After a decade sampling the wilderness of the western US and Canada, it’s time to offer my list of America’s best day hikes. It’s a mixed bag. Over the years my tastes in hiking have shifted, from the first-timer’s awe at seeing the Grand Canyon and Zion to less heavily trafficked wilds in Alaska and the Yukon. My most memorable hikes include famous and super-crowded trails (that some might actively avoid) along with lesser known routes. All though offer spectacular glimpses of the unspoilt beauty of so many of America’s parks and wildernesses.
1) Berg Lake trail, Mount Robson Provincial Park
Where: Mount Robson Provincial Park, on the border between British Columbia and Alberta in the northern Canadian Rockies
Distance: 26 miles round trip
Trailhead: Berg Lake, off Highway 16 an hour west of Jasper
The ranking of the hikes on this page is fairly arbitrary, but number one is number one – the best day hike in North America is the trail to Berg Lake in the shadow of Mount Robson’s Emperor Face. Mount Robson is the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies, and the sight of the Berg glacier flowing from the summit snowfield all the way down to the lake is itself incomparable. A great hike, though, needs to be about more than just the destination, and the Berg Lake trail stands out for being outstandingly varied and scenic for almost its entire length. Along the way you pass tranquil Kinney Lake, climb past several waterfalls (including the magnificent Emperor Falls), and traverse a beautiful high valley filled with the braided outlet stream from Berg Lake. I’ve done this hike in a single long day (using mountain bikes to speed progress along the first few miles), and as a backpacking trip camping at Berg Lake. Both were astoundingly fun trips. If you camp, you can then day hike on to Snowbird Pass for a second dose of truly incredible scenery.