‘Mountain of the Spiral Road’

Less than an hour drive west of Jasper, just across the border into British Columbia, lies an astonishing view of the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. ‘Yuh-hai-has-kun’ or ‘The Mountain of the Spiral Road,’ as it was called by the earliest known settlers in the area. It was also referred to by English explorer and writer Frank Smythe as ‘one of the great mountains of the world.’ It is an area of immense beauty and wildlife that captures the imagination of any lucky enough to travel the Yellowhead Highway (Highway 16) past this natural treasure. I first came upon it when joy riding with my wife during our second Christmas in the Rockies and was blown away. British Columbia Magazine used a photo I shot that day in their 2019 calendar. However, I knew I was destined to return here to explore the area in more depth.

Return I did, more than once. Minutes away from the Mount Robson Visitor Centre, located just off the highway and offering a stunning photo opportunity for travellers, is the trailhead to the world famous Berg Lake Trail. This is a must for adventure seekers looking to tap into the heart of the Canadian wild. I will never forget the day I first set my eyes on the glacier sitting in Berg Lake, located approximately 25 kms away from the trailhead. That is not even to mention the turquoise blue waters of Kinney Lake, the wonder of the Valley of a Thousand Falls, or the power of Emperor Falls. It is one of those hiking experiences that all others will have great difficulty living up to.

Of course, if you plan on hiking to Berg Lake and back, you are most likely looking at a multi-day trip that is actually a good introductory experience for those just getting into backpacking as you are sure to encounter others, though not to the point that it will ruin your outback experience. Make sure you start looking into booking campsites approximately a year in advance though, as there are specific points along the route where you are allowed to set up camp and they book up quick. When I first had the opportunity to visit Berg Lake, all sites were already booked so I found a great alternative that turned the adventure into the most ultimate day-trip that could ever be planned. Robson Helimagic, based out of Valemount, offers helicopter rides to Berg Lake at approximately $250, where they will drop you off to hike back towards the trailhead. Not only did my day include an epic hike, but it started with arguably the most beautiful fifteen minute helicopter ride in the world.

Though I didn’t encounter an abundance of wildlife during my 25 km trek, bear spray and precautions are absolutely necessary in this natural habitat. At least 42 mammals have been spotted in Mount Robson Provincial Park including: moose, elk, black bears, grizzlies, wolves, golden eagles, wolverines and mountain goats.

It must have been nearly thirty degrees the day I hiked from Berg Lake back to the trailhead, providing the perfect opportunity to get as close to the mighty Emperor Falls as I could. This natural wonder is sure to take your breath away as you approach and even in the dead heat of summer, the freezing cold waters will leave you shivering and drenched. Quick-dry attire may be a thought if you plan on testing the falls yourself someday.

Beyond Emperor Falls, I descended into the Valley of a Thousand Waterfalls, totally immersed in some of the purest forms of natural beauty I have experienced thus far, while quenching my thirst on filtered glacier water. The canyon had mountain peaks running down both sides of it with several giant waterfalls cascading down the cliffs and a couple of streams merging in the canyon. A suspension bridge allowed hikers to cross the flowing water. The hike down from Emperor Falls, which sits about 5300 feet above sea level, to Kinney Lake sees hikers descending approximately 1640 feet over 5 kilometres. Kinney Lake provides the perfect rest stop to fuel up before a gentle return to the trailhead, about 1.5 hours from the shore of the lake.

If you ever considered adding this trail to your bucket list, do it! Berg Lake is one of the greatest places I have had the opportunity to visit. Check out the full gallery of images below:

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