The Montane Interpretive Trail is another one of our favourite easy hikes in Bow Valley Provincial Park. This kid-friendly Kananaskis hike packs a ton of excellent scenery in a very short distance.
Another benefit of hiking the Montane trail is that the Bow Valley paved pathway starts from the same parking lot. This kid-friendly bike ride in Kananaskis is the perfect addition to the short hike on the Montane trail.
Montane Interpretive Trail – Quick Details
Trailhead: Montane trailhead
Distance: 1.6 km loop
Elevation: 58m elevation gain
Montane Interpretive Trail
- Montane Interpretive Trail – Quick Details
- Montane Hike Highlights
- Montane Trail Location
- Bike to the Montane Trail
- Montane Interpretive Trail Statistics
- Montane Trail Map
- Hiking Montane Trail with Kids
- Where to Stop for Lunch or a Break
- Montane Hiking Safety Tips
- Montane Trail Logistics
- What to Bring for Hiking Montane
- Montane Hike Footwear Recommendation
- Hiking the Montane Trail in Winter
- Other Easy Hikes in Bow Valley Provincial Park
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Montane Hike Highlights
The Montane Interpretive Trail begins to the right of toilets. You won’t hike very far until you come to the trail junction where the Montane trail hiking loop begins and ends. One-way traffic on the Montane trail goes to the right.
Hiking the Montane trail begins in a mixed forest of evergreens and aspens. The single-track, dirt hiking trail is well groomed with only small roots protruding.
After 200m of hiking along this Kananaskis Montane trail, you’ll arrive at an open grassy meadow in front of aspen forest. As usual on this beautiful and short Kananaskis hike, watch for amazing wildflowers in meadows. Watch along the forest carpet for Rocky Mountain wildflowers such as the beautiful and delicate Striped Coral Root orchids growing in clusters in the dappled sunlight.
The Montane trail follows a series of meadows for a while with only sporadic trees, enabling views of Yates Mountain (home to another of our favourite Kananaskis hikes). Patches of wolf willow line the trail, which smell so good in late spring.
The first of many interpretive signs appears here describing life for the flora and fauna of the montane ecosystem of the Bow Valley Provincial Park.
Scattered along the meadow floor in between the juniper plants are a huge variety of Alberta wildflowers including crocus, old man whiskers and flax.
At the 0.5km of the Montane hiking trail, you’ll leave the grassy meadow and enter a beautiful forest of aspens and evergreens. The forest floor is covered with flowing grass and small shrubs, including an abundance of wild roses (Alberta’s provincial flower). The hiking trail starts to climb a little, but the slope is gentle.
At the 600m point of the Montane trail your short uphill climb pays off big time as you arrive at a clearing with unobstructed views looking north up the Bow Valley towards Canmore. Yates Mountain, the Twin Towers and the Three Sisters (which look different from this vantage point) are on full display here. There’s a thoughtfully placed bench here to allow you to stop and soak in the amazing Rocky Mountain scenery.
The open hill below the bench is one of the best spots in the Alberta mountain parks to find Tiger Lily flowers in summer time. We almost always see these exotic, brilliant orange Tiger Lily flowers when we hike the Montane trail in summer.
From the bench, the Montane trail follows a ridgeline for a while. With few trees, the views are excellent and of course, wildflowers are abundant.
The ridge walk along the Montane trail last around 100m or so, before you reenter the forest. You haven’t hiked very far to this point, but the forest suddenly feels a lot different here than the forest at the start of the hiking trail. This forest has many Douglas Fir trees and has a thick carpet of moss, with crocus flowers scattered about.
At the 0.9km mark of this easy Kananaskis hike, you’ll enter a patch of ancient Douglas fir trees. Judging by the thickness of the trunks on these massive Douglas Fir trees, many of them are several hundred years old. It’s humbling to be in the presence of these majestic trees.
The forest begins to thin again at the 1.3km mark of the Montane Interpretive Trail. Fewer trees allow for more lush plant life on the forest floor which means, you guessed it, plenty of wild flowers. Wild roses and clematis flowers seems to grow nicely in this area.
You’ll reach the end of the Montane trail loop at the 1.6km mark of the hike, and you’ll be back in the parking lot less than a minute later.
Montane Trail Location
The Montane trailhead is at the Bow Valley Administration & Information Centre. It’s easy to find as it’s the first thing you’ll pass (on your right) shortly after you enter Bow Valley Provincial Park off Highway 1X.
