WY – Cirque of the Towers, Southern Wind River Mountains, Bridger and Popo Agie Wildernesses

It’s a morning of anxious anticipation. Will I have clear skies? Will the sun be in the optimal position for good lighting? Will the Cirque of  the Towers be the “be all and end all” of the Winds? Will it be the just reward I’ve awaited? It was time to find out! After enjoying sunrise at Bear Lakes (see previous post for hike details), I quickly broke camp and was on trail. Goodbye Lizard Head

First glimpse of Cirque of the Towers. Go away clouds! 

By 8am I was back on the Lizard Head Trail #714 headed toward Jackass Pass

I was greeted by some perky Monkey Flowers

I could feel the anticipation. Somewhere in these 4 miles, I’d find the Cirque. 

After everything I’d seen over the past few weeks in the Winds, I was feeling a bit meh. 

Pingora Peak and Lonesome Lake. Clear blue skies, light behind me, everything I could have asked for, and yet I found myself under impressed.

Even as a lake backdrop, meh . . . 

Each day, I’ve enjoyed watching the nearly full moon slowly drop toward bed; today was not an exception. 

Nearing the top of Jackass Pass, War Bonnet Peak became prominent. I didn’t see any climbers this day.

The heart of the Cirque with Lonesome Lake. I’m enjoying them more as the clouds provide shadows and the light continues to enhance the shapes.

Then there I was at the top of the pass. I’d considered hanging out for the day among the towering giants and hiking to Cirque Lake, and possibly even camping at Climber’s Camp, but my soul just wasn’t feeling it.

War Bonnet Peak was impressive. 

Looking down at Arrowhead Lake

There is a little snowfield to traverse on the descent. Thankfully for me, it’s a bit of an ascent, much easier with my trail runners. 

This stretch was an accident waiting to happen. 

There’s a false summit with a rocky outcropping as you ascend from Big Sandy Lake. It provides an excellent viewpoint. 

As I descended I started seeing more wildflowers. 

Those mountains behind Big Sandy Lake had me gawking. I’d had the Temple Peak and Lake areas on my possible itinerary, but my body was ready for a rest so I decided to save that loop for another day. 

Look at those wildflowers! 

After a bit of a rest, it was time to crank out the remaining six miles to the trailhead. 

I’m sure there were easily 100 vehicles at the trailhead with nearly every state represented. It was fun to see plates from as far away as Alaska and Florida, and to meet hikers from Tennessee, Kentucky, Michigan, Wisconsin, etc. The bulk of the crowds were between the trailhead and the Cirque. Big Sandy Lake is definitely well loved and a staging area for day hikes. I was intimidated by the number of vehicles but pleasantly surprised by the ease at finding solitude. 

After a physically challenging week, it was time for a hotel room and a soak. 

To be continued . . .

Hike Details:

  • Date(s) Hiked: 8/12/17
  • Mileage: Approximately 12 (conserving battery so didn’t track)
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: Unknown, constant up and down (conserving battery so didn’t track)
  • Trail Conditions:
    • Tree obstacles: minimal
    • Overgrowth: minimal
    • Signage: moderate on main trails
    • Terrain: rocky and steep in sections, mucky in others (my most challenging day, the worst section for me was the rock scramble around North Lake)
  • Water: plentiful
  • Camping: excellent
  • Solitude: Minimal, but available. This section of trail is well loved and high use.
  • Bugs: plentiful but I didn’t need deet
  • Wildlife Sightings: none beyond birds, squirrels, chipmunks, pika, and marmuts
  • Precip: expect thunderstorms in July/August; I’ve been wet and dumped on with hail and rain nearly daily
  • Temp: Overnight varied and seemed to fluctuate a lot in the 30’s and 40’s, highs were probably in 60’s-70’s.
  • Jan’s Cherry Picker Delight Scale: 4+ cherries (out of 5).


  • Be prepared for altitude, elevation changes, weather changes, bugs and navigation. Also review current food protection requirements/guidelines (I used an Ursack with an Opsack liner).