flooded trail just before the next bridge across the Robson River draining Kinney Lake did eventually slow our roll.

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After the bridge, there are a few pit toilets. Meg reported they were some of the grossest we encountered on the trip, which isn’t surprising given the amount of day hikers in this early section of the hike. There is also a split in the trail here with the trail to the left heading next to the river. Given the flooding, the word was the lake trail was very muddy and flooded at sections so we opted for the higher option.

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Both trails eventually join again after a quarter mile and there are still plenty of view upon the teal Kinney Lake reflecting Whitehorn Mountain and its glacier. Our second jaw dropping moment.

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From the bridge across Robson River, the trail continues relatively flat around Kinney Lake for the next 1.5 miles until Kinney Lake campground save for a few hundred feet of steep uphill. Kinney Lake campground is the first backcountry site along the Berg Lake Trail at 4.3 miles (7 km) from the trailhead situated next to a nice pebble beach on Kinney Lake. This is a nice endpoint for many day hikers.

During the next quarter mile after the campground, the trail crosses a bridge over a stream and then comes to a junction. First, this is the point where bikes were no longer allowed on the trail.

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Secondly, the split in the trail provides for options depending on the impassibility of the floodplain and streams draining into Kinney lake. The right option is the main trail continuing higher up on a bluff (shown on the right in the picture below). I scouted out the lower option and the word was that it was clear. We crossed the flat floodplain for the next 2/3 miles navigating across a couple streams to keep our shoes dry. Some had log crossing which helped.

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Once the trails joined up again, it was another third of a miles cross the flat floodplain before any elevation change. There were a couple of bridges crossing the main tributaries of the Robson River here.

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Roughly 5.3 miles from the trailhead, we came to our first major uphill of the day, a 0.7 mile stretch climbing at 13.7% grade. From the uphill, we could see the floodplain we just traversed across.

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After reaching the top of the uphill, the trail dropped back down to the Robson River in the next third of mile through the forest coming to a swing bridge and the Whitehorn campground roughly 6.6 miles (11 km) from the trailhead. This marked the turnaround point for most of the day hikers left save for a few stronger hikers.

The campground is situated in the Valley of a Thousand Falls, which the trail processed through flatly for the next 0.6 miles. Beyond the many falls along the canyon walls here, the confluence of several streams all with different shades of teal made for another jaw dropping moment.

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Before we crossed the bridge over the Robson River once again, we scrambled along the side of the river for a view of the lower portion of the powerful White Falls.

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At the bridge crossing, the sign warns the steep trail to come and the lack of water.

For roughly the next 1.5 miles, the trail inclined an average of 15.6% grade with 27.3% at the steepest portion, though it was mostly even. At the first switchback, there was a small side trail for an up close look at White Falls.

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There was a small section of exposure, though I found the warnings a bit over the top since the trail was plenty wide. It’s understandable though seeing how popular this the trail is with novice backpackers and families with younger children. At the end of the next switchback, there is another view of White Falls. There is a worn side trail here that was fenced off so we didn’t proceed. Perhaps a reason for the additional warning signs through the section.

0.9 miles into the uphill, we came to the outlook of the Falls of the Pool. We thought this was a good place for lunch as my stomach started to growl. Lunch consisted was lox and bagels. Who said trail food had to be boring. Oh the falls was cool too, but it was harder to capture on camera because it was a taller drop.

As we continued up hills after lunch, we caught glimpse of the next falls on the trail, Emperor Falls. It’s roar accompanied us for the rest of the uphill.

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The junction for the 500 m side trail toward Emperor Falls was at roughly the 8.8 mile mark from the trailhead. A warning sign tells hikers not to leave packs at the junction to prevent bear activity. As we emerged from forest at the end of the side trail, we came to the next jaw dropping moments on the hike with Mount Robson sitting behind the powerful Emperor Falls.

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You can walk all the way under the falls for a nice soak, which may come handy after the uphill.

