lost twin lakes

Mirror Lake and Lost Twin Lakes

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How to Get to Mirror Lake and Lost Twin Lakes

Mirror Lake and Lost Twin Lakes are located in the Cloud Peak Wilderness portion of the Big Horn National Forest near Buffalo, Wyoming.  The lakes are accessed via Trail #65 from the West Tensleep Trailhead.

There is a large dirt parking lot, pit toilets, and a few picnic tables at the trailhead located at the end of West Tensleep Road.  West Tensleep Road is a very popular camping area.  Free, designated sites line the road and are available on a first come first served basis.  There are also a few basic campgrounds.

So far, the hike to Mirror Lake and Lost Twin Lakes has been my favorite of the season.  It definitely earns FIVE STARS on AllTrails.  Somehow, I doubt it will be topped, but I have many more hikes in Wyoming to complete.

  • Trail: #65 from West Tensleep Trailhead
  • Distance: 11-12 miles (when when wondering around Lost Twin Lakes)
  • Facilities: pit toilets, picnic area, parking
  • Difficulty: Hard due to length, gains approximately 2,000 feet
  • Elevation: Begins at 9,127 feet
  • Dogs Allowed
  • May turn around at Mirror Lake for 6 mile roundtrip
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The Hike to Mirror Lake and Lost Twin Lakes

The trail begins ascending through an evergreen forest for approximately one mile.  Then it descends a quarter mile and rises steeply for ¾ of a mile.  My first thought was where are all the switchbacks? I do not want to be doing this for 11+ miles!  All the ups and downs were very reminiscent of my hike to Boiling Lake in Dominica.

Then I thought, it better not be through damaged forest the whole time like the hike to Sherd Lake.  Fortunately, it was not.  After two miles, I was rewarded with some views before the path dropped down to a creek crossing. Don’t miss the small waterfall to the right shortly before the crossing.

With all the recent rains, I was concerned about high water, but was pleasantly surprised when I saw it was only ankle deep and not too swift.  It would be an easy crossing for me and Annie.  I changed to water shoes because I didn’t want my socks wet that early in the hike and then coaxed Annie across the creek.  Water might be the only thing that slows her down.

Mirror Lake

After one more gentle ascent, hikers are rewarded with Mirror Lake, which is hidden in dense forest.  I hate to admit that if I didn’t know it was there, I might have walked right by without noticing it!  There is a faint path at mile three which reaches its secluded shores. Many hikers turn around here for a six mile roundtrip.

On the Way to Lost Twin Lakes

After a short stop at Mirror Lake, I continued northeast along the trail which drops into a stunning valley peppered with wildflowers.  The creek snakes through the green grasses while marmots sun on the rocks. In the distance, granite peaks tower over the expansive landscape.

I had begun the hike early, so I kept my eye out for moose enjoying the cool morning air.  It seemed like a perfect place for them, but they eluded me.  Since they hate dogs, it was probably a good thing with Annie roaming around!

Return view

Next the path travels above the creek bank, through soggy meadows, and past intermittent pine patches until it reaches a magnificent view of the lake basin from afar.  At this point, I couldn’t wait to get there.

At around 4.5 miles, there is another narrow creek crossing after which I dodged some mud pits while ascending through the trees. The trail drops down into one more willow filled meadow before the final half-mile ascent to Lost Twin Lakes.

The Moose

Annie stopped in her tracks, staring to the right.  This usually indicates there is an animal bigger than her nearby. Sure enough, she pointed to a mama and baby moose!  I quickly leashed her, quietly inched forward, and stood behind a boulder as I watched the moose chomp on their morning meal. Each time Annie shook out her nervous energy, the moose popped up their heads for a look.

The baby, small enough to walk through its mama’s legs, was absolutely adorable! I could have stayed there for hours, but I wasn’t close enough to get the best shot and my small bowl of cereal was not holding over after five miles. I’m thankful for Annie, because I was so mesmerized by the views, I might have missed them deep in the willows.

The Marmots

From the willows, the final ascent climbs steeply through rocks and opens to an alpine meadow at the top!  A family of marmots chirped in alarm at the sight of Annie, as we crossed the tundra in search of a nice lunch spot. 

The Lakes

We wandered around the boulders, weaved through the willows, and crossed a trickling waterfall before we settled down above the first lake’s northern shore.  My peanut butter sandwich and apple never tasted so good as I soaked in the awe-inspiring granite cliffs, an azure lake, and expansive views. 

As usual, Annie gobbled up her kibble and got way too close to the edge for my liking.  She probably wanted a better view of the second lake like me, as we could only catch a glimpse from our vantage point.

Feeling satiated, I heaved up my day pack, clicked all my extras into place, grabbed my hiking poles and continued on over the rocks to the next lake.  Every so often, I scanned the terrain, especially behind me, so I’d hopefully remember the easiest way down without a trail.  The high cliffs surrounding the lakes kept us from following the shoreline.

Soon we were afforded daunting views that reminded me of Half Dome in Yosemite.  The landscape was simply stunning, and I had it all to myself on a bluebird sky day!  And the brisk breeze kept all the mosquitoes away which was a welcome relief.

I’ve been swatting at mosquitoes and moths for days.  The inside of Vango looks like a bug graveyard, even with bug screens covering the doors!

In Conclusion

In all, there really aren’t enough adjectives in the dictionary to describe the beauty of the hike to Mirror Lake and Lost Twin Lakes.  My friend Dominique nicknamed me “four” in Steamboat because every time she asked me to rank our hikes in Steamboat Springs, I said, “four.” Clearly, I’m stingy with my ratings.

As mentioned above, the hike to Mirror Lake and Lost Twin Lakes scored a FIVE! The outstanding views, the mama and baby moose, the mama and baby marmots, my favorite wildflower (forget-me-nots)…I mean, it was SPECTACULAR! While I was pretty beat after the twelve mile day, I’d repeat this hike in an instant. ETB

7 second video of Mirror Lake
13 second video of Lost Twin Lakes

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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