West Tensleep Campground in Wyoming’s Big Horn National Forest is a great campground located on the pristine West Tensleep Lake. The campground is also right outside the entrance to Cloud Peak Wilderness and is a good place to use as a base camp for trips into the wilderness. There are only 10 spots in the campground and they can fill up quickly during the summer. I recommend reserving your campsite at least one month before your trip, especially if you’re planning on being there over a weekend.
There are ten campsites in West Tensleep Campground. Campsite number 9 is a tent only site, but the other ones have room for a small trailer. The campground borders the lake and about half of the campsites are directly along it. The campground offers trash service, a potable water pump, and has a pit toilet. The host usually stays at Island Park Campground which is a quick drive down the access road. Each site has a picnic table and a fire pit. The campground fees are $16 per night and $9 for an additional vehicle. After mid-September the campground services stop and the sites are free to use. The beautiful lake, great fishing, and close proximity to hiking trails make West Tensleep one of the best campgrounds in Big Horn National Forest.
West Tensleep Lake
The best feature of the campground is that you’re only a few steps away from the 125 acre lake. West Tensleep Lake is stocked with trout and offers some great fishing. We brought one of our kayaks so we could fish the deeper sections of the lake. The best place to fish is right where West Tensleep Creek empties into the north end of the lake. There is a deep channel here that is loaded with trout. It’s located far enough into the lake that it can’t be fished from the shore. So the fish here don’t see a lot of fishing pressure. Only non-motorized crafts are allowed on the lake, so you won’t have to listen to outboard engines.
You can catch rainbow, brook, and brown trout in the Lake. Brook trout are the most common. As I mentioned above, where the stream empties into the lake is a good place to start if you have a kayak. Some other good spots are below the rock formation directly across from the campground and where the lake narrows into a channel north of the campground. The only competition I had while fishing there came from an osprey living next to the lake. Here’s a quick kayak fishing video from our trip last summer.
Hopefully that helps give you an idea of the lake. If you’re interested in kayak fishing, check out Louisiana saltwater kayak fishing HERE.
The campground is surrounded by tons of great hiking. The most popular hike is the Misty Moon Lake hike. This 7 mile trail appears on Forest Service maps as Trail #063. The trail begins right in the campground and takes you past Lake Helen and Lake Marion before arriving at Misty Moon. Lake Helen is 5 miles from the trailhead and Lake Marion is 6. These are both great lakes if you don’t want to do the full 14 miles round trip to Misty Moon.
The second most popular hike here is to the Lost Twin Lakes in Cloud Peak Wilderness Area. West Tensleep Campground is right on the edge of Cloud Peak Wilderness, and is a great base camp for trips into the Wilderness. The Lost Twin Lakes trail is a good for a long day hike but I think it is better to do it as a short backpacking trip. It’s 6.1 miles from the trailhead to the lakes and a 1,500 foot elevation gain. The trail will take you past Mirror Lake after 3 miles or so. Mirror lake is a good spot to camp or stop for lunch on the way. Mirror Lake and Lost Twin Lakes are both well stocked with trout and great places to bring your fly rod. Once you make it all the way to Lost Twin Lakes, you’ll be rewarded with one of the best views in the Big Horns. The lakes are directly below the towering 1,600 foot cliffs of Bighorn Peak. The Lost Twin Lakes trail will appear on Forest Service maps as Trail #065.
Another great trail that leaves right from the campground is the Bald Ridge Trail. Bald Ridge is directly above the far side of West Tensleep Lake. This quick hike offers some of the best unobstructed views of the mountain range. It leaves from the campground on the Mistymoon trail and then branches off after about a mile. Look for a fork to the left after the first stream crossing. The trail then climbs for about another mile before reaching the top of Bald Ridge. As you can guess by the name, there are no trees at the top and it can get pretty windy. The open land here is often used for grazing cattle so watch out for cows when you first exit the forest.
The elevation here means that lodgepole pine, spruce, and douglas fir are the most common trees surrounding the campground. There is a ton of wildlife in this area so make sure you bring your camera. Moose are very common and their footprints are all over the lake bottom. There’s a good chance you’ll see one wading through the lake early in the mornings. You can also hear elk calls pretty frequently right after sunrise. There are no grizzly bears in Bighorn National Forest but there are black bears so make sure you practice good bear safety techniques. There are cougars spread throughout the Bighorns, but it is extremely rare to come across one. Rattlesnakes can also be found in the National Forest, but are rarely found above 8,000 feet of elevation.
For more information on Bighorn National Forest and West Tensleep Campground, check out the official Forest Service website HERE. Let us know in the comments below if you have any questions about West Tensleep Campground or Bighorn National Forest. Thanks for reading!