Many people are familiar with Alberta’s Waterton Lakes National Park’s wildflowers but there’s plenty of blooms on Many Springs Trail in Kananaskis Country.

The flat, short(1.6km), family-friendly trail in Bow Valley Provincial Park loops around Many Springs Basin offering easy access to a colourful display of spring flowers, a dock next to a hot spring (no dipping allowed), and stellar views of Mount Yamnuska. A visit to see yellow, orange and purple blooms makes a great day trip and the type of outing where families can invite grandparents along.

All Photos by Carol Patterson

The trail includes interpretative signage on the history, geology and biology of the area but you might want to download a flower app to help identify plants you see. More than 500 species of flowering plants have been identified in Bow Valley Provincial Park and with a little searching, you can expect to find western wood lilies, wild honeysuckle, Indian paintbrush and blue columbine. But the real reason the park is well-known among plant enthusiasts is the orchids found here including the Yellow lady’s slippers.

Many Springs Trail A butterfly rests on a cream-coloured vetchling Photo Carol Patterson

A butterfly rests on a cream-coloured vetchling Photo Carol Patterson

Fortunately, you don’t need to be a plant expert to find an orchid. If you visit when Yellow lady’s slippers are in bloom (late June to mid-July) you can find them within steps of the parking lot. Bunches of them grow near the outhouse at the trailhead and it’s worth pointing out their unusual shape to young nature lovers. The yellow petals that fold to make the “slipper” create a pouch that direct insects towards the nectar while ensuring the plant is pollinated. Unlike some plants that are carnivorous and kill insects they attract, the lady’s slippers are like catch-and-release fishing, the insects and the plants both benefit from the interaction.

Many Springs Trail Signs of beaver activity are common along the trail Photo Carol Patterson

Signs of beaver activity are common along the trail. Photo Carol Patterson

Over 140 species of birds have also been recorded in the park so as you wander through the willows near the water’s edge, listen to the musical trill of robins, yellow warblers, and wrens.
You’ll also see evidence of beavers around the pond with log piles and dams blocking the water. Allow time to visit the dock that pokes into the water where you can look for aquatic creatures that call the park home and one of the springs that give the trail its name.

The Many Springs Trails is relatively short but packs a bio-diversity punch. With blossoms, birds and biology to engage all ages, make sure you allow one to two hours to explore.

Trail Etiquette and Tips

  1. Don’t pick flowers. Many wildflowers won’t return if you do so be a good park steward and enjoy the blossoms on the stem so you can see them again next year.
  2. If you take pictures, look for flowers near the trail so you don’t trample other blooms getting that perfect shot.
  3. Follow the loop trail to the right. The path is two-way but park planners often use loop trails in popular areas so if everyone walks in the same direction, you encounter fewer people and feel more alone in nature.
  4. Bow Valley Provincial Park is part of Kananaskis so buy a Conservation Pass before parking. There’s no place to purchase one in the park so go online to get a daily or yearly pass.
  5. Alberta Wildflowers is a free app for Apple devices with more than 1,000 wildflower species that can help identify the plant if you enter the flower colour, size and location.