Waterton National Park
Time: 6 hours (return)
Distance: 16 km (return)
Elevation Gain: 950 m
How To Get There: As of right now, you have to book a shuttle that will take you to the trailhead as the road is temporarily closed. Make sure to reserve a spot on the shuttle ahead of time as it can get very crowded, very quickly.
When you go to Waterton and ask people about what they consider to be the Triple Crown hikes, you may get several difference answers. Some people consider Lineham Ridge as part of the triple crown, though officially it is actually Crypt Lake, Akamina Ridge and Carthew-Alderson that are given those coveted spots. I had been told by several different people that Lineham Ridge was almost if not just as beautiful as the other Triple Crown hikes. So I decided to give it a try.
The thing about hiking in Waterton this year (and most likely several years to come) is that many of the hiking trailheads are found sitting alongside Akamina Parkway road, which subsequent has been closed down for construction repairs. Because of this one must book a shuttle if they are interested in hiking any of these trails as it is the only vehicle they are allowing on the road for the time being. Because Lineham Ridge is a full-day hike, Kim and I decided to book the 10:00 am shuttle time (I would have booked the earliest time at 8:00 am but had a wedding the day before…and well, you fill in the blanks).
The weather forecast was a bit sketchy as it was calling for thunderstorms in the area starting in the afternoon. I knew Lineham Ridge was completely exposed near the top so I was keeping my fingers crossed that this wouldn’t be an issue.
Kim and I ended up being the only ones who were hiking Lineham Ridge as we were dropped off at the trailhead (which is the Rowe-Tamarack trailhead).
We couldn’t help but feel a little on edge as we had been warned that there had been multiple bear sightings in the area (though this isn’t a surprise as Waterton is known for it’s high bear population. I’m not sure if I can recall a time where I didn’t spot a bear at some point whenever I’m in the area). Luckily, the only animal we encountered in the first five minutes of hiking was an adorable little rabbit.
The first part of the trail heads straight until you reach a small waterfall cascading over red rocks (if you are interested in the colour of rocks, make sure you check out Red Rock Canyon).
From here, the trail turns into a couple of long switchbacks until it finally switches back one more time and you are walking through a thick forest of trees, flowers and various plants.
While the path starts off fairly wide, once you reach this point, the trail begins to narrow. Sometimes the vegetation along the trail is so thick that it almost swallows the trail up whole. You keep walking until the world opens up around you to a beautiful view of the valley and creek below.
It was around this point that we began to spot the bear scat.
After walking back through the trees for a while you then pop up into a small flower-covered meadow.
At this point there is a fork in the road, giving you a choice between going left towards Lower Rowe Lake or to continue on to Upper Rowe Lake and Lineham Ridge.
While the lower lake was only another 200 m away, Kim and I both knew that we were on a bit of a time crunch if we wanted to make it back to our 6:00 pm shuttle in time so we continued on straight ahead. While the trail is fairly easy for the most part, there were a few spots where there was a bit of an elevation gain.
Once we began crossing back and forth over the creek via stone steps and log bridges, I knew we were getting close to Rowe meadows.
Walking out to the meadows was incredibly breath taking. Crystal clear stream waters, dark green grass, a sprinkle of wild flowers and the rock wall that surrounded us made for a gorgeous picture.
Unfortunately we couldn’t stay long as we were immediately attacked by mosquitoes and had stupidly forgotten to bring out bug spray with us. The trail crosses over the meadow and stream and then ducks back into the trees, immediately beginning it’s ascent upwards.
It wasn’t long before we spotted the sign and turn-off for Upper Rowe Lakes which was to our left.
We continued onward, struggling up the steep ascent towards the Lineham Ridge bowl, slowly making our way up past the tree line. As we moved along, we spotted a small herd of big horn mountain sheep above us.
Finally we reached the part of the bowl where there is nothing but red shale and the remnants of snow.
We sat down for a quick lunch of baby-bell cheese and trail mix, said hello to a few hikers who were heading back down the other way and then continued on. Walking along the bowl is an incredibly surreal experience. As you continue the gentle ascent, you are treated to the clashing views of the red shale and green meadow below.
Once we were close to the top, we were able to spot both Upper and Lower Rowe Lakes.
We were lucky enough to have the sun shining us up until that point. But as we reached the top of the ridge, the grey clouds began to roll in, casting a dark shadow along the valley below.
As we began to follow the spotted the orange indicators, telling us which way to go in order to reach the “summit” of Lineham Ridge, we also spotted the heavy footprints of big horn sheep, no doubt from the same sheep we had spotted only moments before.
While the orange indicators tell you to make a left turn upwards, we chose instead to keep going off to our right so we could check out Lineham Lakes on the other side of the bowl. Taking the detour was 100% worth it! It was a beautiful view and you could see everything from the cliff side!
Once we had gotten our fill of the Lineham Lakes, we returned the way we had come and began following the orange indicators. The ascent became a bit more uphill and it was slightly slow going as we had to be careful not to slip on the increasingly loose shale.
We could see the highest point of the ridge not too far off and I decided to quickly hike up while Kim waited at the bottom since we were running out of time before we had to head down. I ended up running up the scramble as fast as I could, continuing to follow along the orange indicators as I moved. Unfortunately, once I reached the top, the clouds decided to open up and I was immediately hit with tiny pellets of sleet. The panoramic views were absolutely stunning but I had left with my camera with Kim and thus had no evidence of my ascent. I suppose I’ll just have to come back again!
With the clouds continuing to darken, Kim and I took that as our cue to begin our descent back down the Lineham bowl. The views were just as magnificent the whole way down! Unfortunately, Kim was having some hiking boot issues (her one boot wasn't fitting her feet right) so going downhill became a bit of a strain for her. I think now is as good as time as any for me to give a shout out- even though she was in a lot of pain on the way back, she was an absolute machine and managed to keep up her hiking pace so we didn’t miss the shuttle bus. I was very proud of her!
While I would still place Crypt Lake ahead of Lineham Ridge as far as favourite hikes, I definitely see why people love the Ridge so much. It offers various views, wonderful colours and a plethora of lakes. The poor weather and Kim’s blisters put a bit of a damper on the hike but it was still an amazing adventure. It can be a bit strenuous at times so I wouldn’t recommend it as a family hike but for anyone that is looking for wonderful views and beautiful vegetation, this is the hike for you!