Rowe Lakes is a fabulous hike in Waterton Lakes National Park (Alberta, Canada). This hike will take you to three beautiful alpine lakes in amidst spectacular views of the Canadian Rockies on the north side of Mount Rowe. The lower lake is quite easy to reach and great if you want a mini adventure. To get to the upper lakes is more of a slog with plenty of switchbacks (especially on a hot day). But the views are spectacular and well worth the extra effort.
Just be warned – it’s easy to be inspired by these mountains to keep going beyond the lakes! We continued on to Lineham Ridge as well as Mount Lineham as it was just too fun to stop!
Rowe Lakes trail map
Rowe Lakes – the basics
Distance: 14km (8km to lower lake)
Elevation gain: 685m
High Point: 2178m
Time: 4-5 hours (2.5-3 hours to lower lake)
What to bring: The 10 essentials, and bring bear spray
Dogs: Dogs are allowed (on leash)
How hard is it? Intermediate.
Rowe Lakes trail – 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. Head up onto the only trail, alongside Rowe Creek.
Waterton Lakes National Park was severely affected by the Kenow Wildfire in 2017. The fire burned 35,000 hectares, including over 19,000 within the park. The area around Rowe Lakes was heavily affected by the fire – even the signs for this trail were destroyed! It looks completely different depending on the direction of sunshine. The photo above is in the morning, below is early evening.
The hike to Rowe Lakes starts with a few switchbacks so it’ll get your heart working straight away. You can look ahead to Mount Lineham. We went up there later – it’s wonderful.
Or peek backwards to Buchanan Peak.
As you get higher up into the valley, you’ll finally reach an area that was not touched by the Kenow Wildfire. There are oodles of berry bushes so if you visit when berries are ripe, be sure to make a lot of noise and bring bear spray!
Lower Rowe Lake
At 3.8km, take a turn-off to the first lake. Cross the teeny bridge and head towards the cliffs to see a gorgeous lake.
Not bad for a short walk eh?
There are 200m-high cliffs above the lake. The middle Rowe Lake is just up above those.
Lower Rowe Lake is pretty lovely, and would be a good place to stop. BUT if you have more energy, keep going as the other lakes are even more fabulous.
The next section of the hike is less steep and is a kilometer of beautiful sub alpine forest.
You hike along Rowe Creek. As you get closer to Rowe Meadows the rocks start to look bright red (like at Bertha Lake.)
My favourite part of this hike is Rowe Meadows. This is a wide, flower-filled meadow within a huge cirque.
Route up to Upper Rowe Lake
From the edge of the meadow, take the trail to the left and follow the steep switchbacks.
Go beyond to Lineham Ridge?
If you are still full of beans, you can take the other trail to the right, winding around the cirque up to Lineham Ridge. We were planning an easy day (we had plans for a big hike – the Carthew-Alderson trail the following day…) But those views was just too tempting that we took that detour. I’ll write a second post about that epic route.
There are some great views over to Mount Lineham just before you reach the lakes.
Upper Rowe Lake
This is such a fabulous destination. Upper Rowe Lake sits with a backdrop of Rowe Mountain and is surrounded by larch trees, that will turn golden in the autumn.
The lake itself is very shallow. I went for a cooling swim, so had to walk out pretty far to reach a depth where I could actually swim. It’s cold; But refreshing, rather than freezing.
Middle Rowe Lake
Once I’d cooled down, we walked down to the Middle Rowe Lake; it’s only a few hundred meters away. If you walk around the middle lake to the left, there is a great viewpoint the looks straight down the cliffs.
Don’t go to this viewpoint if you don’t like heights. It’s straight down to Lower Rowe Lake, then you can see beyond to the trail, and all the way to Akamina Parkway.
I flipping loved it.
Return the way you came; Back down the switchbacks to Rowe meadows and then straight down the 5km back to the Akamina Parkway.
I loved looking over to Buchanan Peak in the late afternoon light when you can see all the coloured layers in the rocks.
Once you’ve made it back down to the skeleton trees, it’s an easy hike down the switchbacks to the trailhead.
Just as an extra note, this is a photo of all three lakes from Mount Lineham so you can see how they fit into the scenery.
I’ll finish this post with a few panoramas so you can see how the scenery all fits together.
I was blown away by the beauty of the Rowe Lakes and beyond to Mount Lineham. The hike itself is pretty easy as long as you don’t mind the elevation gain. If you fancy a moderately hard hike in Waterton Lakes National Park, this is a really great option.