Canadian Rockies Springbreak

The only thing to rely on when hiking in the mountains is unpredictable weather… When we visitied the Canadian Rockies in May for a hiking trip, we expected to be out in snow, rain and the maybe the occasional sunshine – 30+ C° in spring certainly wasn’t to be expected!

The scenery was nothing but beautiful, fresh green leaves and fast flowing mountain run-offs everywhere. After stocking up food in Calgary, we headed off to Banff in order to visit Johnston Canyon early the next day. The Canyon is a famous spot for dayvisiters so we expected it to become busy during the day – visiting early is highly recommended as it really filled up on our way back around noon. Regardless if it’s busy or not, the canyon’s worth visiting to get an impression of the power of water that has carved it’s way through the limestone walls.

Johnston Canyon Gorge Waterfall Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Johnston Canyon Gorge Waterfall
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Johnston Canyon Gorge Waterfall Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Johnston Canyon Gorge Waterfall
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Johnston Canyon Gorge Waterfall Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Johnston Canyon Gorge Waterfall
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Leaving Johnston Canyon and the scenic Bow Valley Highway behind we headed on to Yoho Nationalpark for the first backcountry hike. Despite the unusally warm temperatures in the valley, the track up to Yoho Lake was deeply snowcovered once we entered the forest at higher elevation. As a matter of fact, Parks Office told us we’d be the first visitors in season at Yoho Lake (if we’d make it throug the waist deep snow)!

Entering the forest area between Michael Peak and Wapta Mountain at around 1.800m elevation, the hike almost turned into a route finding trip because the path to was completely snow-covered. All in all though, it’s not hard finding the lake if you’ve got a map and a a rough idea of where you’re at and which direction to head.
The lake was semi-frozen and just beautiful. Canada Parks equipped the north-eastern lake shore with two of their famous Red Chairs that provided a nice spot for sunbathing – surrounded by snow and 25 C°

Red chair view, Yoho Lake Winter Camping

Red chair view, Yoho Lake Winter Camping
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

The view towards Wapta Mountain was always interesting – when the sun went down it started to get freezing and all the snow that had been melting all day long re-froze during the night

Last light at frozen Yoho Lake Winter Camping Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Last light at frozen Yoho Lake Winter Camping
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

A couple of meters from the lake shore, we found a nice snow-free spot to set up our camp. Who thought we’d be seeking shade when hiking the Rockies in spring!

Yoho Lake Winter Camping Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Yoho Lake Winter Camping
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Despite being not the most economic way to gain drinking water, we had fun melting snow during our stay at Yoho Lake

Melting ice @ Yoho Lake Winter Camp Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Melting ice @ Yoho Lake Winter Camp
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

The night was freezing but it was so much worth the effort! Back in the valley at Emerald Lake we took advantage of the outstanding weather and took an early season dip in the Lake, which of course was freezingly cold but super to wash off the sweat of the day’s hike!

Emerald lake in Yoho National Park Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Emerald lake in Yoho National Park
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Leaving Emerald Lake, we stopped at the Natural Bridge that spans over Kicking Horse River. Another nice spot but due to it’s easy accessability heavily crowded with tourbus people

Natural bridge / Kicking horse river, Yoho National Park Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Natural bridge / Kicking horse river, Yoho National Park
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Natural bridge / Kicking horse river, Yoho National Park Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Natural bridge / Kicking horse river rapids, Yoho National Park
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Even though early season conditions restricted doing hikes like the Iceline or Lake O’Hara, visiting Yoho really payed off, especially for having that beautiful Yoho Lake area all to ourselves.
As the weather was supposed remain good for the next couple of days, we quickly went on to Mt. Robson Provincial Park.

Bighorn sheep on the Icefield Parkway Sony A7 Canon FD 80-200 L

Bighorn sheep on the Icefield Parkway
Sony A7 Canon FD 80-200 L

Picknick spot at Leach Lake on the way to Jasper

Leach Lake picknick spot near Jasper Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Leach Lake picknick spot near Jasper
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Arriving at Mount Robson park, the first glimpse at Robson from Park’s visitor center looked promising for the next day’s hike.

