From Lower Rowe Lake, the hike to Lineham Ridge is a continuation, first the short 200 m (219 yard) return to the Rowe Lakes Trail, then a left turn and a short 1.3 KM (0.81 mile), very beautiful hike through lush forest over Rowe Creek water crossings.
This short segment of trail explodes into a large, incredibly impressive meadow surrounded by forested hills, a valley view, fields of colorful wildflowers, crystal-clear running water and steep rock cliffs. Rowe Meadow is an easily achievable and worthy destination on its own. Wow! It brings back memories of the impact of Cracker Lake. Stepping from the forest into the meadow stops me in my tracks. Wow!
On the far side of Rowe Meadow, a simple, square and narrow, wooden beam bridge crosses a marvel of running water, with moss-covered stones and surrounding wildflowers nothing short of spellbinding. It is a photographic paradise and a vision of peace and tranquility.
Once I manage to tear myself away and start hiking again, the trail junction is a very short distance beyond the rise on the far side of the creek. The trail to Upper Rowe Lake turns left to begin a steep and obviously sustained climb over broad switchbacks on good, well-maintained trail. After five minutes of heart-thumping, heavy breathing, I am suddenly struck, without warning, and uncharacteristically, by a lucid thought. I know. I know. I, too, found it difficult to accept.
I decide it would make sense to exchange the primary destination from Upper Rowe Lakes to Lineham Ridge. There is some logic in this, but my primary motivation in this decision is the suspicion this climb is going to kill me, following yesterdays Carthew-Alderson effort. So down I go to the junction for the turn onto 3.3 KM (2.1 miles) of trail leading to Lineham Ridge. The elevation gain will also be greater but, hopefully, much gentler over the increased distance.
The 3.3 KM (2.1 mile) hike to Lineham Ridge is longer than the Upper Rowe Lakes hike from the Rowe Meadow junction but the rate of ascent is gentler, although the front end is on steep, loose rock buffered by the beauty of surrounding wildflowers and the magnificent cliffs surrounding the bowl.
On one portion of this trail segment, beneath impressive cliffs between 2,446 m (8,025 ft) Mount Rowe and 2,728 m (8,950 ft) Mount Lineham, I am being watched.
The Lineham Ridge trail, beneath the cliffs, is a gentle ascent with phenomenal views as I hike the circle around the bowl. Rowe Meadow, at the bottom, serves as a fixed reference as I consistently gain altitude and swing around towards the west face of Mount Lineham. The trail is clear and easy to navigate in the transition from gravel and solid rock to scree. How isolated plants can flourish in this hostile environment is beyond my imagination.
As I approach the top of Lineham Ridge, Upper Rowe Lakes begin to appear on the flank of Mount Rowe on the opposite side of the bowl. I can clearly see the steep switchback trail to Upper Rowe Lakes and emerald Lower Rowe Lake rests serenely below.
As the Lineham Ridge trail arrives at the top, I hike past the severe direction reversal and continue straight towards the west face of Mount Lineham.
Within a very short distance, on my left, the incredible view, from the edge, of Lineham Lakes below, assaults the senses. Breathtaking beauty! Unreal color! From the edge of 400 m (1,300 ft) of vertical air. I cannot stop taking photographs. It is an emotionally powerful and visual extravaganza. This vision alone makes the hike worthwhile. Wow!
After I get settled down, I choose to relax and enjoy a leisurely lunch here, with Lineham Lakes directly below me, the steep cliffs plunging from the summit of Mount Lineham on my right, and the warm sun combined with a cool breeze on my back, as my feet rest weightless at the end of legs dangling in space. It does not get better than this.
Back at the severe direction reversal on the Lineham Ridge Trail, I veer right on the route which will take me along the top of the ridge. Views are compromised to the north because the trail is below the true top. No doubt this is for protection from wind, and for safety since the north side of the ridge is an unforgiving drop. As I approach the high point at the at the northwest end of Lineham Ridge, I scramble from the trail to the top of the ridge for an excellent full view of the two most westerly Lineham Lakes.
The view from the top of the ridge is spectacular in any direction, but the angle of the sun tells me it is time to begin the return hike. On my way back along the top of Lineham Ridge, I discover two other couples have arrived at the severe direction change. I had no idea it was going to get crowded like this. One couple is from the United States, the other from Switzerland. We exchange pleasantries and soon disperse in a variety of direction and distance.
Rowe Meadow does not seem to get much written attention. From my perspective this is one of many highlights on the hike from the Akamina Parkway to the top of Lineham Ridge. As I approach the meadow, I take a few minutes to appreciate the slopes consumed with brilliant wildflowers. The mix of flora, rock and running water, combined with surrounding dramatic scenery, is magic. The aroma and sound are palpable. This is a very beautiful place.
At the Rowe Meadow trail junction, I decide to forego the hike up to Upper Rowe Lakes. The view from the top of Lineham Ridge will suffice this day. Instead, I will spend some time at Rowe Meadow to have a snack, refresh my water supply and take many photographs of the pristine beauty near the wooden beam bridge. I nearly have a brain hemorrhage trying to choose the few I have included in this post.
The hike to Lower Rowe Lake is listed in the reliable Waterton Lakes National Park Visitor’s Guide published by the Waterton Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Association + assistance from several sources. It is a good piece of work and an important, free reference for navigating Waterton Lakes National Park.
The Lower Rowe Lake hike is listed as 8 KM (5.0 miles) return with an elevation gain of 350 m (1,148 ft). The additional distance to Rowe Meadow is 2.6 KM (1.63 miles) and approximately 60 m (197 ft) of elevation, bringing the total experience to a return distance hike of 10.6 KM (6.63 miles) and elevation gain near 410 m (1,345 ft). To me, this seems well within the reach of a broad range of casual hikers. Many children could do it. Perhaps there is concern about damage to the fragile nature of the environment being caused by inconsiderate vandals. If you decide to tackle the Rowe Meadow hike, I suggest a few hundred metres continuance on the Lineham Ridge hike for a bit of elevation, sloping meadows and amazing views. Even footprints in the marsh land would be a travesty of wilderness etiquette. If you choose to continue to the top of Lineham Ridge, you will be tackling a return hike from the Akamina Parkway of about 17.6 KM (11 miles) and elevation gain in the range of 850 m (2,780 ft) so, a bit more aggressive. You always have the option to go as far as you choose. When you have had all the fun you can stand, you can choose to turn around and go home. Happy trails. Thanks for sharing the adventure.
It has been another grand day.