Many Springs is a short, idyllic, interpretive loop hike in Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park west of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
After touring new architectural features in downtown Calgary and enjoying the colorful revelry of the Pride Parade along 9th Avenue SW, there remains time to drive west on the TransCanada Highway past the junction with Kananaskis Trail (Hwy 40) and across the Kananaskis River for the turn north at the Seebe junction (Hwy 1X) followed by the nearby left turn and short drive into the Park Ranger Station at Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park.
After picking up a trail map, as well as confirming trail availability and condition, the short drive past Middle Lake leads to the small parking area for Many Springs just shy of the Whitefish Day Use Area along the Bow River. The 1.9 KM (1¼ mile) relatively flat, interpretive loop trail around Many Springs begins at washroom facilities and proceeds straight into mixed forest. Autumn colors contrast with mature evergreen forest which provides hints of surrounding mountainous terrain. Soon a Y trail branch hosts a small sign directing right, and good trail proceeds through dense, trail-side brush that delays visual hints of water on the left.
Soon, the left side of the trail opens with views of multiple pools created by a host of beaver dams. The fresh and rich aromas from the swampland on this overcast, humid day are naturally overwhelming. The trail curls around to a small, wooden bridge where steps up reveal extraordinary views from the handrail across wetlands to spectacular westerly mountains sweeping north to the immediately recognizable and unique profile of Yamnuska (Mount Laurie) past formidable Goat Buttress. To the left the view offers an excellent view of the fully-treed hump called Doorjamb and the next rock step known as Loder Peak. This is a popular hike / scramble with a return via Jura Creek Canyon to Highway 1A just east of Exshaw.
Past the small wooden bridge, the trail descends steps then winds a short distance through dense brush before opening to spectacular views across Many Springs. The next short portion of trail is over boardwalk traveling counter-clockwise through robust marshland only a few inches above the surface of the lake. An intermittent, light drizzle serves only to enhance the experience. Light rain gear or a hiking umbrella provides adequate protection.
Shortly past the end of the boardwalk, a short section of slightly more rugged trail swings around the lake to a small wooden dock hosting benches for sitting and pondering the meaning of life in this extraordinarily beautiful location. Aptly-named Many Springs is fed by underground springs sourced between two uniquely distinct geological zones. One of these springs is immediately obvious from the front edge of the wooden platform where colorful, mineral-rich deposits accumulate as water, mixed with bubbles of air, seeps into the bottom of the lake.
Old growth forest past the dock ascends gently on rolling land into more open forest hosting dense ground cover infiltrated by the colorful blooms of wildflowers. The short, easy trail is a short distance back to the Many Springs parking area.
Many Springs is a perennially favorite, short and relatively easy hike within close reach of Calgary. There are many easy hikes in the small and popular Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park which is a component of Kananaskis Country. Many camping opportunities are available within this park. The campground on the opposite side of Highway 1X from the entrance to Bow Valley Wildland Provincial Park hosts the trailhead for the unique, fascinating and educational Flowing Waters Trail which has a scenic beginning through dramatic terrain above the Kananaskis River. Several short hikes here can be done on the same day.
Hint: While you are in the area, and if there is an hour free, experience the Montane Trail which begins from the porch at the back of the Park Ranger Station. The fascinating and gentle interpretive loop trail is only 1.5 KM (1¼ miles) long and there is much to learn about the unique circumstances plants and wildlife must endure in this weather-challenged special region between the mountains and the foothills leading to the prairies. The region is substantially more complex than first imagined and the short trail provides a wealth of information about the nature of the transition between mountains and prairies on the east side of the Continental Divide.
Back in Calgary, dinner with Mélanie is outstanding at Notables Bowness.