Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Hiking with Kids in Banff: C-Level Cirque's old mine building is a good bet for an early season kids hike in Banff

Due to its relatively low altitude, the lower section of the trail to C-Level Cirque is often free of snow before most other trails in Banff. While most kids will be able to make the hike all the way to C-Level Cirque when the entire trail is clear, the abandoned mine building at the midway mark makes a good early season kids hike.

Click here for more kids hikes in Banff, Kananaskis, Kootenay and other areas of the Canadian Rockies. 

Inside the building
Starting at the Upper Bankhead picnic area, we headed directly up the well maintained trail, visions of Scooby-Doo and Shaggy exploring an abandoned mine dancing through the kids heads. Three-quarters of an hour later we were there. Normally this would only take half an hour or so, but the trail has some steep sections so we took plenty of short breaks. Another factor is that the trail to the old mine building can be a little tedious for kids. Because it never leaves the trees, it lacks the adventure of rockier, more open trails that naturally engage kids.

But once we reached the old building, the kids were more than engaged. There's nothing like an old abandoned building to grab a kid's imagination. While the adults settled in for lunch or enjoyed the view from a break in the trees where the mine had dumped slag, the kids ran in and around the remains of the building, created their own games and got themselves covered in coal dust. The building is left over from the Bankhead mine that supplied the CPR and town with coal from 1903 to 1923, and bits of coal can still be found strewn throughout the
area. There are also open mine shafts nearby that are fenced off, but warrant a word of warning to kids to stay clear.

After giving the kids an hour to play, we were lured further up the trail by the sound of spring avalanches booming down Cascade Mountain. Unfortunately, as the trail gained elevation we encountered enough snow to make it impassible for little legs. No matter. The old building had been the high point for the kids, and they were ready to head down. I'd hoped to stop at Lower
The view of Lake Minnewanka
Bankhead to check out the somewhat better maintained ghost town where the miners had lived, but it was not to be. Just as we adults had been lured further by the sound of avalanches, the kids were being pulled by the far stronger force of the post-hike ice cream bribe I'd promised them.

Distance: About 4 km return
Roundtrip Time: 2 to 4 hours
Elevation gain: About 125 m

Driving Directions: From Calgary, drive west on Highway 1 and take the exit for the townsite/Lake Minnewanka. Turn right
Heading back to the cars
towards Lake Minnewanka and drive for 3.5 km to the Upper Bankhead picnic area on the left. The trail starts at the far end of the parking lot near the picnic tables and garbage bins. The road to Upper Bankhead is closed from November 15 to April 15 to give wildlife a breather.

Click here to see a driving map.


  1. As it is already Apr 16 does that mean that the last 3.5km of the drive to get to the picnic area is closed?

    1. D'oh! The road is closed from November 15 to April 15.

  2. Hi Ken,

    I've never been to Banff, but your article shows the beauty of the hike. Thank you for sharing this with us. :)

    I’ve taken a look through your website and we think you’ve done a fantastic job in covering topics that our brand's active audience would be interested in reading about, such as walking, running, hiking, mountain climbing, etc. It would be great if you could join our community to feature your blog entries.

    If you would like to learn more about this, please send an email with “outdoors” in the subject line to info at atomicreach.com.


  3. Nice post, whenever you are doing hiking with your kids, then first you should decide the route of the hike. Route of the hiking should be small or to hike in a loop that will take you back to the car or campsites. It is a great idea to map out the route with children, so they will enjoy following the map and knowing how far they still have to go.

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