This hike to Lake Angeline, Upper Frozen Lake, and Lower Frozen Lake, is short and tempting, nailing 3 less-known lakes in one whack, but it has significant challenges and drawbacks.
➻ Quick Facts
I had hiked many places in the Bighorns already this summer and mom had a hankering to do at least one more hike, despite being quite late in the season. We had enough time for an overnight, so we settled on Lake Angeline and Frozen Lakes. I’d hiked 7 Brothers Lakes previously and thought that Frozen Lakes might be pretty to see, and the trail to Angeline was short and simple. The biggest concern for us was the road to get to the “trailhead.” The roads in the Bighorns are largely primitive and designed for dirtbikes or, if you’re lucky, a side-by-side. From previous hikes in the area, I also knew that my Nat Geo topo map for the area had the entrance road misplaced at the very beginning of US-16, so that didn’t inspire confidence.
⤑Day 1: West Tensleep Trailhead to Lost Twin Lakes
It was a 5.5-hr drive for both my mom and I, despite coming from vastly different locations. I stopped in Casper to get gas and a physician/pilot drove his F350 into my Jeep as I was parked. It seemed liked EVERY time I wanted to hike the Bighorns, something dumb or stupid happens to delay me and increase the speed that I need to walk during the hike. Sheesh.
After working out the details of the accident, I continued on up to the Bighorns with my wounded Jeep. Mom was a little behind so it ended up not being the end of the world. As I mentioned in my Powell Lakes writeup, take the Hunter exit off of 16. In this case, though, instead of being back “right,” like you’re going back toward Buffalo, head left and up the hill. The road sucks, so you’ll need high clearance and 4×4. It is at least a little better than some of the roads in the area, but I misjudged one…uh, goat track, and scraped bottom once.
- What a cold day.
We made it all the way to the final “treeline” along the road, so I was happy for that, though getting there took us through clouds filled with ice crystals—it was frigid out! From the treeline, if you’re the sort who gets easily lost, it’s helpful to have a route pre-loaded into the GPS on your phone or watch or…GPS!
We were on the “trail” before 2PM, though it’s more of an ATV track for a while. In the first couple of hundred feet, we took the track west (left) and went through rocky forest with tiny trees. It wasn’t bad, but there was nothing to see, since you’re in kinda scrubby little arid forest that appears to be post old-burn. Just short of a mile and a half in, we reached the “trailhead,” or at least where they put the sign talking about the trail. It seems that this trail is mostly abandoned and very low use.
- And those were the pretty pictures.
From the trailhead, the path begins its interminable ascent. It was so cold that we didn’t mind, but I noticed that the first water source was almost 3 miles into the hike, at 9000 feet in elevation, and from a little bit past the trailhead, the burn is severe, so you don’t have any shade. On a hot summer day it’d be a real killer.
With 4.5 miles down, we were at 10150 feet and needed to make a decision: Frozen Lakes, or Lake Angeline first? As we listened to elk bugle, we stupidly chose Frozen Lakes. Let me be crystal clear: you do not want to camp at Frozen Lakes. Again: you do not want to camp at Frozen Lakes.
- Walking across the little “saddle” thing through the miniature trees.
There was something of a saddle that we could shoot, so we left the trail and headed toward Lower Frozen lake. I don’t like re-doing elevation, but we did have to descend a bit, and every step we took brought us further into a boulder field from Satan. The only saving grace was the beauty of the clouds bubbling up below us, which happens often in the Cloud Peak Wilderness. In my trip to Loomis Lake, I got awesome videos of storms starting BELOW me. It never gets old.
- Lower Frozen Lake.
