Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
4,382.00 ft (1,335.63 m)
Trail type
22.30 mi (35.89 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Cirque Lake Loop is a 22-mile loop located in the Sierra Nevada outside of Lone Pine, California. This is an incredible loop trail that wastes no time bringing you into the heart of the eastern Sierra. The Cirque Lake Loop rises and falls along a singletrack trail. It passes by lush meadows and pristine mountain streams surrounded by awe-inspiring jagged peaks. This loop is accessible for trail runners, hikers, and backpackers.

The loop described in this post begins at Horseshoe Meadows Recreation Area and travels counterclockwise; however, it can be completed either way. Start on the Cottonwood Lakes Trail and head northwest. Turn left onto South Fork Cottonwood Creek Trail. Continue to the Cirque Lake Trail and turn left to reach the lake. 

You will be retracing your steps from Cirque Lake, continuing past Cottonwood Lakes Trail and turning left at New Army Pass Trail. You will find plenty of other lake opportunities as you pass the Cottonwood Lakes on your right. Turn left on the Army Pass Trail, then left on the Rock Creek Trail, and then left again on the Pacific Crest Trail. To return to Horseshoe Meadows and the beginning of the hike, follow the Pacific Crest Trail to Cottonwood Pass and descend the Cottonwood Pass Trail. 


Horseshoe Meadows parking area is located off of Highway 395. The road to Horseshoe Meadows climbs from Lone Pine, California and ascends over 6,000 feet. Horseshoe Meadows has no shortage of trails and is a great location for anyone looking to acclimatize, the parking area and nearby campgrounds, sit at 10,000 feet above sea level. 

The road to Horseshoe Meadow is closed from around November to May (depending on snow), and water spigots may be turned off as early as October.

For more information about Horseshoe Meadows please visit:


Permits are not required for day use. Permits are required for overnight camping. Information about permits can be found at

For more information about the Cottonwood Pass Trail area please visit

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round


Open from

May 01 to November 30


Alpine Lakes. Mountain Views.


Mosquitos in the summer.

Trailhead Elevation

10,080.00 ft (3,072.38 m)

Highest point

12,321.00 ft (3,755.44 m)


Backcountry camping
Near lake or river
Big vistas
Potable water

Typically multi-day


Permit required



Nearby Lodging + Camping

Eastern Sierra + White Mountains Area, California
Eastern Sierra + White Mountains Area, California


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