Hiking the Bow River Loop at Bow Valley Provincial Park, Alberta, Canada.
The Many Springs and Middle Lake hikes have consumed the entire first half of the day. The end of the road in Bow Valley Provincial Park is at Whitefish adjacent to the Bow River with magnificent views of Yamnuska, Goat Mountain, Loder Peak, Door Jamb Mountain and a panorama of more distant views upstream to familiar lofty mountains soaring above Canmore, Alberta.
Picnic tables at Whitefish seem like the ideal place to enjoy lunch in the sun.
The view upstream along the Bow River of Door Jamb mountain on photo right, Pigeon Mountain on photo left, and mountains over Canmore in the distance, from Whitefish in Bow Valley Provincial Park, Alberta, Canada
Mount Yamnuska is composed of two distinct geological zones in Bow Valley Provincial Park, Alberta, Canada.
From Whitefish, the Bow River Trail begins at the end of the picnic tables and tracks the shoreline of the Bow River NE past campsites on the right.
The scenic walk along the Bow River reveals remaining aftermath of the June 2013 major flooding event. The trail is well worn and stepping over roots adds a bit of exercise on the approximately 2 KM (1¼ mile) hike to the signed trail junction for the Moraine Trail.
The Moraine Trail is a right turn off the Bow River Trail and begins with a short, gentle ascent through the camping area, across the road, and past a gnarly tree near the playground to the trail marker adjacent to the amphitheater.
The steeper climb from the amphitheater to the bench at the top of the moraine is mercifully short. The reward is expanded by outstanding views and interesting interpretive plaques along the top of the moraine.
Within a very modest elevation gain the nature of the terrain changes dramatically.
Interesting interpretive plaques explain how the moraines were created and their characteristics. The scenery at this marginally higher elevation is spectacular and a major change in environment within a small change in elevation and topography.
The moraines are one of the features which make Bow Valley Provincial Park a geologically unique and very interesting place definitely worthy of a visit.
The hike continues, south now, over the pebbled, flat top of the moraine until the trail descends again into forest heading towards Middle Lake. At the next signed trail intersection the turn right for the Elbow Flats Trail going west will return to Whitefish.
The relatively level 1.9 KM (1¼ mile) Elk Flats Trail, back to Whitefish, passes through the Elk Flats Picnic Area and past the trail-head for Many Springs before descending gently past the Elk Flats Group Campground to complete the 5.5 KM (3⅜ mile) loop hike from Whitefish.
The final, short distance from nearby Many Springs trail-head to Whitefish is a gentle descent through lush, green forest. Spectacular and familiar views across the Bow River explode from the forest on arrival at the Whitefish picnic area.
The washrooms may be a welcome sight. Whitefish is a great place to relax and popular with fisher people but none are here today.
Back at Whitefish, the impressive presence of Yamnuska and Goat Mountain command the view across the Bow River.
This easy loop hike from Whitefish, using the Bow River Trail, the Moraine Trail and the Elk Flats Trail in Bow Valley Provincial Park, is ideal for new hikers, for recently relocated hikers to Calgary, or for families with young children.
The total distance is about 5.5 KM (3⅜ miles) with minimal elevation change. Pick a sunny, fair weather day. The reward is a nature experience, good exercise and learning new information about a fascinating and incredibly beautiful area.
Photos for this post were captured in Bow Valley Provincial Park west of Calgary, Alberta on May 12, 2014.