6 Greatest Wind River Vary Backpacking Trails – Bearfoot Principle


Wyoming’s Wind River Vary is a spot of legend, a granite wonderland the place the state’s highest summit presides over a whole lot of jagged peaks and numerous alpine lake basins that straddle each side of the Continental Divide.

Positioned 2 hours southeast of Grand Teton Nationwide Park and three hours southeast of Yellowstone Nationwide Park, this is without doubt one of the most pristine wilderness areas within the U.S., dwelling to wholesome populations of grizzly bears, wolves, elk, and moose.

Moving into the guts of the Winds includes driving lengthy rutted grime roads and mountaineering for a number of days; which suggests to expertise the wild coronary heart of the Winds you’ll should go backpacking. Under we’ve outlined 6 of the very best Wind River Vary backpacking routes in your subsequent journey.

Vital Reminder: Because it goes in all the locations we share, please observe good path etiquette and keep in mind to Go away No Hint. This implies packing out all your rubbish (together with rest room paper), being respectful to others, and following the established guidelines.

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1. The Cirque of the Towers

  • Trailhead begin: Huge Sandy Trailhead
  • Path Sort: Loop
  • Distance: 24 miles 
  • Urged Time: 3-4 days 
  • Issue: Average

Lay eyes on essentially the most iconic skyline within the Wind River Vary on this 24-mile loop to the Cirque of the Towers. The Cirque is a glacially-carved basin surrounded by 12,000 foot-high granite spires that boast essentially the most well-known technical climbing routes within the vary. You don’t should deliver a rack and a rope to benefit from the Cirque, however it’s best to plan to spend a layover day there to discover the excessive alpine setting.

This is without doubt one of the hottest Wind River Vary backpacking routes so don’t count on solitude. However should you’re fortunate you might be handled to some prime climbing leisure as tiny decided people monkey their manner up basic routes on the Wolf’s Head, the Shark’s Nostril, Warbonnet, Warrior, and Pingora Peaks.

The hike begins from the Huge Sandy trailhead, after 27 miles of grime roads; the final 10 miles are usually tough however are often satisfactory in a 2WD automobile. Match hikers can plan to spend their first evening at Shadow Lake, 12 miles from the beginning, or you’ll be able to ease your manner in by stopping sooner at Mirror Lake, Dad’s Lake, or Marm’s Lake.

From Shadow Lake, you’ll hint across the north aspect of the lake after which join a collection of unnamed lakes as you make your manner up towards Texas Cross. From the highest, you’ll be rewarded together with your first view of the Cirque. From right here you’ll make your manner across the west aspect of Lonesome Lake (no tenting allowed right here) into the Cirque, which has plentiful tent websites. 

Hopefully, you’ve budgeted at the least a day to discover the Cirque and take aspect scrambles to the bottom of among the towers (all the time preserve a watch out for climbers above you) and Lizard Head Meadows.

To complete the 24-mile loop, you’ll depart the Cirque over Jackass Cross, and hike previous Huge Sandy Lake again to the Huge Sandy trailhead. This loop might be performed in both course however the elevation features are extra gradual should you hike clockwise, as written right here.

Three backpackers on the trail of Cirque of the Towers, Wind River Range, Wyoming
Cirque of the Towers is without doubt one of the hottest Wind River Vary backpacking trails – for good purpose

2. Titcomb Basin

  • Trailhead begin: Elkhart Park Trailhead
  • Path Sort: Out and again
  • Distance: 30 miles 
  • Urged Time: 4-5 days 
  • Issue: Laborious

Titcomb Basin will all the time maintain a particular place in my coronary heart, because it’s the place I witnessed the Complete Photo voltaic Eclipse of 2017. From our vantage level perched on an uncovered granite knoll at 11,000 ft, bookended by two enormous alpine lakes, the heart-stopping drama of totality was amplified by a sudden drop in temperature because the Solar disappeared behind the Moon, in addition to the distant location, 20 miles from the closest highway.

Even and not using a once-in-a-lifetime celestial occasion, Titcomb Basin is a bucket checklist trek and one of the vital well-liked Wind River Vary backpacking routes.

