Rowe Lakes – Waterton Lakes

Rowe Lakes – Waterton Lakes

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
Facilities: Nothing.
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.

Kenow Wildfire

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.

Heading back

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.

25 thoughts on “Rowe Lakes – Waterton Lakes

  1. I am blown away by the beauty as well! So many breathtaking vistas and gorgeous sights to see along this hike. Would love to enjoy this trail one day!

    1. Thanks Allie! You mentioned you miss NZ… so I am sure you would LOVE British Columbia and the Canadian Rockies. It has a similar feel to NZ South Island when you go hiking.

  2. Ah I so want to go to the Canadian rockies – look at those views! Absolutely stunning. Thanks for all the details (and honesty) about the difficulty! Definitely looks worth it though.

    1. Thaaank you! Yeah, everywhere in the Rockies is fabulous, but Waterton Lakes is really special. It is just so colourful.

  3. I love the wide open spaces and mountain peaks of this walk. The area looks so pristine and the water so clear. Remarkable

  4. I didn’t realize this place even existed. It is going on one of my spots to visit on my next trip to this area! So beautiful with amazing views!

  5. What a beautiful and relaxing hike! I love your photos and descriptions of the Rowe Lakes and the surrounding scenery. You have made me want to visit Waterton Lakes National Park and experience this trail for myself. I also appreciate the details and tips you have provided, such as the difficulty level, the distance, the elevation gain, and the wildlife. You have done a great job of showcasing this hidden gem in Alberta, Canada.

  6. So many beautiful views! I love the 200 metre high cliffs above the lake and the viewpoint straight down to Lower Rowe Lake and beyond to the trail all the way to Akamina Parkway is stunning. It’s so nice to get an overall sense of the landscape and all three lakes from Mount Lineham.

  7. That very first picture just below the stats really shows how the forces of nature have carved out this giant gorge between the mountains, that’s quite foreboding looking! Perhaps a river once ran through there, leaving only the lakes behind today? Or do we think it was glaciers? The cirque at Rowe Meadows certainly looks glacier-carved, and the last photo before the panoramas definitely seems to hint at glaciers as the culprit too. I love how you can get a feel for zillions of years of geological changes from these photos.

    The reddish Rowe Peak behind Upper and Middle Lakes is interesting too, it’s like you can see how the rock juts in a horizontal direction instead of up-and-down.

    The lakes are so pristine, I’d be enticed to jump in for a swim too! You can’t not!

  8. That looks so enticing – love the view over the lower lake, it reminds me of being at Lake O’Hara or overlooking Egypt Lake. We’ve yet to visit Waterton at all. One day… Looking forward to the description and photos from the rest of the hike!

  9. Josy, you know so many hikes in this area. It’s quite impressive. I love the views of the mountains from the meadows . Whenever I plan a trip into the mountains, I always choose to spend time in one of the meadows either for the wildflowers or the tremendous views. There’s something peaceful about hiking through a meadow.

  10. haha, I can abbbsolutely see how one might wanna just keep going! (I legit have no idea how I’m gonna narrow down what hikes I wanna do when I one day hopefully in the not-too-far-away future visit Vancouver again, but I’ll figure it out somehow!) Those lakes look pristine! <3 I'm terrible with the cold but would probably wanna try at least just dipping in too, hehe. Too pretty to pass up!

    1. This one is a bit far from Vancouver – but if you ever visit Glacier National Park, you can get a ferry over to Canada and Waterton National Park. It’s super close to Montana…

  11. I can totally see why you were tempted just keep going and going – what a beautiful hike! Each lake seems to be even more incredible. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Right!? I loved the middle lake with those views down to the first lake. Mount Lineham was spectacular too…

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