During the summer of 2021 I made two trips to Waterton Lakes National Park. Two trips because the first was so good I had to come back and explore more! On my second visit I hiked the beautiful Bertha Lake trail.
The hiking in Waterton is fantastic, and Bertha Lake is no exception. A friend of mine, who previously lived in Waterton for a summer, recommended this trail to me. It happens to be a local’s favourite and one of my favourites too.
This trail features two waterfalls, multiple lookouts points, a glacial lake complete with Waterton’s famous red rock, and plenty of chances to see wildlife. A must-do hike in Waterton!
Don’t forget to check out my guide for planning a trip to Waterton.
Now, let’s go hiking!
- Getting to the Bertha Lake trail
- About the Bertha Lake trail
- Hiking Bertha Lake trail
- Essential day-hiking gear
- What to wear hiking
- Bertha Lake camping trip
- Tips for a successful trip
- Best places to stay in Waterton
This post contains affiliate links; see my full disclosure. If you click these links and make a purchase you’re supporting The Holistic Backpacker. Thanks for your support & happy adventuring! – Taylor ♡
- Ultimate guide to Waterton Lakes National Park
- Hike the world renown Crypt Lake trail
- More hiking trails in Waterton
- Fun things to do in Waterton
- Discover the nearby Writing on Stone Provincial Park
- Find more parks & scenic areas in Alberta
Getting To The Bertha Lake Trailhead
The Bertha Lake trailhead is very accessible – it’s located 15 minutes (walking) from town and is situated across the road from the Townsite campground. Perfect if you’re camping there!
If you’re looking for hiking trails near Lethbridge, this is only 1.5hours away. The trailhead is about 2 hours from Fernie, 3 hours from Calgary, and 4 hours from Banff. You could easily drive from any of these locations to make this a day-trip, but I would recommend staying at least 1 night in Waterton because there is lots to do!
If you’re driving from Calgary or Banff, make sure you take highway 22. This highway takes you through the foothills and is absolutely gorgeous. You’ll have the chance to pass through the greenest rolling fields which are backed by distant mountains that appear blue in colour. You’ll be passing by lots of farmland, so prepare to see lots of horses and cows too!
About The Bertha Lake Trail
- Distance: 12.4km (+4km to walk around the lake)
- Elevation Gain: 620m
- Rated: moderate
- Type Of Trail: out & back
- Estimated Time: 4-5 hours
The Bertha Lake trail is comprised of 3 main sections; Lower Bertha Falls, Upper Bertha Falls, and Bertha Lake – you will come across them in that order.
Bertha Lake is one of the most popular hiking trails in Waterton which means it is well trafficked. If you want to beat the crowds, leave early or start late. Due to the fact Bertha Lake is such a popular hike, you can safely solo-hike this trail. As always, be bear aware and bring your bear spray.
The trail itself is very easy to follow and is well maintained. For the most part the trail is clear so you won’t have to worry much about maneuvering around rocks and roots. Once you start gaining elevation, you’ll be following 21 switchbacks up the mountain. There are shortcuts within the switchback section – if you use these make sure to stay on the cleared areas as not to interfere too much with the surrounding vegetation.
If you’re looking for more of a challenge, consider hiking to Bertha Peak.
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Hiking The Bertha Lake Trail
Bertha Lake Trailhead to Bertha Point
I will first start off by recommending to do this hike on a sunny, warm day. Getting to the top and taking your time exploring the lake under the sun… Nothin’ quite like it.
I was greeted right away by a family of deer on the trail!
The deer and myself did not want to re-route our path, so I ended up having to step aside into the bush to allow them passage.
I’ve never had deer be so unbothered by humans before!
Highlight was the little baby behind them which still had its white spots.
You have a great chance of seeing wildlife on this trail, especially if you start early in the morning.
