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A Gorgeous Alberta Hike: Lineham Ridge in Waterton Lakes NP

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.

We spent two nights and three days in Waterton – hiking Lineham Ridge, Crypt Lake and the Carthew Summit/Alderson Lake trail. All were outstanding in their own way so it’s hard to pick a favourite.

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

"The brilliant red argillite of Rowe Creek"

The brilliant red argillite of Rowe Creek

What you’ll see on the Lineham Ridge hike

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 NP – 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.

"A wide tree lined trail"

Initially a wide tree lined trail

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.

"The trail opens up with views after a few kilometers"

This section of trail was right through a cornucopia of berry bushes

"Bear scat"

Bear scat

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.

"Rowe Basin and a pack of horses"

You can ride a horse into 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.

"A glorious view down the valley in no time"

A glorious view down the valley in no time

"The trail ahead across the red rock"

A look at what’s ahead

"Into the scree"

Into the scree

"Humans are very small in scale next to these mountains"

Humans are very small in scale next to these mountains

"Near the top of Lineham Ridge"

Near the top of Lineham Ridge

"The trail hugs the ridge"

The trail hugs the ridge; Mt. Lineham in behind

"Watching a couple come from from Mt. Lineham"

Watching a couple descend Mt. Lineham

"Daring to look over the edge to the beautiful lakes way below"

Daring to look over the edge to the beautiful lakes way below

"The summit of Lineham Ridge is notoriously windy"

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

"Tucked away behind the rocks and out of the wind"

Me – tucked away behind the rocks and out of the wind

"Superlative views from the top"

Superlative views from the top looking south to Glacier National Park

"Upper and Lower Rowe Lakes"

The beautiful Upper and Lower Rowe Lakes

"Looking up to Lineham Ridge - after we'd been there"

Looking back up to Lineham Ridge – after we’d summited

"Lovely views on the hike out at the end of the day"

Lovely views on the hike out at the end of the day

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.
  • 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 1120 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.
Have you been to Waterton Lakes or Glacier National Park?

Leigh McAdam

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Author Leigh

Avid world traveler. Craves adventure – & the odd wildly epic day. Gardener. Reader. Wine lover. Next big project – a book on 100 Canadian outdoor adventures.

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