The easy Montane Trail in Bow Valley Provincial Park west of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
The Montane Trail begins from the Bow Valley Provincial Park Visitor Center off Hwy 1X west of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. It is a short, easy 2.2 KM (1⅜ mile) interpretive trail which explores the elements and characteristics of a montane environment. The montane is a very special, confused area located where the foothills meet the mountains. The Visitor Centre provides a map for other easy hikes in the same park. The marker for the Montane Trail is on the entrance door to the Visitor Centre. Access is around the veranda, to the right, where several interpretive plaques set the tone for a pleasant and informative montane walk in meadow, moraine and forest.
Towards the back of the Visitor Centre, a very well maintained trail heads out into a meadow sparsely populated with trees. Interpretive plaques along the route explain the nature of the diverse terrain. Proximity to the mountains exposes this terrain to harsh and dramatically changing weather. Plants need to be tough and well adapted to survive.
The beauty of the meadow deserves close examination of weathered trees and the density and variety of ground-hugging flora. The beauty is in the detail but also in the surreal patchwork covering the landscape.
The Montane Trail changes from meadow to forest where there is evidence of small subterranean critters. A gentle ascent into forest creates a completely different surrounding within a very short distance. Such is the nature of a montane.
The short, gentle ascent to the top of an ancient moraine reveals a totally different environment with impressive mountain views. The trail is made of pebbles and drainage is greater. A gentle, cool breeze moderates the warmth of the mid-day sun.
The next phase of the Montane Trail is in highly-aromatic, old growth forest. This is a special place where circumstances have provided greater growth opportunity and longevity. Being alone here today is a gift of peace and tranquility. The silence is deafening.
Approaching the end of the Montane Trail, the environmental transition is the reverse of the initial entrance experience only a few minutes earlier. When you complete this short, easy course and someone says the word 'montane' there will be no doubt in your mind about that to which they refer. It will increase comfort in, and appreciation for, the forest and the diverse variety you can expect. The montane is a rapid course in wind and sun direction and the effect topography can have on what, and where, plants and trees grow.
This short, easy and information-rich, interpretive trail is an ideal hike for new hikers, for people who have recently moved to the Calgary area, and for families with small children. It may also increase comfort in the forest for future hikes which can be very important and worthwhile.
Photos for this solo hike of Montane Trail in Bow Valley Provincial Park were taken on May 12, 2014.