Mt. Robson from the visitor centre Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Mt. Robson from the visitor centre
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

After a couple of km on the track, Kinney Lake with its beautifully set camping area would make up for a nice overnight hike itself. Hiking on, it does get better and better, though

Kinney Lake reflections Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Kinney Lake reflections
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Colours of Kinney Lake / campground Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Colours of Kinney Lake campground shelter
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Colours of Kinney Lake / campground Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Colours of Kinney Lake campground
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

The track steadily climbs and the next nice place to have a break is Whitehorn campsite, again beautifully set on the banks of Robson River. Icing on the cake is a nice swing bridge that leads to the Valley of 1000 waterfalls and Whitehorn.

Swing bridge at Whitehorn, Berg Lake Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Swing bridge at Whitehorn, Berg Lake
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Valley of 1000 waterfalls on Berg Lake Trail Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Valley of 1000 waterfalls on Berg Lake Trail
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

The valley is a good stroll as the track is mostly even and level. However, the hardest part is yet to come! A small sign at White Falls hints at what’s waiting behind the next corner

Fuel up your watertank at White Falls

Fuel up your watertank at White Falls

Most of the elevation to Berg lake is done on the following 4 km – steep, but easily doable if you take your time

Berg Lake view into the Valley of 1000 waterfalls Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Berg Lake view into the Valley of 1000 waterfalls
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Nice views all the way make the walk to Berg lake an easy ascend – one of the most stunning spots is found by a short detour off the main track: Emperor Falls, rushing down the western slopes of Mr. Robson.

Mighty Emperor Falls on Berg Lake Trail, stitch Panorama Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Mighty Emperor Falls on Berg Lake Trail, stitch Panorama
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Close to the falls is Emperor Falls campsite, again nicely set by the river but unfortunately still completely snowcovered. Still worth a quick lunch + photo stop, though!

Mighty Robson as seen from Emperor Falls campsite on Berg Lake Trail, stitch Panorama

Mighty Robson as seen from Emperor Falls campsite on Berg Lake Trail, stitch Panorama
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Behind Emperor Falls, the trail slowly flattens and leads to a beautiful high elevation valley tucked between Whitehorn Peak and the Robson / Helmet massive. Approaching Berg lake, the scenery changes from forest to open scree terrain with Mist glacier to your right. Beyond Whitehorn, we didn’t meet any other people which gave this area an almost private atmosphere – one of the advantages when hiking in shoulder season

Scenery close to Marmot campsite on Berg Lake Trail Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Scenery close to Marmot campsite on Berg Lake Trail
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Behind a small hill, the views open up on Berg lake and the stunning Berg glacier with Rearguard Mountain in the background

Finally made it to Marmot campsite on Berg Lake Trail Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Finally made it to Marmot campsite on Berg Lake Trail
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Quickly, we set up the tent (and hammock) at Marmot campsite and just admired the scenery

Enjoying our private Berg lake beach at Marmot campsite, Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Enjoying a private Berg lake beach at Marmot campsite, Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

After a 20km uphill hiking, it’s alright to have some whiskey with glacier ice, even when the sun is still out 🙂 We watched the Harlekin ducks chasing each other around and time passed by quickly

Doesn't taste right without glacier ice :) Berg Lake / Marmot campsite Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Doesn’t taste right without glacier ice, Berg Lake @ Marmot campsite
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Catching the afternoon sun at Berg Lake / Berg lake pebble beach at Marmot campsite Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Catching the afternoon sun at Berg Lake pebble beach at Marmot campsite
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Catching the afternoon sun at Berg Lake / Berg lake pebble beach at Marmot campsite Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Berg lake run-off in late afternoon, Marmot campsite
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Berg lake is a hiker’s and photographer’s paradise (for the latter even you have to deal with boring blue skies every day..), and around sunset and sunrise the lake reveilled some nice reflections

Mount Robson reflections at sunset, Berg Lake / Marmot campsite, Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Mount Robson reflections at sunset, Berg Lake / Marmot campsite, Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Mount Robson reflections at sunset, Berg Lake / Marmot campsite, Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Mount Robson reflections at sunset, Berg Lake / Marmot campsite, Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Marmot campsite is conveniently located at the edge of a (young) forest that provides enough shelter to seek shade from the ever-burning Rockies spring-sun! Hanging around in the hammock with glacier view wasn’t that bad, either

Berg Lake / Marmot campsite panorama, Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Berg Lake / Marmot campsite panorama,
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

As in any maintained backcountry campsite in the Rockies, the Berg lake sites are usually equipped with food lockers. We didn’t have to worry about bears crossing our paths up at the lake (at least we didn’t find any signs), but the gang of ground squirrels posed a constant threat of raiding our food supplies! Who ever uses hiking boots as a salt lick must be desperate and surely doesn’t have a problem gnawing its way through the walls of a tent to get some cockies 😉

Ground squirrel salt lick, Berg Lake / Marmot campsite Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Ground squirrel salt lick, Berg Lake / Marmot campsite
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Next day we went for a day hike to explore the area around Robson glacier and Tobbogan falls. As the paths around the lake were still snowcovered, gaitors came in handy.

