Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
2,508.00 ft (764.44 m)
Trail type
11.10 mi (17.86 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.

The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail spans nearly 3,100 miles across 5 states from Mexico to Canada, traversing a vast array of different environments and landscapes along the way. The CDT can be completed as a single thru-hike that will take 4 to 6 months, or by section-hiking smaller segments. The Wyoming portion of the CDT features nearly 550 miles of incredibly diverse terrain. You’ll pass through the open desert plains of the Great Basin, the craggy ice carved peaks of the Wind River Range, and the steaming geysers and volcanic activity of Yellowstone National Park. In this guide we’ll take a closer look at Part One of the Cirque of the Towers Alternate.

The Cirque of the Towers Alternate Route begins near Little Sandy Lake where you’ll veer off the official CDT and turn right onto the alternate. Recent blowdowns have made this initial stretch of trail difficult going, but it is well worth the push to get through. The trail has been rerouted in areas to avoid the worst of the blowdowns. A little shy of the 2 mile mark the trail begins to clear up, and you’ll come to a scenic small lake.

The trail then drops down to Little Sandy Creek. You’ll follow this creek upstream through the beautiful valley for quite a while. The trail is faint in areas, especially as you veer left to ascend to Lake 10839 at the base of Temple Peak.

The trail then ascends the pass between Temple Peak and East Temple Peak. Again the trail is faint and difficult to find in areas. After this tough climb you’ll be rewarded with stellar views from the top, including the first glimpses of the peaks in the namesake Cirque of the Towers.

The descent from the pass is steep and loose in areas - take your time and be cautious. The views of stunning Temple Lake below are second to none. The trail then meanders along the right side of the lake.

The trail gradually works its way down, including one steep section of descent. You’ll then come to Big Sandy Lake. The trail curves around the right of the lake and then to the north side. Here you’ll come to a junction. Continuing straight will take you out to the official CDT and the Big Sandy Trailhead. Turn right to continue onto Part 2 of the Cirque of the Towers Alternate.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round



Stunning mountain terrain. Alpine lakes.


Blowdowns first 2 miles. Areas of faint trail.

Trailhead Elevation

9,433.00 ft (2,875.18 m)

Highest point

11,531.00 ft (3,514.65 m)


Near lake or river
Backcountry camping
Big vistas

Typically multi-day


Permit required



Nearby Lodging + Camping


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