Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
4,000.00 ft (1,219.20 m)
Trail type
35.00 mi (56.33 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.

Wind River Range in Wyoming is one of those lesser-known beautiful places that is still left pristine. This is mainly because of the presence of the two extremely popular National Parks in Wyoming nearby: Yellowstone and Grand Teton. Responsible and ethical recreation is a must; anyone venturing into the Wind River Range should practice leave no trace principles. 

Cirque of the Towers Loop following the two-pass loop (Texas Pass and Jackass Pass) is one of the more popular backpacking loops in the Southern Wind River Range. Being a loop hike, one can go clockwise OR counterclockwise from the Big Sandy Trailhead. However, the clockwise route is strongly recommended. You will encounter the Texas Pass first and Jackass Pass second. 

Rock Springs, Lander, and Pinedale are the three closest towns to the trailhead -- there are approach roads to the Big Sandy Trailhead from all these towns. There is a lodge and a campground near the trailhead if you want to be close the night before you head out. 

If you choose the clockwise route, take a left on the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. You will pass by Meek's Lake, Mirror Lake, Dad's Lake and Marms Lake the first day. Approximately 12 miles from the trailhead is Shadow Lake, a great place to set up camp for the night. This area is pretty windy; keep this in mind while looking for a camping spot. The Cirque towering above Shadow Lake is an awesome sight. If you time it right, you can enjoy the dark skies in all their glory during a new moon. 

Head toward Lonesome Lake via Texas Pass on the second day. On the way you’ll see Billy's Lake, Barren Lake, and Texas Lake. The climb up to Texas Lake is gradual, while the elevation gain to the top of Texas Pass is close to 600 feet in about half a mile. From Texas Pass, it's a steep and steady descent of about 2,000 feet over 2 miles all the way to Lonesome Lake. Once you descend from Texas Pass, the area to the left gives a commanding view of Pingora Peak looming large in front of Lonesome Lake. If you look closely, you can see people climbing Pingora Peak. Camping is not allowed within a quarter mile of Lonesome Lake, and most hikers head that direction for camping.

The next morning, return to Big Sandy Trailhead from Lonesome Lake via Jackass Pass. There are multiple trails that lead to Jackass Pass from Lonesome Lake. The official trail will lead to a signboard with the name of the pass. But you will get to the top of the pass following any of the trails, maybe not to the signboard. Enjoy views of Arrowhead Lake, North Lake, and Big Sandy Lake on the way back to the trailhead. There are excellent camping opportunities near each of these lakes, along with many different itinerary options for the Cirque of the Towers Loop.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round



Pristine lakes. Rock climbing opportunities.

Trailhead Elevation

9,100.00 ft (2,773.68 m)

Highest point

11,400.00 ft (3,474.72 m)


Backcountry camping
Big vistas
Geologically significant
Bird watching
Near lake or river

Typically multi-day


Permit required



Nearby Adventures


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