Berg Lake bench with glacier view Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Berg Lake bench with glacier view
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Enjoying the excellent new hut at Berg Lake campsite, Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Enjoying the excellent new hut at Berg Lake campsite
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Taking a nap at the foot of Robson glacier, Berg Lake Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Taking a nap at the foot of Robson glacier, Berg Lake
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Scrambling through the snow to Tobbogan falls was one of the best short detours in the area. Due to deep and constantly melting snow going any further wasn’t possible – but just sitting on the warm rocks watching the waterfall rushing towards Berg lake still was a great sight

View from halfway up at Toboggan Falls, Berg Lake Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

View from halfway up at Toboggan Falls, Berg Lake
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Stunning panorama view from Toboggan Falls at semi frozen Berg Lake Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Stunning panorama view from Toboggan Falls at Mount Rearguard, Berg glacier and Mt. Robson
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Berg Lake campsite great place to hang around Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8 panorama

Berg Lake campsite great place to hang around
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8 panorama

Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Getting ready early on day 3 on the trail, we prepared to walk back 19km mostly downhill to the car park

Berg Lake track, beautiful valley

Berg Lake track, beautiful valley looking at the apptly named Whitehorn mountain
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Berg Lake view into the Valley of 1000 waterfalls Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Berg Lake view into the Valley of 1000 waterfalls
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Swing bridge at Whitehorn, Berg Lake Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Swing bridge at Whitehorn, Berg Lake
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Spring scenery of Berg Lake trail Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Spring scenery of Berg Lake trail
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

So far, we’ve been blessed with summer-like temperatures and constant sunshine. We had a nice day in Jasper before heading on to the Windermere Valley to enjoy some hotsprings and to see if we could make it up the famous Bugaboo Provincial park. Again, we took the Icefields parkway route to soak in the amazing mountain views. We found a nice picknick spot close to Saskatchewan River Crossing –  the last stop of our trip in good weather!

Picknick spot at Saskatchewan River Crossing, Icefields Parkway Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Picknick spot at Saskatchewan River Crossing, Icefields Parkway
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Soon after lunchbreak, the rain started pouring down.. Despite the bad weather, we wanted to see Peyto lake because we’ve heard it would be likely to be free of ice. At the viewpoint, we had an amazing view of Peyto lake as the bad weather front was still in sight while the sun started to battle through the clouds giving the lake an almost unrealistic, fluorescent colour.

Peyto Lake colours after the storm Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Peyto Lake colours after the storm
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Amazing (almost unnatural) blue colour of Peyto Lake Sony A7 Canon FD 80-200 L

Amazing (almost unnatural) blue colour of Peyto Lake Sony A7 Canon FD 80-200 L

Peyto Lake spring colours in May, after a rainstorm Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Peyto Lake spring colours in May, after a rainstorm
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Icefields Parkway Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Icefields Parkway
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Sony A7 Canon FD 80-200 L

Black bear in Kootenay Sony A7 Canon FD 80-200 L

After arriving in Radium, we opted to stay in a hotel for the night as the weather was supposed to get worse during the night. As soon as we we got comfortable in our room, a heavy rainstorm, that surely would have tested the limits of our tent, began. If we’d been at the Bugaboo campsite already, we might have gotten into trouble. Next day was nice, but still much water on the dirtroads to Bugaboo. After debating for a while whether we should take the risk of potencially wrecking our sedan rental car or to leave in peace finally decided to give this one a miss.. See you next time!

Hence, we went off to soak in some of the Hot Springs in the area, specifically Lussier hotsprings and Ram Creek warm springs. The campsite at Alces Lake was nice and a good base to visit Lussier in the evening and early morning, when it’s much less crowded than during the day.

Young Black bear on the way to Bugaboo Provincial Park

Young Black bear on the way to Bugaboo Provincial Park

Lussier natural Hot Springs pool Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Lussier natural Hot Springs pool
Sony A7 / Canon FD Tilt Shift 35 2.8

Ram Creek warm Springs pools

Ram Creek warm Springs pools

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