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The Lineham Ridge Hike, Waterton Lakes National Park

The Lineham Ridge Hike, Waterton Lakes National Park

I like to mark the end of summer by getting away over the Labour Day weekend. Most years we’ve done a hiking or backpacking trip and this year was no exception. Our destination was Waterton Lakes National Park, about three hours south of Calgary on the border with Montana. Waterton adjoins Glacier National Park so the hiking options between the two parks are extraordinary. On the first day we knocked off the Lineham Ridge hike.

Over two nights and three days in Waterton we also knocked off the Crypt Lake hike and the Carthew Summit/Alderson Lake trail. All were outstanding in their own way but the Lineham Ridge hike was extraordinary for the brilliant red rocks. 

The brilliant red argillite of Rowe Creek
The brilliant red argillite of Rowe Creek

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What you’ll see on the Lineham Ridge hike

The hike started off with a bang of beauty. Within minutes of leaving the trailhead you can’t miss the Rowe Creek stream bed. It dazzles you with its brilliant red argillite – a fine grained sedimentary rock.

For the next 3.9 kilometres it’s a hike on a moderate grade through country that feels to me like a grizzly might pop out the woods at any second. That’s the one problem with Waterton Lakes National Park. It does have a large grizzly population and there have been incidents over the years.

It might be best if you didn’t read The Bear’s Embrace before you visit Waterton.

Good signage on the Lineham Ridge hike
Good signage on the Lineham Ridge hike

Fortunately the only bear we saw over the three days was a small black bear just off the road by the Prince of Wales Hotel. But I did see bear scat just up from where the photo below was taken. It got the adrenaline going so I broke out in song which should be enough to scare any wild animal away.

"Bear scat"
Bear scat

The option to to to Lower Rowe Lakes

At the 3.9 kilometre mark you reach a junction and a trail to Lower Rowe Lakes. We figured we’d see the lake well enough from the summit so didn’t bother to hike it. Instead we continued up to the beautiful Rowe Basin, 1.3 kilometres ahead.

You could ride a horse into Rowe Basin - at least before the fire
You could ride a horse into Rowe Basin – at least before the fire

The climbing starts in earnest from Rowe Basin

From Rowe Basin you begin climbing in earnest. Its a total of 540 metres (1770 feet) from here to the top of the ridge. Fortunately it’s also glorious hiking. There are wildflowers about, and even some big horned sheep next to the cliffs. They refused to pose properly for photos.

If you want to visit the Upper Rowe Lakes look out for the spur trail as it takes off just above Rowe Basin.

It's a steady up on the Lineham Ridge hike
It’s a steady up on the Lineham Ridge hike
A look at what's ahead
A look at what’s ahead
Near the top of Lineham Ridge
Near the top of Lineham Ridge
Can you see the people descending Mt Lineham?
Can you see the people descending Mt Lineham?
The trail hugs the ridge; Mt. Lineham in behind
The trail hugs the ridge; Mt. Lineham in behind
The view of Rowe Lakes from Lineham Ridge
The view of Rowe Lakes from Lineham Ridge
John on the summit of Lineham Ridge where it's notoriously windy
John on the summit of Lineham Ridge where it’s notoriously windy
Me - tucked away behind the rocks and out of the wind
Me – tucked away behind the rocks and out of the wind
Lovely views on the descent from Lineham Ridge
Lovely views on the descent from Lineham Ridge
Superlative views from the top looking south to Glacier National Park
Superlative views from the top looking south to Glacier National Park
The beautiful Upper and Lower Rowe Lakes
The beautiful Upper and Lower Rowe Lakes
What a backdrop on the descent
What a backdrop on the descent
Lovely views on the hike out at the end of the day
Lovely views on the hike out at the end of the day
Close-up of the uniquely coloured mountains
Close-up of the uniquely coloured mountains

Hiking Lineham Ridge is delightful once you’re out of the berry bushes. It’s a hike that offers superlative views for the better part of three hours and those views to the south are of the equally beautiful Glacier National Park.

