Lost Twin Lakes in Cloud Peak Wilderness Area

The Lost Twin Lakes trail in Cloud Peak Wilderness is one of the best hikes in the West Tensleep area. It offers some spectacular views and can be done as a long day hike or short backpacking trip.  The views at the end of this trail are some of the best in the Bighorns, and this is not even the most popular trail in Cloud Peak Wilderness. For information on Cloud Peak Wilderness, check out our full post on the area HERE.  The Lost Twin Lakes at the end of the hike are contained in a glacial cirque beneath Bighorn Peak.  Bordering the lakes on three sides are sheer cliff faces beneath the dome-shaped peaks.

Where To Start

This trail starts at the West Tensleep Campground Trailhead.  You’ll want to take the trail that’s marked Middle Tensleep Trail into Cloud Peak Wilderness.  It will be marked as trail #65 on Forest Service maps. Don’t forget to fill out the Cloud Peak Wilderness hiking permits!  These help the Forest Service track how utilized the wilderness area is every year.  They require everyone that enters the wilderness to complete the form, even if you’re only day hiking.

 

West Tensleep Trailhead, Lost Twin Lakes
Sign at the West Tensleep Trailhead

Lower Trail Section

The trail starts out through a forest of lodgepole pine trees.  Then you’ll start a gradual descent until you reach an open meadow surrounding Middle Tensleep Creek.  The trail follows the creek for a short while until you reach a picturesque pool and waterfall.  After this the trail splits from the stream and heads off to the left where you’ll arrive at the entrance to Cloud Peak Wilderness.  The entrance to the wilderness will be marked with a sign and a warning about campfire regulations.

Bighorn Mountains, Lost Twin Lakes, trail
One of the first meadows you cross on the trail

 

Lost Twin Lakes Backpacking
Crossing Middle Tensleep Creek

 

Bighorn Mountain Stream, Cloud Peak Wilderness
Here’s the waterfall up the trail
Lost Twin Lakes, Cloud Peak Wilderness Sign
Here’s the marker for Cloud Peak Wilderness

In the Wilderness Area

Soon after entering the wilderness area, you’ll begin a steep climb.  This is one of the toughest parts of the hike, especially with a pack full of backpacking gear.  At the top of a climb is a granite bedrock clearing that offers some impressive views of the surrounding mountain range.  This is a good spot to stop and give yourself a break after that climb.  After you rested for a bit, the trail descends through a meadow before beginning another ascent.  At this point you’ve reached Mirror Lake, which is approximately halfway to Lost Twin Lakes.

Lost Twin Lakes Trail, Cloud Peak Wilderness
The view from the top of the climb
Lost Twin Lakes, Cloud Peak Wilderness, Trout Stream
You can see a trout stream from the meadow during the descent

Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake is about 3 miles from the trailhead at West Tensleep, leaving you just about halfway to Lost Twin Lakes.  We wanted to turn the hike into a short backpacking trip, so we camped near Mirror Lake.  This worked out well because we got to try our hand at trout fishing in the lake and nearby stream.  If you’re just day hiking I still recommend stopping to check out Mirror Lake.  It’s a beautiful lake and can be hard to see from the trail, so make sure you’re keeping an eye out.  The reflections along the calm surface of the lake are definitely something to see.  The trout fishing isn’t too bad here either.  I did pretty well casting this spinner from the southern shore of the lake.  I caught mostly brook trout in the 10-12 inch range.

Mirror Lake, Cloud Peak Wilderness
They call it Mirror Lake for a reason

 

Mirror Lake, Cloud Peak Wilderness
Mirror Lake at Sunset
Cloud Peak Wilderness Backpacking
Campsite near Mirror Lake

Up To Lost Twin Lakes

After you leave Mirror Lake the trail crosses a meadow and parallels a stream as it begins to climb.  You’ll then cross another meadow before coming to a marshy area.  This part gets a little tricky because the path can be hard to follow.  Look for rock cairns marking the trail.  It should cut across a narrow part of the marsh and then start a steep climb.  After a short bit the trail opens up to another meadow with your first view of the top of the cliffs surrounding the lakes.  Cross the meadow and then start the last steep climb.

Lost Twin Lakes Trail, Cloud Peak Wilderness
Crossing a meadow on the way up to Lost Twin Lakes

Lost Twin Lake

Once you finish the last climb you’ll arrive at a point above the lower lake and below the upper lake.  From here you can either continue the climb to reach the upper lake, or you can take a right and head down to the shore of the lower lake.  We hiked up to the boulders in between the lakes to eat lunch.  This is the best place to take in the incredible view of the towering 1,600 foot cliffs.  These cliffs were formed by glacial erosion over millions of years.  It’s hard to describe just how big this cliffs are, and the pictures below don’t even seem to do it justice.

Lost Twin Lakes, Cloud Peak
Lost Twin Lakes below the huge cliffs
Lost Twin Lakes, Cloud Peak Wilderness
Upper Lost Twin Lake
Lost Twin Lakes, Bighorn Mountains
This rock wall looks like it’s right out of an outdoor shop’s backdrop

Fishing The Lakes

I didn’t have a chance to fish the upper lake, but Lower Lost Twin Lake has some of the best trout fishing I’ve experienced in the Bighorns.  This lake is extremely well stocked and the six mile hike to get here keeps the fishing pressure low.  Wyoming Game and Fisheries stocks this lake by helicopter.  You can sit by the lake edge here and watch the surface come alive with trout feeding throughout the day.  I caught multiple 15″ trout here.  There is a lot of competition for a limited amount of food in this lake, so anything you throw should work well.  I used both terrestrial flies and spinners.  These are the spinners that worked particularly well for me.

Lower Lost Twin Lake, backpacking
View from our fishing spot on the lower Lost Twin Lake
West Tensleep Trout, Fishing
Plenty of trout in the Lost Twin Lakes

The Hike Out

Once you’ve had your fill of fishing (and possibly your creel), start the hike out down the trail you came arrived on.  The hike is an out-and-back so you’ll just retrace your steps to make it back to the trailhead at West Tensleep.  It’s about 6.1 miles from the lookout over the lakes back down to the trailhead.  During our trip, we just hiked back down to our campsite at Mirror Lake.  Then we hiked the rest of the way back to the trailhead the next morning.  During the trip into a two night backpacking trip with a day hike up to the Lost Twin Lakes worked perfectly for us.  It allowed us to maximize our fishing time up at Lost Twin Lakes, which was important to us, because who knows when we’ll be back there.  Lost Twin Lakes trail in Cloud Peak Wilderness is a great hike for both views and fishing.  It’s also a good alternative to the more crowded Mistymoon trail.  Just remember to fill out your permits before entering Cloud Peak Wilderness.  Thanks for reading!

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