You’ll begin from the Elkhart Park trailhead, one of many solely entry factors into the Winds through a paved highway. From there you’ll head up the Pole Creek Path for 4.6 miles to Photographer’s Level (a very good day mountaineering possibility should you’re not up for backpacking). 

You’ll have many choices for camps in your option to Titcomb; most individuals break up the 20-mile strategy into two days. You’ll wish to funds further time within the basin itself, as there are lots of aspect journey choices, together with summiting Gannett or Fremont Peaks (the best and third highest factors in Wyoming) or straddling the Continental Divide at Indian Cross. 

Understand that all of Titcomb Basin sits above the treeline so there aren’t any timber for hanging bear baggage so that you’ll have to pack all of your meals and scented gadgets into bear canisters.

Canine are allowed within the Winds however understand that Titcomb Basin can also be a preferred spot for pack journeys so you might encounter horses, llamas, and even pack goats on path, together with wildlife together with bears, elk, moose, and marmots.

Backpackers set up a tent near Titcomb Basin the Wind River Range Wyoming
certainly one of our camps throughout the Titcomb Basin loop | Photograph: Mary Caperton Morton

3. The Glacier Path to Gannett Peak

  • Trailhead begin: Path Lake Trailhead 
  • Path Sort: Out and again 
  • Distance: 50 miles 
  • Urged Time: 5-6 days 
  • Issue: Very laborious, mountaineering abilities required

You would possibly assume that Wyoming’s most well-known mountain, 13,775-foot Grand Teton, is the best level within the state, however the Wind’s Gannett Peak reaches barely increased to 13,804 ft. Only a few individuals ever lay eyes on Gannett, not to mention climb it; Gannett is taken into account one of the vital difficult of the 50 state excessive factors, on par with Alaska’s Denali, because it requires a 25-mile strategy and actual mountaineering abilities to tag the summit.

You’ll be able to strategy Gannett from the south through Titcomb Basin or from the north through the Glacier Path. This route begins on the Path Lake Trailhead, close to Dubois, Wyoming. From there you’ll make your manner 22 miles into the Winds to arrange your basecamp at Tarn’s Lake, on the base of Dinwoody Glacier.

From right here it’s about 3 miles and three,000 ft of elevation acquire up the Dinwoody Glacier/Gooseneck Glacier path to the summit. Don’t take this climb calmly; you’ll want and an and many individuals desire to rope up for elements of the route, resulting from crevasses and the dangers of glacier journey. 

On the summit, you’ll have the ability to look down all of the peaks and lakes of the Wind River Vary, together with Titcomb Basin, with its twin large lakes to the south. You’ll be sitting atop one of many highest factors on the Continental Divide of the Rocky Mountains, the place all of the rivers to the east drain to the Gulf of Mexico and people to the west drain to the Pacific Ocean.

4. Bomber Basin

  • Trailhead begin: Path Lake Trailhead
  • Path Sort: Out and again 
  • Distance: 8 miles 
  • Urged Time: 2 days 
  • Issue: Simple

Should you like a little bit of historical past in your hikes, head out on the 8-mile out-and-back Bomber Basin trek within the northeast nook of the Winds. This trek might be performed as a day hike or an in a single day or might be prolonged into an extended loop hike to Ross Lake.

Beginning in Dubois, you’ll head to the Path Lake trailhead, which sits on the fringe of the Fitzpatrick Wilderness boundary. From there you’ll head south on the East Torrey Creek path to Bomber Falls.

The falls are beautiful, however many individuals come right here looking for wreckage: on August 14, 1943 a B24 bomber with a crew of 11 crashed simply above the falls, killing all aboard. Right this moment, just a few giant items of the airplane might be seen above and under the falls, though most of the items are hidden beneath lush vegetation. 

You’ll be able to plan to camp close to the falls or close to Bomber Lake however for an extended journey, contemplate tackling the 22-mile Bomber Basin to Ross Lake Loop. This partially off-trail journey requires navigational and creek-crossing abilities as you leapfrog from one lake basin to the following, culminating at Ross Lake, one of many largest lakes on this a part of the Winds. You’ll then loop again to the Path Lakes trailhead on the Whiskey Mountain path. 

