by Blaire Price
While sleeping in the wild alongside grizzly bears may appeal to some, to me there had to be a more appealing option. The target was the phenomenal Berg Lake in Canada’s remote Mount Robson Provincial Park. The kind of area you only see on the most picturesque postcards. The only problem with getting to Berg Lake is that hiking to it without spending the night with said grizzly bears would require an approximately 26-mile, out and back hike. While my husband and I aren’t novice hikers, this distance simply isn’t attainable in one trek. Enter the helidrop. A 10 minute ride in a helicopter would allow us the chance to visit what we could have only seen in postcards.
We met at 9:00 in the morning, however cloudy skies were threatening our adventure. Thanks to a wonderful pilot and his precision, he was able to navigate through the low lying clouds and drop us at the foot of Berg Lake. While the hike would require a long, 13-mile, all-day return to our shuttle, the helicopter ride was certainly a highlight in its own right. We flew over most of the trail we’d be walking through including hemlock forests, the Robson river, several waterfalls (I’ll get to these later), and of course hovering over the world-famous Berg lake and its surrounding glaciers.
The abundant views from the helicopter gave us a unique perspective on what we would be seeing from the ground. There’s something very cool about getting the opportunity to see this kind of scenery from both the ground and the air and all in one day.
Hearing the blades of the Bell JetRanger lifting and taking off over the mountains was both exhilarating and alarming. Civilization was a far cry away, but that didn’t matter, adventure awaits. The main attraction, Berg Lake with the iconic Mount Robson (12,972 ft.) towering over its shores, looms ahead. This hike was a little different for many reasons, but first up was the big payoff—something that usually takes you all day to hike into. Berg Lake was a site to see. It lived up to all the hype. The water of this glacially-fed lake was milky green with mini icebergs appearing in its deepest waters. If you listened carefully, you could hear pieces of ice breaking off from the glacier on its shores and crashing into its waters. After sitting on a piece of driftwood and reflecting on its beauty, it was clear this lake was living up to its postcard status.
While I could have sat all day by the lake taking in all its beauty, it was time to get going. With the main attraction in the rear view mirror, we started walking through the river basin. Streams of turquoise waters emptied into the lake, which required multiple bridge crossings and rock jumpings.
Next it was on to the valley of a thousand waterfalls. This section lived up to its name as seemingly every quarter mile there was a new waterfall to admire, with Emperor Falls being the crown jewel. At 150 ft. tall, it’s one of the largest and best known waterfalls on the Robson River in the park. After a recent rain, the fall was roaring. The trail allowed you to walk right up to it so you could feel the spray coming off its gushing waters. Talk about feeling small in the grand scheme of things; standing next to this massive waterfall did just that.
Next it was time to hike out of the canyon and make our way down to the valley floor. It was here where my lungs began to give thanks for the helicopter ride in. Arriving at the end of the hike meant doing it in reverse which allowed for a massive elevation loss instead of gain. And by massive, I’m not exaggerating. Coming in around 2,600 ft., it would have been quite the feat to hike this elevation all the way uphill to the lake. The terrain became more rugged as we made our way to another river basin. This one fed into yet another lake—which was a pleasant surprise—the much lesser known (but equally impressive) Kinney Lake. More turquoise waters with pine tree lined shores completed the landscape. We had no idea how impressive this lake was. Being overshadowed by Berg Lake, Kinney Lake felt like an unexpected bonus. Yet another postcard-ready photo op.
Two sections remained, and while they weren’t as exciting as the two lakes and the valley of a thousand waterfalls, they held their own. We twisted and turned through an old growth hemlock forest. Its trees were so dense it left little room for light to filter through, giving off an eerie darkness. After navigating through the forest it was time to finish out the last bit of the hike with a four mile trek next to Robson River. This thankfully flat path gave our tired legs a chance to ease up before returning to our shuttled cars.
Upon completion, the sense of accomplishment was monumental. Perhaps we “cheated” a bit by taking part in the helidrop instead of hiking the full 23 miles, or perhaps we added to our adventure with another one. The helidrop made an otherwise impossible trek possible for us. We got to see our postcard lake and all the other wonders along the way and we scored a unique view from a helicopter that we certainly couldn’t have gotten from the ground. Plus, who doesn’t want to feel like rockstars being dropped off in the middle of “nowhere” to one of Canada’s most beautiful and remote locations.