Useful information for the Lineham Ridge hike

The trail starts at the Rowe Lakes Trailhead, 10.5 kilometres up the Akamina Parkway. Parking can get tight. (Note that the road is still closed in 2020 because of the 2017 fire but SHOULD be reopened in 2021.)

The round trip hike is 17.2 kilometres (10.7 miles). It’s another 2.4 kilometres if you make the side trip to the Upper Rowe Lakes.

The elevation gain is 960 metres (3150 feet) but 1,120 metres (3675 feet) if you hike to the lakes.

The round-trip hike takes 5.5 to 6.5 hours. Add another hour at least for the lakes.

Further reading on hikes in southern Alberta

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

The gorgeous Lineham Ridge hike, Waterton Lakes National Park

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 33 Comments
  1. That’s quite a bit of bear scat. It was actually at Waterton Lakes NP that I saw a bear — from a safe distance. I think my singing might scare away bears, too. 😉 Waterton is a gorgeous park and I wish I would have been able to spend more time and do a hike like this. We passed through too quickly after a visit to Glacier.

  2. That’s quite a bit of bear scat. It was actually at Waterton Lakes NP that I saw a bear — from a safe distance. I think my singing might scare away bears, too. 😉 Waterton is a gorgeous park and I wish I would have been able to spend more time and do a hike like this. We passed through too quickly after a visit to Glacier.

  3. Spectacular views! That red argillite is so unique. I can almost feel the wind at the top of that summit. I love how you took pictures of the mountains with the hikers beneath to get a sense of how huge it is. Glacier NP is one of those on my wish list to visit..hopefully soon.

  4. Spectacular views! That red argillite is so unique. I can almost feel the wind at the top of that summit. I love how you took pictures of the mountains with the hikers beneath to get a sense of how huge it is. Glacier NP is one of those on my wish list to visit..hopefully soon.

    1. @Mary It was really cold at the top of the summit – that’s why we came down and tucked ourselves behind some rocks to enjoy lunch. That red argillite is absolutely brilliant. I’ve never seen a stream bed quite like it.

    1. @Deej Thanks for that nice comment Deej. I do love hiking but every so often I need a break to get caught up at home – especially at this time of year when you try to take advantage of every wonderful fall day.

  5. The trails and the mountains just looked gorgeous and inspiring. The best photo for me is the one with the horses and the backdrop was the lush greens of the mountains.

    🙂

  6. The trails and the mountains just looked gorgeous and inspiring. The best photo for me is the one with the horses and the backdrop was the lush greens of the mountains.

    🙂

  7. Is there no end to beautiful hikes in Western Canada, one more gorgeous than the next? 🙂

    The colours you encounter along the way here are really extraordinary.

  8. Is there no end to beautiful hikes in Western Canada, one more gorgeous than the next? 🙂

    The colours you encounter along the way here are really extraordinary.

  9. Another gorgeous hike, Leigh. You’re right about the superlative views, how do you get back to regular life after this? Well, I guess you find another superlative hike. You really make me want to get from behind this desk and hike!!!

  10. Another gorgeous hike, Leigh. You’re right about the superlative views, how do you get back to regular life after this? Well, I guess you find another superlative hike. You really make me want to get from behind this desk and hike!!!

    1. @Marcia – It seems I hike in waves; I hike a huge amount so that I’m so exhausted and behind on everything so then I stay home, work hard, get caught up and then do it all over again. I can rest when I’m dead.

  11. I should try the Lineham next year. I thought it would be too scary, but did Crypt Lake last week . Lower Rowe Lake is very pretty for a picnic or a rest, and there are marmots on the rocks.

  12. I should try the Lineham next year. I thought it would be too scary, but did Crypt Lake last week . Lower Rowe Lake is very pretty for a picnic or a rest, and there are marmots on the rocks.

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