Bomber Lake landscape in the Wind River Range Wyoming
Bomber Lake

5. Stough Creek Basin

  • Trailhead begins: Roaring Fork Trailhead 
  • Path Sort: Out and again
  • Distance: 14.8 miles 
  • Urged Time: 2-3 days
  • Issue: Average

For a brief, candy introduction to the Wind River Vary, head to the jap aspect of the Continental Divide to Stough Creek Basin. Beginning in Lander, you’ll drive by means of the scenic Sinks Canyon State Park to the Roaring Fork trailhead, subsequent to Worthen Meadow campground. This highway is paved to Frye Lake after which turns into tough grime, which is often satisfactory in a 2WD drive automobile. From the trailhead, you’ll head due west on the Stough Creek Lakes Path. 

This path could also be shorter than most different Winds journeys however that doesn’t imply it’s a stroll within the park. The trailhead sits at 8,850 ft and also you’ll acquire 1,600 ft within the first 5 miles– a substantial effort should you’re coming from low elevation. However the rewards are nice. 

After 6.8 miles you’ll drop into the Stough Creek Basin, a glacially-carved basin with over a dozen interconnected lakes surrounded by the semicircular Roaring Fork Mountain Vary.

There are many campsites right here and the basin is choose-your-own-adventure the place you’ll be able to wander between and round lakes till you discover your excellent campsite. This trek might be performed as an in a single day, however it’s higher to plan to spend two nights within the basin to actually soak within the views from sundown to starlight to dawn.

3 backpackers on the Wind River Range

6. Wind River Vary Traverse (on the Continental Divide Path)

  • Trailhead begin: Huge Sandy (South) or Inexperienced River Lakes (North)
  • Path Sort: Level to level 
  • Distance: 79 miles 
  • Urged Time: 7-10 days 
  • Issue: Very Laborious

Can’t get sufficient of the Winds? Head out on a grand tour of the vary on the Continental Divide Path. The CDT runs from Mexico to Canada following the crest of the Rocky Mountains by means of New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. The Winds are famously one of many wildest and most scenic sections of this 3,100 mile thru-hike.

You can begin the Wind River Vary Traverse part from both the Huge Sandy trailhead within the south or the Inexperienced River Lakes trailhead within the north, making use of the shuttle providers out there within the hiker-friendly city of Pinedale.

The path runs on the west aspect of the Divide, passing a whole lot of lakes. Many CDT hikers additionally go for a aspect tour to go to the Cirque of the Towers. There aren’t any straightforward resupply factors so that you’ll have to both carry all of your meals for the trek or plan a 20-mile spherical journey aspect journey to Elkhart Park trailhead, the place you’ll be able to hitch a journey into Pinedale partway by means of your hike. The logistics are daunting however they’re a paltry worth of admission to this world-class trek!

Green River Lake landscape from the CDT and Wind River Range Traverse
Inexperienced River Lake alongside the Wind River Vary Traverse


Greatest Time of 12 months To Go to the Wind River Vary

The Wind River Vary is a distant, high-elevation mountain vary that receives unbelievable quantities of snow every winter. Most years, the snow-choked basins and passes aren’t melted out till July, making August and September the prime months for Wind River Vary backpacking journeys. With a lot water in 1000’s of lakes, mosquitoes might be legion. Bugs often peak in June and July and begin petering out in August.

Winter can return rapidly to the Winds, with the primary snowfalls typically coming in September or October. Elk searching is critical enterprise within the Winds so should you do enterprise into the vary within the fall, be sure you put on brilliant colours

Ski mountaineers and ice climbers generally sort out winter aims within the Winds however because of the unforgiving terrain, excessive avalanche hazard, excessive climate, and distant location, winter journeys are finest left to skilled mountaineers.

Titcomb Basin

How To Get To the Wind River Vary

The Wind River Vary is situated in west central Wyoming. The closest cities are Pinedale on the west aspect of the vary, Lander to the east, and Dubois to the north.

All of those cities have grocery shops, eating places, and resort rooms however none of them have main airports; if you’ll want to fly you’ll be able to search for flights into Jackson Gap, Wyoming, a 1.5-hour drive to Pinedale, or Salt Lake Metropolis, a 4-hour drive to Pinedale. Should you’re mountaineering on the east aspect of the Winds, it’s a 6-hour drive from Denver to Lander.

