Distance: 8 km
Elevation gain: 450 m View map Download GPS track
Whenever we've tried to arrange a hike with friends the weather has never cooperated. And I mean EVERY time. It's ridiculous. Today, however, the friends did the arranging and the weather actually worked out! It wasn't spectacular or anything, but at least we could see where we were going and that's far better than what our efforts to be social usually bring.
Our destination was C-level cirque, an easy and early-ish season hike just outside of the town of Banff. It was to celebrate a friends birthday and there were 8 hikers (that would be a social record for us antisocial folk), one infant, an incubating baby, and 2 dogs. A crowded affair indeed!
The trail is fully described in the Copeland's Don't Waste Your Time in the Canadian Rockies
trail guide and is dead easy to follow the entire way. Today it was a bit slippery above 1700 m with rotten ice under a few inches of fresh wet snow, but microspikes provided good traction for the most part. The group stopped when we reached the cirque (more of a half-cirque), although the trail continued to a high point that based on internet photos must provide views of Lake Minnewanka. With less slippery conditions and an absence of avalanche danger this would certainly be a nice extension.
Views before the cirque are quite limited, unfortunately, but the remains of the old town of Bankhead along the way provided a break from the forest monotony. The area was once mined for coal and several mine shafts are fenced, there is one old large building, and several artifacts. C-Level refers to the highest point (i.e., C) that was mined. The guidebook also mentions that in season there are a fair number of flowers in the forest, but this time of year was much too early for them; we didn't see a single one.