Trail Run Project Logo

Big Sandy Cirque of the Towers

  4.9 ( 8 ) Favorite


16.6 mile 26.7 kilometer out and back
89% Runnable


Ascent: 2,320' 707 m
Descent: -2,320' -707 m
High: 10,781' 3,286 m
Low: 9,100' 2,774 m


Avg Grade: 5% (3°)
Max Grade: 38% (21°)


Driving directions Take a virtual tour
Zoom in to see details
Map Key

Trail shared by Tomsen Reed

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

Tomsen Reed

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.

Runner Notes

The last three miles before reaching the Cirque have some loose rocks and large boulders you'll need be careful around. Also, the trail can be lost pretty quickly in some of these sections if you are not paying attention, so keep an eye out for cairns that mark the trail.


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.

Run this trail?

We need help with the following missing trail information:

Need to Know, Dogs Allowed, History & Background


Rate This Featured Run

Rate Quality

   Clear Rating

Rate Difficulty

Share This Run

Check In



Trail Ratings

  4.9 from 8 votes


  4.9 from 8 votes
5 Star
4 Star
3 Star
2 Star
1 Star
Featured Run Rankings


in Wyoming


174 Views Last Month
12,661 Since Jul 28, 2015



Big Sandy Lake sunset.
Aug 4, 2016 near Lander, 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


Trail Run Project is part of the REI Co-op family,
where a life outdoors is a life well lived.

Shop REI Running