Waterton’s Rowe Lakes/Lineham Ridge Trail

A Must-Do for Calgary Hikers and Scramblers

By Carol Miyagawa

Lineham Ridge - Scramble Group

Lineham Ridge – Scramble Group

Looking for a hike that has almost everything? Outstanding views, incredible flowers, spectacular glacier-fed lakes, lush greenery, and dramatic natural beauty? Then the Rowe Lakes/Lineham Ridge Trail in Waterton Lakes National Park is a must-do hike for you.

Lineham Ridge - CORE hikers side trip

Lineham Ridge – CORE hikers side trip

Members of my hiking club, the Calgary Outdoor Recreation Enthusiasts (CORE), did this hike several years ago during a weekend trip to Waterton. After doing the hike, it became my favourite hike of all time. To get there, we drove south from Calgary on Hwy 2 and cut over to Pincher Creek along Hwy 3, then headed south on Hwy 6. An alternative route would have been to take Hwy 22 past Chain Lakes, turn east on Hwy 3 and then turn south. This drive should take just under three hours. You either need to leave Calgary early in the morning or stay overnight in Waterton. Whatever your preference, to find the Rowe Lakes trailhead parking, you must hit the junction just north of the town site and drive the Akimina Parkway for approximately 10 kilometres.

Before starting out on this 17-kilometres adventure, make sure you’re reasonably fit, and allow roughly six hours to complete the hike (longer if you want to stop and soak up the scenery – often). This is a photographer’s dream hike, so you won’t want to leave your camera behind. Be sure you have sturdy footwear because, even in mid-summer, there can be snow on the trail leading up the headwall.

Lineham Ridge - Wildflowers

Lineham Ridge – Wildflowers

If you have never been to Waterton, you’ll be amazed by the prevalence of red rock. Just metres from the trailhead, you’ll encounter a streambed of glistening red argillite, as Rowe Creek cascades noisily over it. It’s enough to take your breath away! Soon you’ll pass lush green growth along a sparsely treed slope, leading to a grand view of Rowe and Cameron Creek valleys. If you’re a wildflower lover, you’ll be in heaven. Bear grass, glacier lilies, and Indian paintbrush – in all its varieties and colours – normally line the trail for many kilometres. (Every summer the Waterton Wildflower Festival, this year happening from June 15-20, attracts people from around the globe. In fact Waterton is considered the wildflower capital of Canada!)

Lineham Ridge - Nature's Rock Garden

Lineham Ridge – Nature’s Rock Garden

At kilometre 4, you’ll reach the junction of Lower Rowe Lake. (A 200-metre side trip will get you a glimpse of the lake.) Then, in just over a kilometre, you’ll arrive at beautiful Rowe Meadows and the junction for Upper Rowe Lake. You may be tempted to stop here, but the best is yet to come. You won’t want to miss the magnificent view from the ridge, and the dramatic contrast of mauve and red talus slopes against patches of pure white snow! After the junction, the trail steepens and sweeps elegantly up the ridge for just over three kilometres. You’re now on the Lineham Ridge Trail.

With perseverance and determination, you’ll soon reach your destination, and be blown away by the panoramic view – in every direction, an endless sea of craggy peaks. Here’s where you might want to take out your map to see how many peaks you can name: Mount Rowe to the south, Mount

Blakiston to the northeast, and Akimina Ridge in the far distance. Below the peaks, to the south, lie Upper and Lower Rowe Lakes, and to the north, deep blue Lineham Lakes.

Lineham Ridge - Scramblers and Ridge Walkers

Lineham Ridge – Scramblers and Ridge Walkers

If you have a mix of scramblers and hikers in your group, you can start out together at the trailhead, as my group did on this trip. The scramblers split off at the first avalanche slope to scramble up Mount Lineham, while the hikers headed to Lineham Ridge via the route described above. Since the ridge is connected with the summit of Mount Lineham, we all met somewhere along the ridge and enjoyed the beautiful views together.

On the return trip, we made sure to make a lot of noise, especially in the mature forest area, as Waterton is home to more bears per square foot than any other national park.