Cirque Peak is an easy scramble with a spectacular approach through alpine meadows on a maintained trail. From a high point on the trail above Helen Lake, the peak is ascended off trail on a shale and scree ridge, with a simple and short rock scramble at the summit. The scenery from the ridge is spectacular and the panorama continues to expand with each step upwards, as more glaciers, lakes and peaks come into view.
There are two summit peaks, with the east one being slightly higher. The vista from either one is outstanding. Mount Hector dominates the view towards the south and on a clear day it is possible to see Mount Assiniboine about 70km in the distance. The Wapta Icefield and Bow Glacier are to the west with Bow Lake below. Observation Peak (another easy scramble), the Icefields Parkway (leading to Jasper) and the tip of Peyto Lake are visible to the North.
Cirque Peak can easily be ascended as a day hike. The length of the round trip is about 16km, with about 1050m of elevation gain.
Take the TransCanada Highway west from Calgary to Lake Louise. Just west of Lake Louise, take Highway 93 north (the Icefields Parkway) for about 35km to Helen Lake trailhead on the east side of the highway.
Because Cirque Peak is in Banff National Park, a park pass is required to access highway 93 north. This is available at the Park gates, about 15km east of Banff. A Park Wilderness Pass is required for those wishing to overnight in the backcountry in addition to climbing Cirque Peak.
When To Climb
Cirque Peak is best climbed between July and October, although it can probably be climbed with little difficulty at any time. It can also be done as a ski mountaineering trip. There could be avalanche risk during the winter months and in the shoulder seasons trail conditions can be icy and/or snow covered.
This route and many others are well described in the guidebook Scrambles in the Canadian Rockies by Alan Kane.
There is a campground and a hostel on the Icefields Parkway at Mosquito Creek, just south of the trailhead. In addition, backcountry camping is permitted in Banff National Park at designated campsites. Random camping is also permitted in some locations. A wilderness pass is required for backcountry use. Check with Banff Park wardens for details.
Check with the Rangers in Lake Louise. Conditions in the Canadian Rockies can be variable and warm gear is necessary. Snow can occur in any month of the year.