It was 6:30 by the time we approached the lake and getting very dark. Our travel was basically a crawl given the terrain, and we couldn’t find anywhere to place the tent—it was boulders as far as the eye could see, and where there were not boulders, the ground was impossibly sloped, lumpy, and filled with stones. Some places looked promising, such as a pond to the east, yet ended in disappointment. I’d thought that the greenery on Google Earth was perhaps grass, but it was all thick, Krumholtz scrub trees, which are impossible to use. A few boulders had flat surfaces, but weren’t big enough to fit the tent, or were too sloped to sleep on. Finally, off to the north, we found a boulder big enough to sleep on; it was obvious that others had also had to make use of the blasted thing. It was getting dark fast, and the wind was howling, so getting the tent up was terribly difficult; my hands were totally numb! My poor mother was kind enough to get water, God bless her, and then she got in the tent to warm up while I finished collecting boulders to anchor it with.
The night was frigid and unpleasant, but we got to see the moon rise from the plains and through the roiling clouds, which we remained above.
- I froze to literal death to get this shot and am now literally dead.
Day 1 Totals: 6 miles, +2418’/-367′, 8164 min, 9300 avg, 10322 max elevation
⤑Day 2: Hike Out
- Not pleasant.
Given how cold it was, we didn’t get out of the tent until almost 1130. We’d knocked over the water—well, the wind had—and so the tent was a bit wet, though at least not frozen like much of it around us. Bundled completely up, we headed out at noon for Upper Frozen Lake and Lake Angeline. Skirting the north shore of the lake was the easiest path, and at the western end we found a place that we could have camped, with some slabby granite. There was even some DIRT! Wow! The water wasn’t all frozen, so we got some into our pouches and looked with awe upon the batholiths to the west. In the shadows there was a dusting of snow. The walk from the creek crossing to the upper lake wasn’t too bad, though we had to backtrack a little bit. The trees only got up to about knee or hip height and were a pain to make our way through.
- From Lower Frozen Lake inlet to Upper Frozen Lake.
I will say that the upper lake is a beautiful color, with its blue waters making a nice complement to the grey stone towering above. Along the shores we found one place that the tent might even fit, with some serious digging up of sharp stones. Of course, it was still mostly hellacious boulder fields, and we saw no signs of any fish. In total, we only spent about 15 minutes checking out the lake, most of which was spent walking along the…I feel like “shore” is too strong of a term for the water-boulder interface.
We left Upper Frozen Lake, picking our way out 400 feet up through rocks, wondering why we’d bothered to visit! It really, really wasn’t pleasant, especially given how cold it was. Thankfully, the higher we got, the easier the walking was. If we had wanted to, we could have hiked up and over the ridge between Frozen and Angeline to visit Lost Twin Lakes, which is only 3.8 miles of hiking at that point. In my review of Lost Twin Lakes, I thought that it might be a nice point-to-point if you have two cars.
We ended up a bit higher than I’d like, but the walk down the hill to Lake Angeline was easy. Despite the wind, I had success fly fishing, landing a big one! Fishing this lake in the summer might be fun, but it was not at all pretty, and would not be a pleasant place to camp, given the prevalence of boulders and little else.
- In the first picture in the gallery above, you can barely see some of the 7 Brothers.
After fishing for about 20 minutes, we headed east at 340, leaving the lake behind. We easily found the trail and walked downhill through intermittent patches of snow. In about 1 mile, we were at our previous cutoff, and took the same path out as in! We got to the Jeep at 6:08, just a couple of hours later, under iron-grey skies.
Day 1 Totals: 7 miles, +718’/-2799′, 8164 min, 9489 avg, 10707 max elevation
➤Conclusion and Rating
There aren’t too many people that I’d really recommend this hike to. I can only say that Angeline has good fishing, but I can’t imagine wanting to camp there. Frozen Lakes really have nothing to recommend them. The hike in and out also features a lot of elevation gain through ugly burn.
- My scientific rating system. I didn’t like this hike.
- Beauty. Upper Frozen Lake is somewhat pretty, but not worth the effort. The rest is either boring or just ugly.
- Camping spots. Yeah, good luck.
- Crowds. This trail sees little use.
- Difficulty. It’s not a killer hike, but it really isn’t easy, either. The trail doesn’t give you many breaks, or anything to get your mind off things.
- Fishing. The bright spot in this hike.
- History. Nope.
Let me know if you have any questions. I’d love to help you do more with that time of yours, and I’m here to serve you!