Mount Lineham – Waterton Lakes

Mount Lineham – Waterton Lakes

Mount Lineham via Lineham ridge is a spectacular hike. This was honestly one of my favourite adventures last year as the picturesque scenery, colourful rocks (in addition to fabulous gem-coloured lakes) make for a great day out! This was not a technical scramble and we did not bring any mountaineering equipment. It’s not often that Amateurs like us can hike to the peak of a mountain in the Rockies! It was a pretty perfect day.

You may want to grab a cuppa for this post as it’s probably going to be a long-un.

Mount Lineham trail map

I’ve included the route we recorded below. There is a shorter loop on alltrails if you don’t want to visit Rowe Lakes or the highpoint of Lineham Ridge.

Mount Lineham – the basics

Distance: 27km including the lakes, the highest point of Lineham ridge and Mount Lineham
Elevation gain: 1200m (alltrails thinks it is 1500m)
High Point
: 2728m (8950 ft)
Time: 8-10 hours
What to bring: The 10 essentials, and bring bear spray
Facilities: Nothing.
Dogs: Dogs are allowed (on leash)
How hard is it? Challenging, but not technical (a hike not a scramble.) Having said that, it can get very windy up on the ridge, so if it is a windy day be very careful near the cliffs.

Mount Lineham – Getting started

The trailhead for this hike is on the Akamina Parkway (here) 11km from Waterton Park. There is space for several cars to park, then head west towards Rowe Lakes. I wrote a detailed post about the first part of this hike, so I’ll start this post from Rowe Meadows.

Rowe Lakes, Lineham Ridge or beyond?

Even if you don’t fancy the entire trail up Mount Lineham, the intermediate hiking trail to Rowe Lakes (below) is still lovely. If you want more fab views from up high, keep going to Lineham Ridge. We were only planning for an easy-ish day hike to one of those options. Mount Lineham just sucked us in by looking so tempting and fun!

Steep climb

Once you leave Rowe Meadows there is a bit of a steep climb up along the Lineham ridge trail. You climb up through larch trees, so this cirque must be gorgeous in the autumn when the pine needles turn golden.

The cliffs between Mount Rowe and Lineham Ridge are incredible. The trail curves around below those cliffs, climbing gradually up to meet them.

This is the view west down through the valley back towards Buchanan Peak. 


My photos make the slopes of the trail look a little bare, but they were covered in wildflowers. The photos below are bear grass (white rods) and yellow columbine lilies.

Once you get a bit higher, the trail traverses over pink argilite (I explain it in my post about Bertha Lake and Red Rock Canyon)

These rocks have all been eroded from the cliffs above so they make up a red (and slightly unstable) scree. The path is easy to follow on sunny days.

Once you make it up to the saddle, you can peek over to see Lineham Lakes and Mount Blakiston. 

Route to Mount Lineham

This saddle is where you turn off to Mount Lineham. There is (sort-of) a trail the whole way and it looks pretty easy from here, so we decided to give it a try. Our plan was to turn around if became sketchy.

As you can tell from the photo above, the north side of Mount Lineham has some very steep drop-offs. The trail up to the summit sometimes allows you peek over the cliffs to see Lineham Lakes below. It’s not a good route if you’re afraid of heights.

Colourful rocks on Mount Lineham

You can’t really tell from these photos, but you hike up through strata with different colours. The saddle of Lineham ridge is pinky-red. Then you hike through a dark grey/black area, into purple rocks that fade into greeny-grey. The summit is a orange-ish.

You can really see how soft and flaky the rocks are as you get close to the top. Watch out carefully for the trail as it is very easy to step off it and lose the path.

Geology nerds will love this whole area – you can see the sedimentary layers very clearly, and there are plenty of rocks that show shallow-sea wave patterns. These ancient (1.5 billion year old) rocks have been thrust upwards above younger rocks, meaning they are too old to find animal/plant fossils.

Mount Lineham summit

We made it up from the saddle in less than an hour. The peak is marked with a cairn and a pink summit box that includes a note book, fireball and even a purple butt-plug(!)

The views are phenomenal. To the east you can see that the Rockies finish abruptly; Giving way to the flat plains of Alberta. This is the far edge of the Canadian Rockies.

To the south, you can see the three Rowe Lakes (we’d visit on the same day) as well as Cameron Lake off in the background where we were planning to hike the next day. There is a trail that goes straight down that shale to the valley below. It’s drops a whopping 800m in just 1.5km! I don’t recommend that route!

On to Lineham Ridge

After having a good break and taking in the views, we re-traced our steps back down from the peak. We were heading to the highest point of Lineham ridge to see more views.

I took this photo to show off the purple/green section of shale I mentioned earlier.

