Lineham Falls

June 13, 2021. A hike up the valley between Waterton’s two tallest peaks leading to a spectacular waterfall.

  • Region: Waterton Lakes National Park. Traditional Territory of the Blackfoot, Ktunaxa, and Tsuu T’ina First Nations
  • Distance: 5.1 km one-way (if going beyond the official trail to stand next to the falls)
  • Elevation Gain: 400 m
  • Elevation of Objective: 1969 m
  • Time: 2h 10m one way
  • Safety and Disclaimer
Topo map of the route. The dashed line on the map which zig-zags to the cliffs then ascends straight up them into the hanging valley and between the Lineham Lakes does not actually exist.

The trail to Lineham Falls is mentioned in a couple of my older hiking books as a less frequently travelled trail, one where there’s a high likelihood of solitude, perhaps best saved for rainy days or shoulder season. I’m not sure why that is – the scenery is engaging all along the trail and the waterfall itself is spectacular. It would make for a good shoulder season or rainy day hike, but it’s also a great choice for a warm, sunny day. A lot of other people must feel the same way, because I’ve been seeing lots of pictures from the trail posted on Facebook groups this season. My wife and I picked a hot, cloudless, late spring day to pay the waterfall a visit.

Access is from the Akamina Parkway in Waterton. About 9 km from the townsite there is a large parking area marked Lineham. We got off to an early start and there was only one other vehicle there on our arrival. The occupants were possibly scrambling Ruby Ridge or Mount Blakiston because we reached the waterfall without encountering anyone. By the end of the day the parking area was packed. We passed numerous groups on our way down, most with dogs tagging along. If this ever was a less frequently travelled trail, the secret is definitely out.

The trail is very obvious and well maintained along its length. Lower down it passes through burned forest, but eventually it enters lush green forest that escaped the 2017 fires. A little over 3 km along, the trail breaks into the open between the imposing slopes of Mount Blakiston to the north and Mount Lineham to the south. Lineham Falls is visible, more than a kilometre distant, plunging over 100 meters down a sheer cliff. The trail re-enters the forest for a time beyond there, going alongside Lineham Creek for a time. Eventually the official portion of the trail ends rather abruptly at a boulder and little sign. The waterfall is still about a half-kilometre distant from there. A boot-beaten path carries on towards the falls. It’s easy enough to follow at first, but because less distinct as it gets nearer the falls. We found a faint trail ascending a bit onto rocky terrain above a densely treed area. Following it we eventually got to a more obvious footpath in the rubble which we followed all the way to a rocky platform adjacent to the falls. We sat there for a while to enjoy the cold spray in the hot sunshine.

The waterfall is fed by a cluster of small lakes in a hanging valley above the cliffs. The lakes are best seen from Lineham Ridge. Actually travelling to the lakes is apparently possible from the waterfall side if one is a skilled technical rock climber and obtains a special permit from the Parks administration. Joey Ambrosi also describes a way to descend from Lineham Ridge down to the lakes in Southern Rockies Trail Guide. He takes pains to caution readers that the route is a dangerous one, though, so for now the lakes are safe from the crowds.

Click on the pictures in the gallery below to access full resolution images.

Route overview
The start of the trail goes through burned forest.
The trail eventually gets above the level of the burned trees and traverses. Mount Lineham is to the left.
A look back just before the trail enters the forest again. Buchanan Ridge is on the other side of the valley. The summit of Mount Alderson is at the right, rising above the intervening ridge.
Sunshine illuminates a little tree beside a thin cascade of water coming down from Mount Blakiston.
The first glimpse of Lineham Falls, still some distance down the valley.
The trail crosses this major drainage coming down from Mount Blakiston. This is the starting point for the scrambling route to the summit.
The full northern face of Mount Lineham, Waterton’s 2nd-tallest mountain.
The trail re-enters the trees for a time, running alongside Lineham Creek.
Another glimpse of the falls as the forest thins.
The end of the maintained trail. A very clear path carries on from here towards the waterfall.
Some of the great rocky terrain surrounding the valley.
Almost to the falls. The trail diverges and becomes less distinct as it gets to those trees. The best way to go wasn’t down through the trees towards the base of the falls, but staying high (to the right) and heading towards the open rocky slope beside the falls.
Lineham Falls
Looking down from where the video was recorded. The rocky platform we made our way to was well above the level of the bottom of the falls.
Looking back down the valley. Perfect day for a hike.

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