Cirque Peak

Banff National Park

The popular hike to Helen Lake can be extended with this straightforward scramble to the peak overhead.

Hiking Extreme

Distance
16 km
Ascent
1.1 km
Descent
1.1 km
Duration
5-6 hrs
Low Point
2 km
High Point
2.9 km
Gradient
22˚
Cirque Peak Map

Cirque Peak is the often-photographed mountain above Helen Lake. The lake is a popular destination, and the peak beckoning beyond gets a fair amount of traffic as well. It makes an excellent introductory scramble, or a quick check off the list for the seasoned peak bagger.

Description

Cirque Peak is called a scramble because you’ll likely use your hands in a few places, but for the most part, it is simply a hike. It becomes steep shortly after passing Helen Lake, when climbing the headwall. If you follow the standard hiker path up the headwall, it’s nothing more than a steep trail. If you take a more direct route, however, you’ll scramble through some low ledges.

Once on top of the headwall, the route more or less follows the obvious ridge of Cirque Peak. The surface is mostly loose-ish scree, with a discernibly worn path for much of the way. Just below the summit is a short scramble with mild exposure, but it’s not difficult.

Once on top, you’ll enjoy massive views over the basin you just ascended, as well as the Bow River Valley and more peaks all around.

Sources: https://www.summitpost.org/cirque-peak/153687 http://www.summitsearch.org/tripreports/111-cirque-peak https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/ab/banff/activ/randonee-hiking/93N

Difficulty

Extreme

Scrambling up mountains and along technical trails with moderate fall exposure. Handholds are necessary to navigate the trail in its entirety, although they are not necessary at all times. Some obstacles can be very large and difficult to navigate, and the grades can often be near-vertical. The challenge of the trail and the steepness of the grade results in very strenuous hiking. Hikes of this difficulty blur the lines between "hiking" and "climbing".

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.

Remoteness

2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

July, August, September

Features

  • Alpine
  • Summit Hike

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area