The Bertha Lake Hike
Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta
On my annual camping trip to Waterton Lakes National Park in 2018, my friend Jesse and I did the hike to Bertha Lake. Many of the trails in the park remain closed due to the devastation of the Kenow Wildfire that tore through the park in 2017. This trail at the time had just been reopened, and was one of the few hikes in the park I'd never done before, so I figured it was a good one to finally do. The trailhead is pretty easy to find, and is located near Cameron Falls in the townsite.
Luckily the trailhead to this hike seems to be unaffected by the fire of 2017.
The beginning of the trail goes through the forest for a bit before starting to gradually climb. For first little bit of the hike the forest is dense and there's hardly any sign at all of the wildfire, but gradually you'll being to see burned areas here and there. As the trail begins to ascend the damage becomes more apparent, with some blackened trees and ash on the trail.
Despite there being some burnt trees near the beginning, there were huge swaths of wildflowers blooming in the new growth on either side of the trail.
A couple kilometers in you'll come to a well marked intersection at thew top of a hill, with the way to go clearly marked to your right. The views of the Upper Waterton Lake here are fantastic as well, as you can see into the United States on the south end of the lake.
Although the views at this point are great, the burnt trees stand as a reminder of 2017's wildfire.
The views here are just after the trail intersection, and although this area is quite burnt you can see tons of wildflowers blooming in the grass off the trail.
From this part of the trail to the Lower Falls is probably some of the easiest sections of the trail, as it didn't take my friend Jesse and I very long at all to make it there. This section I had done once before many years ago when I was a teenager with my family, but never went past the Lower Falls.
Some people choose to go only to the Lower Falls, but for those going further it makes for a good place to take a substantial break if needed.
Jesse and I hung around the Lower Falls for a little taking a break and taking video/pictures. The waterfall is much larger than the picture above seems to show and is very impressive in person. From here to Bertha Lake the trail is the most intense. You gain a few hundred meters over the next couple kilometers, so it'll get your blood flowing. Additionally it's worth noting that there's not a lot of tree cover in this section because of the fire, so on hot summer days the heat can be brutal as it was on us. You'll also go through some of the most fire damaged areas of the hike on this section, as you'll see from the picture below.
I'll admit that it was a bit depressing going through this section, but with the destruction of a forest fire comes the renewal of nature.
Near the final bit of ascending on the trail you'll be able to see the Upper Falls, but it's kind of hard to really get a good view of it because of the trees in the way.
From a distance the Upper Falls seemed to be bigger than the Lower Falls, but it was hard to really see it because of the tree cover.
At a certain point near the lake you'll start going downhill towards the shoreline, which by that point was most welcome by Jesse and I. The burned trees also seemed to dwindle here to, which was also a nice sight to see. Once we made it to Bertha Lake we were pleased to see that it was largely unaffected by the fire.
While there were some burnt trees behind us on the trail, Bertha Lake seemed relatively unaffected by the fire.
We made our way around the left shoreline of the lake and across a bridge, attempting to find a good place to sit down and relax after hiking through the heat of summer. Past the backcountry campground at the lake we found a spot on the shore facing the way we had came.
Our views facing north while relaxing at Bertha Lake.
After relaxing and eating some snacks we headed back the way we came on trail to get back to the parked vehicle at the trailhead. Overall we both really enjoyed the hike, and even though seeing some of the burnt sections was a bit sad it was still something different. For me at least I've never hiked through an area affected by a forest fire, so that experience in itself was a unique one. I'm looking forward to coming back to Waterton Lakes National Park in 2019 again, hoping more trails are open for me to explore!