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Big Sandy Cirque of the Towers


A beautiful hike passing several lakes and views of one of the most beautiful cirques in the U.S.

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Out and Back

10,781' 3,286 m


9,100' 2,774 m


2,320' 707 m


2,320' 707 m



Avg Grade (3°)


Max Grade (21°)

Dogs Unknown

Features Birding · Fall Colors · Lake · River/Creek · Swimming · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife


This route follows the Big Sandy River until you get to Big Sandy Lake where you can get great views of golden trout, beautiful wildflowers, and beautiful rock formations. As you start going up the trail to Jackass Pass from Big Sandy Lake, you can look back and see the impressive Haystack Mountain as well as Temple Peak, East Temple Peak, and Lost Temple Spire (all impressive granite specimen), and some glaciers and snowfields.

The highlight of the trail is at its culmination where you ascend to the knoll by Jackass Pass and can see almost the entire Cirque of the Towers and its associated peaks and pinnacles.


The initial six miles of this trail are pretty level or only slightly ascending as you follow Big Sandy River up to the northern side of Big Sandy Lake. This whole section you can really cruise on, but if you take some time you can enjoy beautiful meadows where the Big Sandy River lazily meanders and also see the granite cliffs that start to appear as you get closer to Big Sandy Lake where there are some beautiful sunsets to be had if you stick around until sundown.

If you are looking for a shorter days on the trails, after you have spent some time at the beautiful Big Sandy Lake, you can simply retrace your steps back to where you started. If you are feeling more adventurous - continue on!

From the north side of the lake, you start switchbacking up through some steeper terrain and cross a stream on your way up to North Lake (also known as Lake 10105), and then the terrain starts to get even rockier and involve some short sections of scrambling. As you go around North Lake, you'll descend to its head below Mitchell Peak and then ascend again as you go around a rocky ridge. After a short but strenuous ascent, you'll reach a junction in the trail.

Either path you take from this junction will lead to Jackass Pass, but if you take the path to the left, it involves more scrambling over some very large boulders on the west side of Arrowhead Lake. If you take the path to the right, there is less scrambling (but more elevation gain and loss).

Assuming you follow the map and take the path to the right, you get up to a point where you can see Arrowhead Lake, where you'll again need to descend to get to the final uphill portion to go up to Jackass Pass. If you go up just a little bit farther to the knoll above (to the southwest of) the pass, you can get amazing views of the Cirque, the glaciers that sit below the towers in the cirque, as well as views of Lonesome Lake and some other alpine lakes.

Flora & Fauna

There are large amounts of wildflowers on this route including Fireweed, Columbine, Indian Paintbrush, etc. from late June through August. There are also plenty of squirrels and chipmunks, but not many other animals due of the high amount of traffic in the area.


Shared By:

Tomsen Reed

Trail Ratings

  4.8 from 22 votes


  4.8 from 22 votes
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in Wyoming


451 Views Last Month
23,164 Since Jul 28, 2015



Big Sandy Lake sunset.
Aug 4, 2016 near Lander, WY
Alpine wildflowers below Cirque Of The Towers.
Aug 2, 2021 near Big Sandy, WY
A view of Sundance Pinnacle and North Lake (Lake 10105)
Jul 28, 2015 near Lander, WY
View of the Cirque through the lower pass to the west of Jackass Pass
Jul 28, 2015 near Lander, WY
Another view of the Cirque from along the trail up to the pass
Jul 28, 2015 near Lander, WY
Big Sandy Mountain
Aug 2, 2021 near Big Sandy, WY



Current Trail Conditions

Update Conditions
All Clear 31 days ago See History
Add Your Check-In


Jul 8, 2022
Ben Kirby
hiked in on 7/8 out on 7/10 16.6mi — 11h 00m
Sep 16, 2021
Private User
Aug 26, 2021
Marc Corona
Aug 25, 2021
Marshall Berndt
Did it with Ryan. Amazing hike, got a gnarly blister 25.5mi — 72h 00m
Aug 25, 2021
Daniel Jenkins
Incredible hike to the Cirque. 17mi — 8h 40m
Sep 2, 2020
Ethan Gehl
Sep 2, 2020
James Zhao
4-day backpacking, big sandy TH-big sandy lake-jackass pass-lonesome lake-cirque of towers-texas pass-shadow lake-marms lake-dads lake-big sandy TH
Aug 1, 2020
Leah Genth
Great hike! Lots of nice flats with a few steep switch back sections. Beautiful views of the circle, Big Sandy Lake, and loads of other mountains! 18mi — 6h 06m