Distance: 19 km
Elevation gain: 1000 m View map Download GPS track
Sandra and I love the time of year when the larches turn brilliant yellow in the Rockies and each year we plan some big hikes through prime larch territory that will keep us away from the crowds. This weekend Kananaskis and Banff were buried under at least 20 cm of snow and the forecast called for cloud and high wind, so we revised our big hike plans and set off south to Waterton National Park where the trails were dry. Our destination was Mount Rowe, which we would scramble up from Upper Rowe Lake. The lake basin and ascent route lie in prime larch territory and I figured the red rock of Waterton would be a nice substitute for the blue sky, which we knew we wouldn't be seeing much of today.
We followed the route to Upper Rowe Lake described in Don't Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies
, gently ascending on fantastic trail for the first 5.4 km before arriving at a meadow below Rowe Lakes and Mount Lineham. Sections of trail near Rowe Creek were particularly beautiful. A steeper, but well graded, ascent on a switchbacking trail then brought us to the Upper Rowe Lake basin and afforded us our first views of Mount Rowe and the grassy slope at end of the basin we’d use for the ascent. After a short break we started up, and while the route was initially steep it was nothing more than a hike. A hidden larch forest about midway up and the easy and scenic ridgewalk to the summit were highlights of the ascent. It’s worth noting that our ascent route is the descent route described in Nugara's scramble guide
and that it makes reaching the summit of Mount Rowe very easy for those, like us, who are intimidated by more difficult scrambles.
Surprisingly we managed to find a sheltered place to eat on the cold and very windy summit, but 20 minutes later as we stood up to head down I spotted a black bear on our ascent/descent slope! He seemed preoccupied with digging in one spot so I figured we could contour around him, but I was worried as we'd lose sight of him as we moved through the larch forest and anyone coming up could accidently herd him towards us. In the end it turned out just fine and we spent a lot of time wandering around the upper lakes taking in the riot of colors all around us.
A very pleasant day in what is quickly becoming our favorite national park!