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Once the waters of Emperor Falls and Robson River froze us, we returned to the junction. There was another quarter mile uphill at roughly 18.3% to finish off the last bit of major uphill for the day. Near the 10 mile mark (16 km) we came to the Emperor Falls campground sitting along the Robson River. This is an acceptable basecamp for exploring the Berg Lake area, but not ideal.

For the last 3 mile on our day, the trail only undulates without any major elevation change. The trail continues along the Robson River with some muddy spots before curving onto a rocky mound overlooking a flooded flat. It was so idyllic that I kept expecting to see moose, caribou, or a bear among the flat. Perhaps my warning calls of “Hey Boo-boo!” was too effective.

This was also our first full view of the Mist Glacier snuggled between Dog Buttress and Emperor Ridge. We may just leave our jaws on the floor at this point.

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Around the next bend we crossed a rocky flat and then across a few small streams and the major stream originating from Hargreaves. This brought us to Marmot campground at 11.4 miles (19 km) from the trailhead.

Here Berg Glacier and Berg Lake are both in the picture. All the campgrounds from Marmot on are absolutely great to serve as basecamps to explore the area. There may even be less flies here than Berg Lake campgrounds since it is smaller.

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For us, we had the last 1.4 miles continuing around Berg Lake until we reached the Berg Lake campgrounds and Hargreaves Shelter, the cooking and gathering area for the campgrounds. It seems one of the campgrounds directly before the shelter had the best viewpoint upon Berg Lake and Mount Robson and the rest of the campgrounds the shelter side of the Toboggan Creek being in the forest. We didn’t explore this side that much since we saw most had been taken.

We crossed the bridge over Toboggan Creek and found the 2 furthest sites nestled within a circle of trees still available. Here we set up our basecamp and, as a bonus, no one ever came to take up the tent pad next to us so we had it all to ourselves. We actually found it a nice isolated area being further away from the shelter.

After setting up camp, we headed over to the shelter to cook dinner and hang out with other campers. That’s when the clouds rolled in and the evening showers started.

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The benefit of the showers was a picture perfect dusk with the pink embers of the last sunlight reflecting off Mount Robson to contrast the blue Berg Glacier and teal Berg Lake. All I could do was continue to gawk at the beauty of the place.

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Snowbird Pass

The clear skies did not last throughout the night, instead we heard constant rain drops. It didn’t lighten up until around 9 am. Berg Glacier was covered in a cloud when we headed over to the shelter to cook breakfast and we weren’t sure of our adventure prospected that day. Through rest of the next hour the cloud started to thin out and Mount Robson starts to show itself little by little.

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Finally after another hour, it seemed like we would be able to see things. So we packed a day pack and start our hike toward our first priority, Snowbird Pass. We weren’t sure what we’ll see, but we decided to continue as long as the weather held and we could actually see things.

trail information

  • distance: 12.4 miles (20.0 km)
  • elevation change: 3053 ft. (931 m) ascent & descent
  • time: 6:21 hours (5:10 hours moving)

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It was 10:12 am by the time we left camp continuing on the Berg Lake Trail toward Robson pass.

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It was flat for the 0.68 miles we were on the Berg Lake Trail as we passed Rearguard campgrounds and then coming to the Snowbird Pass junction.

The spattering of blue skies was a good sign for us. The trail slightly inclined for the next 1.3 miles through mostly open area with scrubs here and there while following the thinning Robson River. It made sense as we came to a sign indicating the location where the toe of Robson Glacier reached in 1911.

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Coming back to the Robson river, we could finally see the massive Robson Glacier.

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Next the trail brought us to the glacial lake at the toe of Robson Glacier, but a large moraine wall obscured the large portion of the toe. The trail continued to the left of the lake.

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At the 2.1 mile mark, we came to the first warning sign as the trail from here will start to climb the moraine wall. The group ahead of us decided to turn back here as this was a perfectly good view of Robson Glacier.

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After this warning sign, there was a few hundred feet with a incline, but it flattened out again until 2.4 mile mark where we came to the second warning sign. This was where the real uphill begin. This is more the route portion of the hike as we continued over rocks and boulders with some minor scrambling. The trail was indicated by bright orange markers.

