I am an avid hiker with a focus on easy to moderate trails in natural settings. I occasionally do harder trails.
How to Get to the C-Level Cirque Trail Near Banff, Alberta
The C-Level Cirque Trail is located about ten minutes from the town of Banff, Alberta when driving. What you do is head north out of town on Banff Avenue, use the underpass to go under the Trans Canada Highway, and then head toward Lake Minnewanka.
If you are coming from Calgary, then instead of turning left into Banff with the first entrance, simply turn right off of the highway instead. After a short drive, there will be a left-hand turn prior to Lake Minnewanka where you will find some trailheads at a parking lot. There are outhouses here and picnic grounds. The C-Level Cirque Trail will be located at the west end of this trail, there is another trailhead here for a longer excursion, and the area is known as Upper Bankhead.
Trail Specifications for the C-Level Cirque Trail
AllTrails.com describes the trail as a "9.3 kilometer heavily trafficked out and back trail." The Parks Canada trailhead signage at the Cirque C Trail states that it is a 4.2 km trail (see the video above), so if you double that to get 8.4 kilometers for the return trip, there's a 0.9-kilometer discrepancy between AllTrails and the on-location trail sign.
When I did the trail, my smartwatch measured 4.22 kilometers and a maximum elevation gain of 415 meters. I think AllTrails is looking at a different route than the one I took, however, I did follow the sign at the parking lot (see video).
AllTrails designates the trail as moderate for difficulty level, a designation that I agree with. I tried to do this trail in 2019 but found that I was not fit enough for the elevation. In July 2021, things were different. I found that this trail was mainly uphill. Furthermore, there were a ton of bugs. I don't usually use bug spray but I brought some for this trip.
Viewpoints at the End
After about 20 minutes, I came to the first interesting point on the trail. It was an area with appeared to be an abandoned house. There was a lot of graffiti on this house, which was a little disappointing.
The trail was nice to take in the late afternoon and early evening. There was a lot of shade on the trail, a nice feature for summertime hiking. As for other hikers, I saw a few different groups. In total, I would estimate seeing about 15 people on this hiking trip, one that took me about 3 hours return time.
The endpoint of the trail had a double viewpoint. Firstly, there was a rockslide area (see the photo at the start) and there appeared to be another trail to connect to for further exploration. I wonder if this trail is the one that is described at AllTrails.com. Additionally, there was a small pond with the turquoise water that the area is known for (see the video).
I did not see a swimming area for this pond and it did not look inviting for that purpose. The Rocky Mountains aren't exactly known for warm water, even at the height of summer. Lake Minnewanka is nearby and that lake is painfully cold even in the heat of summer.
I did enjoy this trail. Disappointments included the number of bugs and the graffiti at one of the stops of interest. However, it was a wide trail for the most part. Perhaps it was a little bit rocky at other points but the trailhead was easy to access as you could drive right up to it.
Keep in mind that you are in a national park. As such, a Parks Canada pass will be needed in your vehicle. You can get one of those at the tourist information center in Banff or at the highway entry point.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Shane Lambert