C Level Cirque Trail

Hiking the C Level Cirque Tral:

Hike: C Level Cirque Trail

Location: Banff National Park

Distance: 5.7 miles

Elevation Gain: 2477 feet

Type: Out & Back

Completion Time: 4 Hours

Located at Lake Minnewanka, the C Level Cirque trail is an exceptional hike for the casual Banff explorer. Fed from the Cascade River, Lake Minnewanka is the second longest lake in the Canadian Rockies, spanning just over 13 miles. The C level Cirque Trail trailhead is located a quick 3.1 miles from the town of Banff yet remains relatively quiet compared to the large crowds found at Lake Louise. This relatively difficult 5.7 mile out and back day hike offers amazing views of Lake Minnewanka while taking you up the side of the parallel mountains. With an elevation gain of just under 2500 feet, the trail is steep and usually slippery, and should only be done with proper hiking shoes. The parking lot trailhead has decent space, and rarely fills up. Beginning by winding you through moss covered woody switchbacks, the trail begins steep and never really levels out. The trail can be thin at times, however, remains easily distinguishable from the forest floor. At about 2 miles, the trail will burst out the tree line and into a gorgeous glacial rock field, complete with a small emerald pond. This is a great spot to stop for a break or if you are uneasy about the rocky scramble ahead, call it quits. Continue the last mile up the steep and slippery path to the mountainside trail end. While not being a summit hike, these mountainside viewpoints offer 270 degree views of the Canadian Rockies as well as Lake Minniewanka. The entire hike felt as though I had been transported to the incredible barren wilderness of the Himalayas, with rolling clouds, vibrant wildflowers, and slick rock face painting a magnificent portrait in front of my eyes. The hike took us a little under 4 hours to complete, with a generous stop at the top for snacks and a beer. Be advised, this hike is difficult, so take your time and be sure to wear proper hiking shoes with good traction and support. Dogs on leash are also welcomed, but please be respectful of the beautiful landscape and follow Leave No Trace Principles. More info on Leave No Trace can be found here.

Happy Trails!

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A Guide to the Oregon Coast
C Level Cirque Trail