This uphill section covered 0.6 miles with an average of 22.0% grade though it remained pretty uniform in the elevation gain with the maximum at 33.4% grade. We were above the toe of the glacier now and starting to see it in its entirety.

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The top of this uphill section had installed chain railings.

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The next portion dropped slightly down to a ledge along the side of the mountain. Looking over it was a straight drop to the glacier. The trail continued along this ledge uphills at a moderate 5.4% grade over 0.8 miles along the side of the mountain. The provided for some of the best 180 views of massive Robson Glacier stretched out under Mount Robson and curving around Rearguard Mountain. Let’s just say my jaw just dragged on the floor the entire day.

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When we came to the end of the bench, the next quarter mile was another steep section with a couple switchbacks and a 22.8% grade. The trail curved alongside a stream as it flattened out

and then followed it into onto a grassy bench. We could see Snowbird Pass now.

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The rain started to come down as we hiked 0.7 miles through the meadow at a slight moderate uphill of 4.6% grade before jumping to 11.6% grade for the next 0.85 miles.

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We could still see the pass, so we pushed on. The grassy slopes slowly changed to rocky scree the higher we got. The final 0.4 mile push was at a 25.0% grade.

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Once we were at the pass, the view point was a little bit further on the rocky scree to our right. From Snowbird Pass at 8284 ft (2525 m), the Reef Icefield opened up in front of us. It had no end in sight. To the left of the icefield, Coleman Glacier heads down into the Smokey River drainage.

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After hanging out at Snowbird Pass for around 20 minutes and eat eating a sandwich, the rain started to come down once again. From our vantage point earlier, we saw the low clouds hiding Titkana Peak at 9275 ft (2827 m) and Lynx Mountain at 10466 (3190 m) making our decision to turn back easier. So did the snow covering on the Chushina Ridge above us, our tired legs, and of course the rain.

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By the time we reached the meadow fields covering the bench, the sun started to peak out. So did the fat marmots and they showed no fear of us. They don’t seem to have many prey up here.

During this section of our hike through the high alpine meadow, we had a perfect Sound of Music moment (see youtube for reference) for the trip. I guess you know the trip was worth it if you find the urge to twirl around like Julie Andrews.

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That was short lasted as the sun hid behind the clouds as we continued downhills. We stopped for a bit admiring the whole of Robson Glacier before and during our long descent back to Berg Lake campgrounds.

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We returned to camp just after 4:30 pm and the rain started to come down once again not 30 minutes after we returned. We really lucked out with our timing on the day. With the rain continuing through rest of the night, the shelter seemed more packed than our first night. We ate dinner and played cards with our fellow hikers all hunkered down in shelter until it was hiker midnight and time for bed.

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Berg Lake campground to Berg Lake trailhead

We had thought the first night was rainy, that didn’t compare to our second night. It was still rainy by the time we finally decided we couldn’t sleep anymore and headed over to the shelter for breakfast. We took our sweet time seeing if the situation would change. All that happened was the ranger coming to the shelter and informing us that the forecast did not look good for the day. He also gave the ok to start the wood stove in the shelter, which was reserved for bad weather days.

After a long long breakfast, the thick clouds still blanketed everything around us at 10:40 am.

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The prospect of our planned day hike to Hargreaves Lake and Toboggan Falls loop was wiped out since it would require hiking higher up in elevation. So the decision was made to head out a day earlier and seek a dry hotel room rather than sit in the cold rain just to have to hike out the next day.

trail information

  • distance: 12.3 miles (19.8 km)
  • elevation change: 854 ft. (260 m) ascent & 3559 ft. (1085 m) descent
  • time: 4:46 hours

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The hike out was just the exact opposite of our day 1. However, the trail was much muddier with the overnight rain. The long stretch downhill from Emperor Falls campground to the Valley of a Thousand Falls required a lot of attention. I remember falling down on my butt once.

Our views were so limited by the low clouds that we weren’t below the them until we were in the Valley of a Thousand Falls. They did provide a nice contrast as we entered the Kinney Lake valley.