The first notable point of interest on this trail is Bertha Point which overlooks Upper Waterton Lake. This is an excellent spot for sunset and a great photo opportunity. 1.5kms with less than 100m gain will get you to this point. You’ll be able to complete this section in about 20 minutes.
Upper Bertha Falls
After the lookout point you’ll be en route for Lower Bertha Falls.
1.3km and 80m of gain will get you here. Along this section of the hike you are walking alongside the creek, so enjoy the sounds of flowing water.
As of summer 2021 the lower falls were closed due to bridge construction – you can check the current status of the construction here.
Hikers now use the horse detour to get around the falls. You will see signs directing you.
I have been told that earlier in the season these falls are gushing much more compared to when I completed this trail in early September.
After the lower falls you will cross the creek and start climbing up the 21 switchbacks leading to the lake.
From here it’s all uphill until you hit the lake – approximately 3km, 300m gain, and 1.5-2 hours from the trailhead
Along the way you will come across a few lookout points as well as Upper Bertha Falls. There is no good lookout point for Upper Bertha Falls, only a small clearing in the trees.
The falls are extremely tall and very beautiful, but difficult to view!
Bertha Lake has amazing blue water and is very crypt-like, meaning it’s hidden in an alpine bowl surrounded by cliff walls. The views from here are pretty great, but I would definitely recommend hiking an extra 4km to loop the lake.
Upon arriving to the lake, I headed left to start the loop – if you’re going to the Bertha Lake campground hang a right. Doing the loop allows you to see the lake from different angles and you get a chance to see the waterfalls and alpine streams coming down the mountains that you’re unable to see from the shore you initially see the lake from.
Another plus is you get to avoid the crowds and can find secluded, peaceful spots all to yourself.
The blue colour of the lake seemed to change as I made my way around too, starting out light, then turning to a deep, rich blue.
My absolute favourite thing about this lake, which was also a complete surprise, was the red rock along the shore! I loooove Waterton’s red rock and was not expecting to see any here. However once you loop the lake and come around the back-side, the entire North shore of the lake is lined with these red beauties.
If you’re looking for some insider scoop, I laid on the beach like a crazy person for 20 minutes working with different angles to get this shot on my trusty old iPhone XR.
After you’re done exploring the lake you’ll get to hike down, taking in the views of the Waterton Valley.
Next I’ll go over some of my favourite hiking gear and give you a few more pointers to ensure you have a successful hike to Bertha Lake.
Discover More Adventures in Waterton
Waterton is a mecca for adventurers and travellers who are after scenic mountain views, great hiking trails, and blissful lakeside vibes.
You can find all my Waterton content here, however you won’t want to miss the following Waterton-based posts:
Featured Waterton Content
- Hike the world renown Crypt Lake trail
- Ultimate guide to Waterton Lakes: Plan your trip
- Fun things to do in Waterton
- Hike Red Rock Canyon
- Best sunrise and sunset spots in Waterton
- Explore the nearby Writing on Stone Provincial Park; Canada’s greatest concentration of hoodoos!
More Alberta Content
If you want to explore more of Alberta’s beautiful parks and Wildland areas, keep reading.
Alberta is home to some of Canada’s most beautiful (and famous) parks and mountain ranges; cue Banff, Jasper, and Kananaskis!
You can read about these stunning national parks as well as find my travel and hiking resources for them here.
Recommended Hiking Gear
The following items are some of my favourites – I never hit the trail without them!
The Capture Clip by Peak Design is a sturdy, safe, and super convenient way to carry your camera while hiking or backpacking.
Find it on Amazon (CAD).
Find it on Peak Design (US).
A hydration reservoir is SO important. It holds 2L+ of water and keeps you hydrated on-trail. I use the 2L Hydrapak; it never leaks and has a detachable tube.
What To Wear Hiking in the Rockies
For a detailed guide on what to wear hiking in the Canadian Rockies, check out this post.
