Hiking C-level Cirque in Banff — No, it’s not at sea level!

So you may be asking what is C-level Cirque? Are there any other levels, like A- or B-level? At least those were questions we were asking, even after completed the hike (clearly didn’t do my homework beforehand). Read on to learn more.

C-level Cirque Trail started from the Upper Bankhead picnic parking in the Lake Minnewanka area. The trail ascents steadily through the forest on the east side of the Cascade Mountain to one of its cirques. With the exception of a few muddy spots, the trail was in good condition with good footing.

There weren’t a lot of views to see for most of the hike until we got to the cirque, at which point we had amazing views of the headwall and the mountains across the valley. When we hiked this trail in June, there was some snow remaining in the cirque. We hiked up the trail from the viewpoint, then put on our microspikes and walk up the snow slope to find our lunch spot. It was a great place to have lunch.

Most of the trail was through the forest with limited view.
Quite a few aspens at the beginning of the trail
Old abandoned mine building
One of several old mine pits that was fenced off
Glacier lilies
As we were near the cirque, the view of Rundle Mountain could be seen.
View of snow in the cirque peeked through the forest as we approached the viewpoint.
Finally appeared in front of us, the cirque with its towering headwall. The presence of the sun behind Cascade Mountain made photographing quite challenging.
Look to the right side of the cirque, you could see a faint trail on the edge of the snow field. That was where we headed. Did you see two hikers standing in the snow field?
The view of the cirque was quite something to see. Unfortunately you can’t see the detail of the rock face in dark shadow in this picture. You might be able to spot the two hikers now in the middle of the snow field.
Looking back from where we came. The view here was spectacular. You could see the mountain across the Bow Valley. These four young hikers were having fun walking/sliding down the slope.
We walked into and up the snow field to find this lunch spot.
David was looking for a good place for pictures.
When the sun is on the other side of a great view, it’s a good opportunity for a selfie. Snow on the ground acted as a reflector to soften harsh shadow from the sun above our fashionable straw hats. 😄

What about the term “C-level?” Did you remember that this trail started from the Upper Bankhead picnic area? Bankhead, Alberta is a ghost town inside Banff National Park. In early 1900s, it was a mining town of nearly 1,000 people. Lower Bankhead was the main part of the mining operation. Upper Bankhead was the residential area. There were three levels of coal seam operations at Bankhead Mine. The A level was near the processing plant in Lower Bankhead. The B and C levels were located higher up the Cascade Mountain, with the C level being the highest. The artifacts from the previous mining building and old mine pits along this trail were those from the C-level operation, hence the name of the trail.

If you’re interested in reading more about Bankhead Alberta Ghost Town, this page contains fascinating information. For more pictures of a remnant of Bankhead, visit this post from Hiking with Barry.

  • Date hiked: June 12, 2017
  • Hiking time: 4h 5m
  • Distance: 5.5 mi round-trip (out and back)
  • Elevation change: Approx. 1,600 ft gain

13 thoughts on “Hiking C-level Cirque in Banff — No, it’s not at sea level!

  1. Just stumbled across your blog. Beautiful country! I traveled up in the Alberta/BC area a decade ago w/ my dog for about six weeks… camping/backpacking. I gotta get back up there! It’s amazing country! Thanks for blogging about it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping by and for the comments, Mike. We love it up here as well. We are here for about two months in our RV, day-hiking and sightseeing mostly. No shortage of places to explore.

      Liked by 1 person

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