Wednesday, October 4, 2023

6 Greatest Wind River Vary Backpacking Trails – Bearfoot Idea

Pinterest Hidden Image

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

Positioned 2 hours southeast of Grand Teton Nationwide Park and three hours southeast of Yellowstone Nationwide Park, this is likely one of the most pristine wilderness areas within the U.S., dwelling to wholesome populations of grizzly bears, wolves, elk, and moose.

Stepping into the center of the Winds entails driving lengthy rutted dust roads and mountaineering for a number of days; which suggests to expertise the wild coronary heart of the Winds you’ll must go backpacking. Beneath we’ve outlined 6 of one of the best Wind River Vary backpacking routes to your subsequent journey.

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

Be a part of our neighborhood for entry to our free member sources!

Obtain Helpful Out of doors Packing Checklists & Journey Planning Guides

1. The Cirque of the Towers

  • Trailhead begin: Huge Sandy Trailhead
  • Path Sort: Loop
  • Distance: 24 miles 
  • Prompt 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 must carry a rack and a rope to benefit from the Cirque, however you must plan to spend a layover day there to discover the excessive alpine setting.

This is likely one of the hottest Wind River Vary backpacking routes so don’t anticipate solitude. However in the event you’re fortunate you could be handled to some prime climbing leisure as tiny decided people monkey their approach up traditional 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 dust roads; the final 10 miles are typically tough however are normally satisfactory in a 2WD automotive. Match hikers can plan to spend their first evening at Shadow Lake, 12 miles from the beginning, or you may ease your approach in by stopping sooner at Mirror Lake, Dad’s Lake, or Marm’s Lake.

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

Hopefully, you’ve budgeted a minimum of a day to discover the Cirque and take facet scrambles to the bottom of a number of the towers (at all times hold an eye fixed 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 could be completed in both route however the elevation positive aspects are extra gradual in the event 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 likely 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 
  • Prompt Time: 4-5 days 
  • Issue: Onerous

Titcomb Basin will at all times maintain a particular place in my coronary heart, because it’s the place I witnessed the Whole Photo voltaic Eclipse of 2017. From our vantage level perched on an uncovered granite knoll at 11,000 ft, bookended by two big 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 with no once-in-a-lifetime celestial occasion, Titcomb Basin is a bucket checklist trek and some of the fashionable Wind River Vary backpacking routes.

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

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

Remember 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 objects into bear canisters.

Canines are allowed within the Winds however remember the fact that Titcomb Basin can be a preferred spot for pack journeys so you could 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
one among our camps through the Titcomb Basin loop | Picture: Mary Caperton Morton

3. The Glacier Path to Gannett Peak

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

You would possibly assume that Wyoming’s most well-known mountain, 13,775-foot Grand Teton, is the very 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 some of the 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 may strategy Gannett from the south by way of Titcomb Basin or from the north by way of the Glacier Path. This route begins on the Path Lake Trailhead, close to Dubois, Wyoming. From there you’ll make your approach 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 frivolously; you’ll want crampons and an ice ax and many individuals desire to rope up for elements of the route, as a result of crevasses and the dangers of glacier journey. 

On the summit, you’ll be capable to look down all of the peaks and lakes of the Wind River Vary, together with Titcomb Basin, with its twin big 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 
  • Prompt Time: 2 days 
  • Issue: Simple

If you happen to 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 could be completed as a day hike or an in a single day or could 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 pretty, however many individuals come right here in search of wreckage: on August 14, 1943 a B24 bomber with a crew of 11 crashed simply above the falls, killing all aboard. At present, a number of giant items of the aircraft could be seen above and under the falls, though most of the items are hidden below lush vegetation. 

You may plan to camp close to the falls or close to Bomber Lake however for an extended journey, take into account 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 
  • Prompt Time: 2-3 days
  • Issue: Average

For a brief, candy introduction to the Wind River Vary, head to the jap facet of the Continental Divide to Stough Creek Basin. Beginning in Lander, you’ll drive by way 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 dust, which is normally satisfactory in a 2WD drive automotive. 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 in the event 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 may wander between and round lakes till you discover your good campsite. This trek could be completed as an in a single day, nevertheless 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 
  • Prompt Time: 7-10 days 
  • Issue: Very Onerous

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 way 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 companies out there within the hiker-friendly city of Pinedale.

The path runs on the west facet of the Divide, passing a whole bunch of lakes. Many CDT hikers additionally go for a facet tour to go to the Cirque of the Towers. There aren’t any simple resupply factors so that you’ll have to both carry all of your meals for the trek or plan a 20-mile spherical journey facet journey to Elkhart Park trailhead, the place you may hitch a journey into Pinedale partway by way of your hike. The logistics are daunting however they’re a paltry value 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 unimaginable 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 could be legion. Bugs normally peak in June and July and begin truly fizzling out in August.

Winter can return shortly to the Winds, with the primary snowfalls usually coming in September or October. Elk looking is severe enterprise within the Winds so in the event you do enterprise into the vary within the fall, remember to put on vibrant colours

Ski mountaineers and ice climbers typically deal with winter goals 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 positioned in west central Wyoming. The closest cities are Pinedale on the west facet 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 it’s worthwhile to fly you may search for flights into Jackson Gap, Wyoming, a 1.5-hour drive to Pinedale, or Salt Lake Metropolis, a 4-hour drive to Pinedale. If you happen to’re mountaineering on the east facet of the Winds, it’s a 6-hour drive from Denver to Lander.

Most of the roads into the Winds are lengthy, tough dust roads however most main trailheads could be reached by a rigorously pushed two-wheel drive automobile. Most trailheads have nationwide forest campgrounds or enable dispersed tenting close to the trailhead.

Winds Backpacking Ideas

The Wind River Vary is likely 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 advisable for first-time backpackers.

Many trails should not properly marked and a few routes require off-trail navigating, usually round lakes and over passes into the following lake basin.

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

If you happen to’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 supply the expertise of a lifetime.


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. Be sure you make noise whilst you hike, carry bear spray on the prepared in your hip, and be diligent about maintaining a clear camp.

Correct meals storage is remitted within the Winds. Meals and scented objects should be stored in IGBC-approved bear canisters or hung a minimum of 10 ft off of the bottom and 4 ft out from the tree.

Canisters could be rented for a small donation from the district ranger workplaces 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 could be significantly troublesome to dig within the rocky Winds so take into account bringing wag baggage to your go to and packing out your waste.

Cell Service

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

Save 30% on AllTrails+

Get 30% off an AllTrails+ membership so it can save you maps for offline use, get alerts for going off-trail, preview the hike in 3D, and extra.


All types of climate can strike anytime within the Winds. Snowstorms in July should not unusual. Be ready for every type of climate with correct layers and shelter. A tarp is value 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 deal with 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.


The one creature extra feared than bears within the Winds are mosquitoes. Biting bugs could be horrendous on this watery wonderland. Convey a mesh backpacking tent, head web, and bug spray! Treating your clothes with a bug-repellent spray may also assist hold 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 web for the Winds – the mosquitos could be brutal


Canines are allowed all over the 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 ideas for how one can 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!

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest Articles