Lots of the roads into the Winds are lengthy, tough grime roads however most main trailheads might be reached by a fastidiously pushed two-wheel drive car. Most trailheads have nationwide forest campgrounds or enable dispersed tenting close to the trailhead.


Winds Backpacking Ideas

The Wind River Vary is without doubt one of the most distant and pristine mountain ranges within the decrease 48 states. Visiting the Winds requires planning and expertise; this wilderness is just not really helpful for first-time backpackers.

Many trails aren’t nicely marked and a few routes require off-trail navigating, typically round lakes and over passes into the following lake basin.

Trails are rocky, rugged, and infrequently relentlessly steep. Trailheads begin over 8,000 ft of elevation and plenty of lake basins sit over 11,000 ft so altitude illness is an actual concern.

Should you’re not up for helming your individual journey, there are a number of outfitters who service the Winds and might pack you or your gear right into a basecamp on horse, mules, or llamas. However for many who come ready for a self-supported journey, the Winds provide the expertise of a lifetime.

Permits

There aren’t any permits required for backcountry journeys within the Winds. Solely organized teams (equivalent to Scouts) and in a single day pack and saddle inventory customers are required to hold permits.

Bear Security

The Winds are dwelling to many grizzly bears and much more black bears. Remember to make noise when you hike, carry bear spray on the prepared in your hip, and be diligent about retaining a clear camp.

Correct meals storage is remitted within the Winds. Meals and scented gadgets should be saved in IGBC-approved bear canisters or hung at the least 10 ft off of the bottom and 4 ft out from the tree.

Canisters might be rented for a small donation from the district ranger places of work in Pinedale, Jackson, and Blackrock. These are particularly necessary above treeline, equivalent to in Titcomb Basin and the Cirque, the place there aren’t any timber for hanging meals.

Go away No Hint

As with all wild locations, it’s crucial that you simply depart them untouched by your go to. This implies mountaineering and tenting on sturdy surfaces, correctly burying human waste, packing out all trash and meals waste (together with TP), leaving all artifacts and objects in place, minimizing campfire impacts (and honoring burn bans, when relevant), and respecting wildlife in addition to different hikers. Catholes might be notably troublesome to dig within the rocky Winds so contemplate bringing in your go to and packing out your waste.

Cell Service

There isn’t any cell service within the Winds. Remember to obtain all maps and path beta utilizing your favourite mountaineering app earlier than leaving Pinedale, Dubois, or Lander.

Climate

All types of climate can strike anytime within the Winds. Snowstorms in July aren’t unusual. Be ready for all sorts of climate with correct layers and shelter. A is price its weight in gold in inclement climate, as is a rain jacket and artificial down jacket.

Afternoon thunderstorms are frequent in July and August. Plan to sort out summits and passes early within the day and keep off excessive factors within the afternoons to scale back the chance of being hit by lightning.

Bugs

The one creature extra feared than bears within the Winds are mosquitoes. Biting bugs might be horrendous on this watery wonderland. Deliver a mesh backpacking tent, , and ! Treating your clothes with a may assist preserve bugs at bay.

A woman wearing a bug head net while backpacking the Mineral King Loop in Sequoia National Park
I like to recommend packing a head internet for the Winds – the mosquitos might be brutal

Canine

Canine are allowed in every single place within the Winds. There aren’t any leash laws however canines can’t be allowed to harass wildlife, different hikers or pack inventory. Bear in mind {that a} bear or a llama might be across the subsequent bend of the path and be sensible about letting your canine wander. Brush up on suggestions for learn how to backpack with a canine right here.

Discover the ultimate guide to the best Wind River Range backpacking routes in Wyoming. Explore this hidden gem of the Rockies with our detailed itineraries, including expert advice on camping spots, high-altitude lakes, and panoramic vistas. Perfect for adventurers seeking Wyoming wilderness, mountain peaks, pristine forests, and abundant wildlife. Pack your backpack and embark on a journey through Wyoming's Wind River Range today!



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