Lineham Ridge Hike, Waterton Lakes Park

Superlative views from the top looking south to Glacier National Park
Superlative views from the top looking south to Glacier National Park

I like to mark the end of summer by getting away over the Labour Day weekend on a hiking or backpacking trip. One year 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 day we drove down from Calgary 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 Alderson Lake trail. All were outstanding in their own way but the Lineham Ridge hike was extraordinary for the brilliant red rocks.

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John on the summit of Lineham Ridge where it's notoriously windy
John on the summit of Lineham Ridge where it’s notoriously windy

Lineham Ridge hike summary

Distance: The round trip hike is 17.2 km (10.7 miles). It’s another 2.4 km (1.5 miles) one way if you make the side trip to the Upper Rowe Lakes.

Elevation gain: 960 m (3,150 feet) but 1,120 m (3,675 feet) if you hike to the Upper Rowe Lakes.

Time needed: The round-trip hike takes 5.5 to 6.5 hours. Add another 1 .5 – 2 hours for the lakes.

Level of difficulty: I’d rate the hike as difficult. The Lineham Ridge hike isn’t very family friendly because of its length and the elevation gain.

Best time to hike: July through September. 

Permit: You will need a national parks pass to enter Waterton Lakes National Park. You can purchase at the entrance to the park or online. If you’re planning to spend a lot of time in Canada’s national parks, the annual Discovery Pass is your best bet.

Trail report: Check trail conditions before you go – in case there’s an unexpected closure.

Trailhead: The trail starts at the Rowe Lakes Trailhead, 10.5 km up the Akamina Parkway. Parking can get tight.

Dogs: Dogs are permitted on a leash. 

Option: There is an option to do an easy scramble along the ridge to the peak of Mount Lineham.

Bears: Be sure you have packed easy to access bear spray. I recommend carrying it in a bear spray holster.

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

Lineham Ridge hike details

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 go to Lower Rowe Lakes

At the 3.9 km 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 km 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 to Lineham Ridge starts in earnest from Rowe Basin

From Rowe Basin you begin climbing in earnest. Its a total of 540 m (1,770 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 on the Lineham Ridge hike
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
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
What a backdrop on the descent
What a backdrop on the descent from Lineham Ridge
Lovely views on the hike out at the end of the day
Lovely views on the Lineham Ridge hike out at the end of the day
Close-up of the uniquely coloured mountains
Close-up of the uniquely coloured mountains

The bottom line

The Lineham Ridge hike 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. The red rocks are stunning – and the trail isn’t as busy as many others in the park.

The beautiful Upper and Lower Rowe Lakes
The beautiful Upper and Lower Rowe Lakes

Where to stay in Waterton

There is camping in town at the Townsite Campground. You can make reservations starting on March 30, 2023 at 8 AM MST. The date reservations open varies from year to year.

The spanking new Kilmorey Lodge opened in 2022 – and offers rooms with lake views.

Your other option is an assortment of hotels in town. If you want to do some of your own cooking, book a stay at Waterton Glacier Suites.

Waterton Lakes Lodge Resort is a great choice if you want to be close to the lake.

The Prince of Wales Hotel is a bit dated, but it sure offers nice views.

The Prince of Wales Hotel enjoys a spectacular setting
The Prince of Wales Hotel enjoys a spectacular setting

Further reading on hikes in southern Alberta

Location map for the Lineham Ridge hike

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Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

The gorgeous Lineham Ridge hike in Waterton Lakes National Park

 

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