British Columbia

World-renowned B.C. hiking trail shut for yet another season after flooding wiped out bridges

One of the most acclaimed backcountry hiking trails in B.C. will be closed for the entire season this year after being seriously damaged by flooding last summer.

Much of the Berg Lake Trail in northern B.C. still isn't safe after flooding last summer, B.C. Parks says

A bridge near the Whitehorn Campground on the Berg Lake Trail in Mount Robson Provincial Park in northern B.C. was covered by floodwater on July 2 amid the heat wave. (Sean Allin)

One of the most acclaimed backcountry hiking trails in B.C. will be closed for the entire season this year after being seriously damaged by flooding last summer.

B.C. Parks said the Berg Lake Trail, which takes hikers through nearly two dozen kilometres of Mount Robson Provincial Park in northern B.C., still isn't safe for use despite a months-long effort to fix it.

"Several bridges are missing, much of the trail is unsafe for public access, and the Robson River may change course again as it did last summer," read a notice posted online.

"The entire trail will be closed throughout 2022 to complete additional assessments, monitor the river, and begin repairs."

Last year, the trail was only open for a few weeks before rapidly melting snow and ice caused flooding during the province's record-breaking heat wave in June. Dozens of hikers were evacuated from the park over the Canada Day long weekend because of the extremely high water levels. 

The trail is immensely popular: once reservations open in early March, spots usually sell out for the entire summer within a few hours. B.C. Parks itself said the route offers "the best scenery in the province."

Environment Minister George Heyman said the ongoing closure is "unfortunate" but necessary for safety. He said the province is hoping to start reopening parts of the trail for the 2023 season — but it will take time.

"It won't open all at once. We're going to concentrate on the areas that are most accessible in the short term ... and then in the following year [2024], we'll open more," Heyman told CBC News on Friday.

Heyman didn't offer specifics but said the park is being repaired with climate resiliency in mind.

"We want to fight climate change but we also know it's here with us today and it's not going away tomorrow and we need to ensure that we don't do things the way we did 10 or 20 years ago, or even two years ago," he said. "We need to do things with an eye to the future or we'll be redoing them over and over and over again."

A number of other parks and trails across the province were also affected by the historic flooding in southern B.C. last November.

Davis Lake, Sasquatch, Pinecone Burke and Smuggler Cove provincial parks all saw "severe damage" that's still being assessed, according to B.C. Parks. Operations manager Stu Burgess said that water damage in Golden Ears Park from the flooding in November has been mostly repaired, though there is some remaining work to clean up the trails.

Louise Pedersen, executive director  with the Outdoor Recreation Council of B.C., said she'd like to see more resources allocated to B.C. Parks and other recreational agencies to enable them to be prepared to deal with the consequences of climate change as extreme events like flooding and wildfires become more common.

"They do not have the resources at the moment to go out and repair and maintain what has been lost and damaged during the last year," she said.

With files from Brittany Roffel, Jon Hernandez and All Points West

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