One of the best hikes in the world is
This is the Tamarack Trail in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta. It is not the Tamarack Trail in Idaho. Nor California.
Hikes in this area known as:
- Rowe Lakes Trail
- Lineham Ridge
Do you know this hike?
Please email suggestions in the appropriate sections below. Our editors will add your comments. Thanks!
The red dot is WATERTON National Park.
AT A GLANCE
- 3 days, 2 nights
- 36km (22.4mi)
- mid-June to mid-October
- big elevation changes
- on the US border
WHY WE LIKE THIS HIKE
The best wildflowers in the Canadian Rockies! There, we said it. Let the debate begin.
- Waterton/Glacier International Peace Park is a deserving World Heritage Site
- the fantastic chain of Waterton Lakes
- Waterton townsite some like even better than Banff and Jasper
- amazing vistas down from high ridge to the prairies
- tamarack (alpine larch) turn colour and shed needles by late September
- of over 900 species of wildflowers in Waterton, Bear Grass is our favourite
- sidetrip scramble to Avion Ridge
- gorgeous Red Rock Canyon
- nearby Carthew-Alderson and Crypt Lake are excellent day hike warm-ups for Tamarack
- good chance to see mountain goats, elk, and mule deer
- in fact, deer roam the townsite!
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We've always wanted to find a way in to the Lineham Lakes, descending from Lineham Ridge. If you have done it safely, please email to tell us how.
Almost every hiker in Waterton sees bears. When we took Swiss friends in 2000 they saw 4 bears the first day and at least one bear every day in the Park. If you are terrified of bears, this may not be the hike for you.
- bring a rope for hanging your food on a bear pole
- no water source climbing Lineham Ridge
- biting insects can be a nuisance at times
- you can do this trip on horseback, if you prefer
- the weather is highly variable. It can snow any day of the year. Or it can be 30°C (86°F).
- Snowshoe campground is not our favourite
- many find the road up Bauermann Creek from Snowshoe dull (we recommend hiking out Lone Creek to Blakiston instead)
- hiking in the Canadian Rockies is not cheap. Be prepared to pay a series of fees, the most startling of which is an annual National Parks pass for your vehicle C$125 / year (in 2006).
- you need a "backcountry permit" for camping
- for July and August you should make a reservation for the campgrounds you want. Lone Lake is the most difficult to get as it has only 4 campsites.
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Contact the Park for reservation details and up-to-date costs:
Waterton Lakes National Park:
(403) 859-5133, or (403) 859-2224
During the winter until about May 15th you could try:
Excellent hiking in adjacent Glacier National Park, Montana, is cheaper.
Canadian Rockies SuperGuide details the standard Tamarack route.
We recommend a varation which exits via Blakiston Creek:
- start early from the Rowe-Tamarack trailhead
- hike a tough 17.7km to Lone Lake campground (night 1)
- hike an easier section to Twin Lake campground (night 2)
- backtrack and hike out Lone Creek to Blakiston
This way you skip the comparatively boring Snowshoe trail. On the other hand, you miss out on the chance for interesting sidetrips to Lost Lake, Avion Ridge and Goat Lake.
The second best itinerary would have you spend a third night on the trail at Goat Lake campground.
- many hikers fly into the airport in Calgary, Alberta (YYC)
- rent gear if needed at MEC in Calgary
- Lethbridge, Alberta; Kalispell and Great Falls, Montana are smaller alternative airports
- Waterton Lakes National Park is located 270km (168mi) south of Calgary, Alberta, and 130km (80.8mi) SW of Lethbridge, Alberta.
- there is no public transport directly to Waterton. The closest you can get is Pincher Creek, Alberta 45km (28mi) by Greyhound Canada bus.
- often you can hire a shuttle in Pincher Creek to get you to the Park, but not always. In 2005 we needed to hitchhike the last leg.
- it is far more convenient to drive your own vehicle
- coming from the USA, there is public transport
- bus or train take you first to Glacier National Park (where you could even hike into Canada on the Highline Trail / Ptarmigan Tunnel loop
- the Glacier Park East Side shuttle offers regular service across the Canadian border to Waterton.(Check the dates of service. Shuttles start running July 1st and finish in early September.)
- the hostel in Waterton is disappointing, over-priced and cramped. You would be better off tenting. There is a huge, open campground in Waterton townsite.
- If you have a vehicle, instead tent Crandell Mountain (403) 859-5133. No reservations. A walk-in wilderness section called Crandell Lake offers the best sites.
- There is no campground when you exit at Red Rock Canyon. The closest is Crandall.
INDEPENDENT OR GUIDED?
Almost everyone hikes Tamarack independently but you can certainly hire a guide, if you choose.
BEST TREKKING GUIDEBOOKS
There are many good hiking guidebooks. But we love Graeme Pole's innovative binder editions where we can remove just the relevant pages for our hike, carrying them in a protective plastic slipcover. Brilliant! Be sure to get the most recent edition.
The Copeland opinionated guide is excellent too, rating hikes from 1-4 "stars". Some hikers even like Spring's guidebook best.
Ridgewalks in the Canadian Rockies - Mike Potter, 2001 describes the sidetrip scramble to Avion Ridge.
BEST TRAVEL GUIDEBOOKS
- Lonely Planet Banff, Jasper and Glacier National Parks - Miller, Derby, Lukas, 2004
- Moon Handbooks Canadian Rockies - Andrew Hempstead, 2005
- Waterton and Glacier in a Snap! - Fast Facts and Titillating Trivia Djuff & Morrison, 2005
- Moon Handbooks Alberta: Banff, Jasper, Northwest Territories - Andrew Hempstead, 2004
- Lonely Planet British Columbia - Andrew Hempstead, 2004
- Moon Handbooks British Colombia - Andrew Hempstead, 2005
- Frommer's Banff & Jasper National Parks - Christie Pashby, 2004
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We use Lonely Planet guidebooks all over the world. But you can use any guide to travel the Canadian Rockies. The tourist infrastructure is excellent.
OTHER RECOMMENDED BOOKS
Gadd is our bible in the Rockies: flowers, plants, animals, birds, fish, geology, history and much more.
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