This is just to show what the path is like along Lineham Ridge. It is easy to follow once you start walking. The high point of the ridge is that little peak above Marc in the photo below.

Lineham Ridge views

How amazing is this view looking west!? The ridge below goes between Mount Rowe and Festubert Mountain. The Tamarack trail drops down to hike along the base of that ridge.

Pink rocks of Lineham Ridge

Waterton Lakes really does feel like hiking through a rainbow! The photo below left shows Mount Blackinson above Lineham Lakes. The other photo shows the trail along Lineham ridge with Mount Lineham (where we’d just been!)

Heading back

Once you’re ready to return, follow the trail back down to Rowe Meadows (you can see the trail below.) All the three peaks below are part of Mount Rowe. You can see Rowe Lakes in the hanging valley between the two middle peaks.

Rowe Lakes

After hiking down to the meadows we (of course) hiked back up to the middle/upper Rowe Lakes. I have a whole post about it if you’d like to see some of this scenery, but don’t want anything so challenging as Mount Lineham!

From Rowe meadows (below the lakes) go straight down the 5km back to the Akamina Parkway. There are gorgeous views of Buchanan Ridge. We did a hike the other side of that colourful mountain the following day (it’s the Carthew Anderson trail.)

The hike to Mount Lineham was such a satisfying adventure. It was a challenge, and my legs were pretty tired on these final few kilometers but wowza – the views are well worth the effort. I’ll finish with some panoramas so you can see what I mean.

The hike to Rowe Lakes, Lineham ridge and Mount Lineham is brilliant! I love that this route gives you a few options, depending on how epic you are feeling/how much you want to push yourself. If you visit Waterton Lakes – add this to your plans!

22 thoughts on “Mount Lineham – Waterton Lakes

  1. I think this whole Rowe Lakes area you’ve been posting about is probably one of the most enticing yet, I really want to do this one. Every single photo is insane; I love the panoramas you’ve been including, and the reddish colors of the rocks are so unique. Do you think this would be an ok one for me to do solo? I get nervous in bear country and with scree/steep drops, especially paired together, but the photos you included at least make it look like the scree areas are separate from the exposed cliffside areas; the scree part actually looks ok to me because if you slipped at least you’re not falling far.

    1. It’s mad isn’t it!? I think there must be some of those red/pink colours in Montana (in Glacier National Park) as the border is soooo close. Honestly, I am not sure about this one solo – it might depend on the time of year. I don’t think you’d have a problem with the scree (you’re right – it looks scary from afar, but the trail was not bad at all up close…) I chose to sneak up and peer over the cliffs, but the main trail was a bit further back from the steep drop-offs.

      The part I might worry about is the bears once berry season starts. The lower part of the trail is the dodgy part for bears as there were so many berry bushes. If you visited later in August it’d be best to speak to the staff at the Information Centre to double check if it is okay to go solo. We only saw a few other hikers, so I personally would feel better if you went with at least another hiker.

      Once you’re above the meadows, bears would be way less of an issue as there is nothing for them to eat up there.

      1. Thanks for your wisdom Josy! Yeah that’s probably smart…I’ve found that in most places I hike further south, people tend to say “oh no you’ll totally be fine, don’t worry about it”, and I feel that way too. But in Montana and Wyoming and I suppose now Canada and places with grizzly bears in general, I do have hesitance, and experts and locals also validate that hesitance, so it’s not just my own paranoia lol. It’s one of the first times I’ve been confronted with the drawbacks of being a solo traveler.

        1. I mean, you probably would be fine… but I think Waterton Lake has a healthy population of grizzly bears as it is so remote, so it is best to go in a group or at least speak to the rangers. We only saw one bear the entire time BUT the berries were not quite out yet.

  2. I’m planning to go to Canada in 2023 so Mount Lineham will definitely be on my list. The scenery is stunning and I love how you included your AllTrails route — so helpful!

  3. I’ve always wanted to go to Canada for the scenery! After reading your article I really enjoyed learning about the different routes you could take. I’ll be adding these places for a future trip one day. Thanks for all your recommendations!

    1. Thanks Kelly! I always love it when there are a few different options, depending on how much energy you have. The only issue is, we nearly always go for the furthest/highest route. 😀

    2. Canada is amaaazing for the scenery! Are you coming to the West (Alberta and BC?) Let me know if you need hiking advice once you get planning!

  4. I do love the idea of hiking to the peak of a mountain in the Rockies as an amateur! It looks challenging but doable and so worth the effort. Love your pano pics!

    1. Thank you. I love taking those panoramas! And yeah, it’s not often we find Rockies that are possible for us!

  5. I missed doing any wildflower hikes this year and am super sad since it was supposed to be extra pretty from all the rain. This is such a beautiful hike! I love your panoramic shots!

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