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The rain did make the last stretch through the old growth forest seem more lively with popping green, though it might be due to us paying more attention to the surroundings rather than trying to pass the day hikers. There wasn’t many day hikers this day.

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We were looking forward to a warm shower and a dry bed by the time we reached the trailhead. It had started to rain again.

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getting out to Hinton & zero day

Before we left the shelter at Berg Lake, we met a trio of GDT hikers (Coyote, Backtrack, & Boat) finishing their thru hike. They had battled the rain through much of the section between Jasper and Mount Robson. They were looking for a lift back to town from the trailhead, so I offer to drive them if they were still looking when we finished.

By the time we rolled up to the visitor center, they were waiting outside. So we packed up our sedan and drove them to Jasper. Their stories, both the highs and lows, on the GDT and other thru hikes made for an entertaining drive.

After dropping them off and congratulating them on their thru-hike, we continued north east toward Hinton, AB. Our destination was the Econolodge (tripadvisor) there, which only cost 10000 Choice points per night (USD$81 per night equivalent via Frequent Miler valuation). However, I had purchased Choice points previous through their 2018 Daily Getaways Promo (bought at a rate of 0.514-0.482 cents per point, analysis by Loyalty Traveler) making a night stay between USD$51.40-48.20 per night. This was extremely low for the area during peak season. My original reservation was for day 14 and 15 of our trip to give us a nice zero after our hike. Luckily, they still had availability on day 13, a day earlier they we were planning.

It was another 50 minute drive from Jasper to Hinton and of course it would require us to driving through another storm.

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To celebrate the conclusion to another successful hike, we headed to Gus’ Pizza Place and Family Restaurant (tripadvisor). If you are hungry, this place will fill you up for cheap. Not only did I crush my dinner special, we took a couple of pizza to go.

The rain continued through the night after we checked in. The rain sounds just so much nicer when I’m in a warm dry hotel bed. It would continued through the next day as well (our day 14 of our trip), so we were glad we were in the hotel for a zero/work day.

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final impressions

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ratings

The rating below are based on an unevenly distributed scale of 1-5. For full description of the ratings and the categories, see the explanation here.

views/experience: 5. Big ice, in the form of glaciers and ice fields are some of my favorite features to gaze upon. They complement the sheer rock face of Mount Robson so well on the hike to provide the perfect scene.

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Not only that, the views on this hike was nonstop from teal colored rivers

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to rushing waterfalls

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to perfectly still lakes, my head was on a swivel taking it all in from the entire Robson drainage.

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Even on our last day, the low clouds added more definition to cliff faces of the mountains. That’s not even including the high alpine meadows, the expansive Reef Icefield, and the perfect sunset evening at Lake Berg.

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Our experience at Mount Robson Provincial Park and Lake Berg were among the most stunning I have experienced in my hiking career. And I look forward to heading back since we’ve only seen a small portions of what’s back there.

difficulty: 3. As I mentioned in the report, we saw many family and novice backpackers on the Lake Berg Trail. In correspondence, the trail was very well maintained and the elevation changes were never too bad. While we hiked into Lake Berg in one day accumulating over 3593 feet gain, most can plan for the option of breaking that up. Weather would be the main difficulty on the Lake Berg Trail portion as rain and mud would make the hike more tedious. On the Lake Berg Trail portion alone, the difficulty level may be more of a 2.

However, the inclusion of Snowbird pass pushes this to a 3 as 3053 feet elevation change in the open to the elements can wear on you. Not to mention, there are sections here that are slightly steeper so they are more affected by the weather. The park designate the hike as a route, which is over stating the difficulty (and technicality score) a little. While the moraine might change year to year, the park rangers did a great job grading the trail out that it’s never all that tiring.

technical: 2. The 2 score here is for the Snowbird Pass Route only. As mentioned above in difficulty, the ranges did a great job with the ever changing trail on the moraine with clear route markers so navigation really isn’t a problem. The main technical score here is the minor scrambling and exposure you may encounter. Also due to the open exposure of the alpine hike, an additional technical aspect is being aware of the situation and knowing when the weather might not be safe to continue on.

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