Drive to the Montane Trail, Bow Valley Provincial Park
The Montane parking lot is a decent size, but it’s also parking for the hike, the information centre and for anyone biking the Bow Valley paved pathway.
Bike to the Montane Trail
For anyone camping in Kananaskis at the Bow Valley Campground, there is an 4.4 km paved pathway that runs from the side of the camp store to the Montane trail. This is a fun and scenic bike ride that is well worth it.
Montane Interpretive Trail Statistics
The Montane Interpretive Trail is an easy hike in Kananaskis that’s pretty straight forward. It’s easy enough for all levels of hikers and especially good for hiking with toddlers.
How Long is the Montane Interpretive Trail?
The Montane hike is a pretty short Kananaskis hike, clocking in at just over 1.5 km long.
How Hard is the Montane Hiking Trail?
The Montane hike is one of the easiest hikes in Kananaskis and the Bow Valley Provincial Park. It’s short, relatively flat with only a couple of small uphills but it still delivers on scenery.
If this isn’t enough, we recommend adding on an easy bike ride along the Bow Valley paved pathway that leaves from the same parking lot or adding on one of the other easy Bow Valley Provincial Park hikes.
How Long Does It Take to Hike Montane?
It should take a typical adult roughly 25-35 minutes to hike the Montane loop trail, not including stops.
We recently hiked Montane with our kids (5 & 7) and it took us 41 minutes including time for pictures and stopping at the bench.
Montane Trail Map
It would be nearly impossible to get lost on the Montane hike. Once at the parking lot, it’s easy to follow the trail past the trailhead sign. It’s also well marked and includes interpretive signs along the way.
Hiking Montane Trail with Kids
What used to be a morning outing has turned into a quick jaunt in the forest. At 5 & 7 years old our kids can do this hike in around 40 minutes.
That doesn’t stop us from doing this easy hike, we just combine it with other fun, easy hikes in the area or bring our bikes to add on a fun kid-friendly bike ride on the paved pathway.
The kids really enjoy the area near the bench and the forest full of giant Douglas Fir trees.
The Montane hike is short and easy enough for most kids to complete themselves. We started doing this hike when our kids were toddlers and they loved completing this hike on their own.
Where to Stop for Lunch or a Break
The Montane hike is short enough that you likely won’t need to stop mid-way for a break, but the bench is a good place to take a break if needed. There are also picnic tables in the parking lot for a lunch or snack break.
Montane Hiking Safety Tips
While the chances of a dangerous wildlife encounter along the Montane Interpretive Loop are low, you never know when you might encounter a bear or other dangerous animal. Be educated and prepared.
Take the time to educate yourself on Bear Safety. And please, make lots of noise as you hike to alert the bears of your presence.
Cougars also live in Kananaskis Country. Learn more about Cougar Safety.
We recommend you check the latest Montane Trail Report for trail conditions, wildlife warnings and possible closures before you head out.
Montane Trail Logistics
On-leash dogs are allowed on the Montane hike. Bikes are not allowed, however there are bike racks in the parking lot.
There are washrooms in the Montane day use parking lot.
What to Bring for Hiking Montane
Generally speaking, you don’t need a lot of hiking gear on short day hikes in Kananaskis. Check out our list of hiking essentials with the hiking gear and clothing we recommend to enjoy your hike, regardless of the variable weather and trail conditions.
One thing you should always bring is bear spray in an easily accessible spot, like this Scat Belt.
Montane Hike Footwear Recommendation
The Montane trail is well groomed the entire way. Unless you are doing the Montane hike in winter, you won’t need any special hiking shoes for this hike.
Hiking the Montane Trail in Winter
While we haven’t hiked the Montane Interpretive Loop trail in winter, Alberta Parks does list it as a winter hiking trail. We always recommend bringing snowshoes if you are the first on the trail after a large snowfall or microspikes if the trail is icy.
Other Easy Hikes in Bow Valley Provincial Park
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Celine Brewer, a local Canmore resident, is the co-owner of Travel Banff Canada. She has a passion for being out in the mountains any time of year. In the summer, you'll often find her hiking or mountain biking. In the winter, she enjoys cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and winter hiking the most.
As much as she loves the mountains, she also loves travel! When she's not playing outdoors at home, she's either traveling the world with her husband and two kids or working on their other two travel sites: Family Can Travel and Baby Can Travel.