Waterton Lakes National Park
Distance: 11 miles Time: 5 hours Type: There and back
The hike to Lineham Ridge, one of the most spectacular in Waterton, starts from the Rowe Lakes trailhead on Akamina Parkway. As we were getting organised by the car before setting off a girl came up to us and said she had just had to turn back on the trail because a bear was blocking the path and had in fact begun walking towards her in an aggresive manner. Although we had seen a couple of bears at this point on our trip, we were fairly inexperienced when it came to large dangerous animals and did consider whether we should pick another hike. As we were mulling it over, and after the girl had left, another solo hiker pulled up to the trailhead. We told him about the bear but he seemed completely unphased: by now it was quite likely the bear had moved off and he wasn't bothered by the prospect of a bear encounter in any case. He made off at a brisk pace. Encouraged by his lack of concern, we decided to head off too. We did eventually meet the bear in question and had our own memorable encounter, of which more later.
The Rowe Lakes trail actually continues for a long distance, becoming the Tamarack Trail which runs parallel to the border between Alberta and British Columbia before reaching the Kishenena Peak. From there you can either head to the Red Rock Parkway via the Blakiston Trail or via the Snowshoe Trail which passes Twin Lakes and Barman Creek. To hike either route from the Akamina Parkway to the Red Rock Parkway would require more than a day. We decided to head for one of the best viewpoints in the park, the Lineham Ridge.
The trail begins by making a switchback climbing through the forest. There was no sign of the bear in this section. Eventually you reach the turn off for the Lower Rowe Lake but we pressed on to climb further to the Rowe Meadow, a lush plateau of streams and flowers situated in a semi-ampitheatre surrounded by a steep mountain ridge. It's a spectacular spot and perfect for a pit stop. From the meadow, the hike to the Upper Rowe Lake is 1.2km while the ridge is a further 3.3km. To hike from here to the Red Rock Parkway is 25km via the Blakiston Trail and almost 30km via the Snowshoe Trail.
From the meadow the trail begins a long uphill slog along the ridge line. There's no shelter here and it's fairly tough going, so make sure to bring a hat. There are amazing views of the Rowe Valley, with Upper and Lower Rowe Lakes visible in crystal clarity in the distance.
The trail eventually reaches its high point, on the crest of the ridge, from where you can see over the sharp drop on the other side - a beautiful and secluded valley containing the Lineham Lakes. The views here are truly spectacular. It's a very windy spot and there are some pesky chipmunks, so not ideal for lunch, but the views more than make up for it.
The hike returns to the Akamina Parkway via the same route. As we were approaching the final series of switchbacks to the trailhead we saw the bear. It was a mother with three cubs, quite content sitting in the long grass a few metres above the trail. She seemed quite happy for us to spend a few minutes watching her and her young cubs, and it was quite difficult to peel ourselves away. Another special moment in Waterton.