Choosing what to wear hiking can be confusing, but the secret to properly dressing for a hike is layering. You can mix and match the tops and bottoms you already own to make up your base layers, however in addition to those clothes you’ll need a few extra things:
A waterproof jacket is the most important layer for hiking – it keeps you warm and protects you from wind and rain. I use the Marmot Eco Precip Jacket (men’s version) which is totally a bang-for-your-buck. If rain is in the forecast, don’t forget to pack waterproof pants (men’s version) too.
A good pair of hiking boots are Gore-tex, provide ankle support, and are durable. I use the Scarpa Kailash boot (men’s version) and they’ve never let me down. You’ll also want a good quality pair of socks. I use Smartwool – they’re great quality and last an entire season.
Rocky Mountain hiking exposes you to different natural elements and conditions – it’s imperative that you’re prepared for whatever nature throws at you. Trust me, I’ve learned the hard way!
More: Day-hiking Gear Guide
Bertha Lake Campground
You’ll notice the Bertha Lake campground as soon as you arrive at the Bertha Lake. If you plan to stay at the Bertha Lake campground, make sure you reserve a site at Waterton’s visitor centre or call (403) 859-5133.
There are 2 day-hikes accessible from the Bertha Lake campground; Bertha Peak and Mount Richard Bennett. I have not done either of these hikes, but I will tell you what I know:
Bertha Peak – is rated as hard. Completing this summit will add an extra 3.2kms and 626m of gain to the Bertha Lake trail I have previously mapped out. From the reviews and descriptions on Alltrails, it sounds like you can expect some scrambling and you will need to be confident with route-finding as the trail is difficult to spot on the way up. However at the top you will be rewarded with 360 degree views of Waterton.
Mount Richard Bennett – there is no actual trail guides I could find for this hike – only a route if I zoomed in on Alltrails and panned around the lake. This hike is accessed from the back of the lake, however I would only attempt this hike if you are very experienced and are up for a crazy adventure.
Tips For A Successful Trip
- Start early or leave late to avoid the crowds – Bertha Lake is one of the most popular hiking trails in Waterton
- Hike around the lake to get up close and personal with Waterton’s famous red rock
- Bring bug repellent
- Aim to hike this on a warm, sunny day
- Be bear aware and bring your bear spray
- Pack the right gear
- Make it at backpacking trip and stay at the Bertha Lake Campground
Best Place to Stay in Waterton
The best place to stay in Waterton depends on your price range, So, here are some recommendations for every budget:
- Cheapest accommodations – camp right in the town of Waterton at the Townsite Campground (booking info). The location is perfect, it’s about a 10 minute walk from town and just steps from the Upper Waterton Lake shoreline. There are excellent washroom facilities, however the campground lacks privacy.
- Mid-range accommodations – Waterton offers no hostels, however you will find multiple hotels available in this tiny town. You can compare hotel prices and amenities on Booking.com. Some of the benefits of using Booking are their price match guarantee, free cancelation on almost all bookings, and clear pricing with no hidden fees.
- Luxury accommodations – “THE Waterton experience” would be to stay at the historical Prince of Wales hotel. The Prince of Wales is that hotel that has the big, beautiful windows overlooking Upper Waterton Lake. The hotel itself honestly isn’t fancy – it’s actually old (hence the historical significance), however this hotel is definitely a bucketlister! I stayed here for 1 night and enjoyed high tea the following day.
Plan your trip with my ultimate guide to Waterton:
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About The Author
Hey! I’m Taylor – the voice behind The Holistic Backpacker.
After moving to Banff National Park in 2020 I became an outdoor adventure enthusiast and vowed to never stop exploring.
I’m now focused on travelling the world and seeing everything our beautiful home has to offer.
I created The Holistic Backpacker so I could share my adventures and help connect people like you with the same amazing experiences.
I am also an advocate for the environment and do as much as I can to take care of our planet.
Get to know me and my story more here 🙂
I can’t wait to share my adventures with you!