Many Springs is an easy hike at Bow Valley Provincial Park, Alberta, Canada.
This easy hike at Many Springs in Bow Valley Provincial Park is ideal for new hikers, for recently relocated hikers to Calgary, or for families with young children. The drive west from Calgary on the TransCanada Highway crosses the bridge over the Kananaskis River just before the Hwy 1X exit to Bow Valley Provincial Park, Willow Rock Campground, Camp Chief Hector and Rafter Six Guest Ranch. Each time, on this bridge, a glance right checks out the series of small ice falls along the west bank of the Kananaskis River. They put on quite a show during the winter and well into spring. Every year I mutter, "must stop and photograph those ice falls one day." Today is the day.
Bow Valley Provincial Park is accessed by a well-signed left turn off Hwy 1X shortly after leaving the TransCanada Highway. The view from the entrance sign is a clue of the wonders to unfold within the park. A short distance further, a clearly signed right turn leads to the Park Visitor Information Center and it is a good idea to stop here for a map. Also available are the Middle Lake Trail Interpretive Brochure and a map for the Willow Rock Campground on the other side of Hwy 1X. The Park Ranger will inform of any unusual circumstances on the trail. Sometimes there are good reasons to consider an alternative. On the right turn from the Park Visitor Information Center, a scenic winding road leads to a variety of hiking options. The initial objective is the clearly signed route to parking at the Many Springs trail-head.
The Many Springs Interpretive Trail is a 2.5 KM (1⅝ mile) loop trail. On this particular morning, early spring foliage is accompanied by small patches of snow along the trail. Within a short distance the excellent quality, nearly-flat trail arrives at a Y junction where veering right is chosen. On good trail, a big mountain view emerges as forest transitions to enter meadow beneath power lines.
Soon, glimpses of the pond known as Many Springs peek through increasingly dense brush. Damp ground creates wonderful, natural aromas and the sun is warming the day in this natural alcove surrounded by magnificent tall mountains. The large spring-fed pond opens to inspection and a short distance further it becomes obvious the water level is heavily influenced by well-constructed beaver dams. The difference in water level from one side to the other is quite pronounced. Interpretive plaques along the way explain the special nature of this large pond.
Beyond the dam leads to discovery of one of the perpetually compelling photographic subjects. Reflections on the surface of ponds where the bottom is visible through crystal clear water has the potential to remain occupied for hours but today will be limited to collecting a few carefully chosen images.
Beyond the end of the ponds is a bridge over the outflow channel. The bridge also hosts the interpretive plaque which peaks the curiosity and reveals the secret. On the bridge, there are spectacular and unanticipated vistas. WOW! These images are the stuff featured in mountain scenery calendars. The narrow field of camera vision cannot do justice. You need to stand here and turn your head. The sound of running water and bird calls is combined with fresh, natural aromas carried by a calm breeze that caresses skin warmed by sunshine. It does not get much better than this on an easily navigable and almost flat trail. It is important to visit this place.
Further along the loop trail, a short distance, around Many Springs, there is a temporary trail closure sign. It seems the boardwalk has detached from the foundation. The water is very shallow and hiking boots will handle the depth. The decision is to proceed quickly and carefully. Fully packed weight is around 86 kg (190 lbs). The boardwalk sinks under body weight as the hike proceeds expeditiously to the other side. The water is less than 5 cm (2 inches) deep against my boots at any given time so no passage issue whatsoever. Stopping is not an option. A picture of the boardwalk is taken looking back from the other side.
The next section of trail is through dense, old growth forest and is completely different from the other side of the pond. Halfway through this new environment which includes some minor ascent and descent on rolling ground, a view point is encountered surrounded by shallow water. Jumping onto the dock proceeds without difficulty. There are many birds in this area and at the edge of the dock is a brilliant, blue depression, perfectly visible through crystal-clear water which seems like an entrance point for water from underground.
On the final leg of this easy and fascinating hike there are grand views across Many Springs on the return to the final plaque near the Y junction, and beyond to the trail-head.
Many Springs Interpretive Trail is an excellent, short and easy hike, ideal for the beginning hiker and easily accessible from Calgary. I have included only the trail-head sign and the final interpretive plaque. It is worth your time to get out there and read all the interpretive signs so you can enjoy the interesting story and learn the secret. This trail will likely be busier on weekends throughout the summer. When you hike this trail, it will likely consume no more than a half day. There are multiple picnic sites nearby and other short, easy, unique and interesting hikes in Bow Valley Provincial Park.
Photographs for this solo hike were taken on May 12, 2014.