Wind River Mountains

  • © Ben Duncan
  • © Ben Duncan
  • © Ben Duncan
  • © Ben Duncan
  • © Ben Duncan
  • © Ben Duncan
  • © Ben Duncan
  • © Ben Duncan
  • © Ben Duncan
  • © Ben Duncan
  • © Ben Duncan
  • © Ben Duncan
  • © Ben Duncan
  • © Ben Duncan
  • © Ben Duncan
  • © Ben Duncan
  • © Ben Duncan
  • © Ben Duncan
  • © Ben Duncan
  • © Ben Duncan
  • © Ben Duncan
  • © Ben Duncan
  • © Ben Duncan

Key information: Wind River Mountains

  • A huge variety of walking in Wyoming's fabulous Wind River Mountains. Includes the classic Highline Trail, the Cirque of the Towers and the Titcomb Basin.
  • Superb scenery - the usual but not predictable peaks, cliffs, lakes, rivers and forests. Carved by immense glacial forces. Totally pristine wilderness, with a wide selection of Rockies wildlife.
  • This is tough walking in high, remote mountains, on which you will have to be self-sufficient and where altitude can cause problems. Come prepared.
  • Any photos and comments welcome!

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating88
  • Beauty36
  • Natural interest17
  • Human interest0
  • Charisma36
  • Negative points1
  • Total rating88

Vital Statistics

  • Length: Variable
  • Maximum Altitude: 3,475m
  • Level of Difficulty: Variable
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© Ben Duncan

WALK SUMMARY

THIS PAGE IS AT AN EARLY STAGE OF DEVELOPMENT. PLEASE HELP US BY MAKING SUGGESTIONS AND SENDING PHOTOS! THANK YOU!

A huge variety of walking in Wyoming's fabulous Wind River Mountains.

This is a huge, totally pristine wilderness, with a wide selection of Rockies wildlife (elk, moose, bear, deer, beaver, many birds) and superb granite scenery - the usual but not predictable peaks, cliffs, lakes, rivers and forests. Carved by - you guessed - glacial forces. The landscape varies from the roughest and wildest of rocky highlands surrounded by peaks and cliffs to gorgeous lakes reflecting dramatic formations looming above forest and flowery meadows, to deep forested valleys. Much of the area is above the treeline, although you will spend time in fine forest, too.

North-south fault-lines result in long ranges and ridges, with wide and high "benches" and valley systems running parallel to them, with a multitude of beauteous lakes (more than 1,500) amid crazily eroded rocky scenery. This makes for glorious walking close to the high ridges (which form the Continental Divide). The area is high, with 23 peaks over 13,000ft and quite a lot of time spent over 3,000m (10,000ft).

There is a hugely varied network (said to be over 1,100km) of good (if mostly unwaymarked) trails and campsites - although you can camp anywhere here. But, you need strong backcountry skills.

Great walks include:

    • The Cirque of the Towers, a three-day walk into a remarkable semi-circle of sheer, dramatic peaks, cliffs and spires above the (sometimes) aptly named Lonesome Lake. (Off the first stretch of the Highline Trail.)
    • The famous Highline Trail, around 10 days of spectacular walking in extravagantly beautiful, rough, wild, remote scenery. A classic route, traversing the range (usually walked from south to north) in 8 days upward, although do allow time for some of the many outstanding diversions that can be made, including the Cirque of the Towers and the Titcomb Basin. (i.e., allow 10 days.)
    • Walking in to the extraordinary Titcomb Basin in the north, a huge glacial chasm littered with lakes, with huge sheer walls on both sides.
    • The 3 day round trip from Big Sandy Trailhead to Deep Lake Cirque. A short walk in and out to a campsite by Big Sandy Lake, then a superb pack-free day walk to the vast rock walls and spires surrounding Deep Lake. Extraordinarily beautiful.

A key point to appreciate when planning a Wind River Mountains trek is that there is a wide variety of trails available, which can be used to create the perfect walk and, if crossing the range primarily on the Highline Trail, to take time-saving short cuts and to make some essential detours to places such as the Cirque of the Towers and the Titcomb basin, which should not be missed, having come all this way.

You can camp freely in the Winds, but keep at least 60m from water and trails.

See Walkopedia friend Ben Duncan's excellent pictures from his Wind River walk here.

Other accounts: share your experiences

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

See also expedition planning, including our universal expedition checklist. Walkopedia encourages responsible travel.

Books and Maps

Suggest books and maps

Books on this walk

Climbing and Hiking in the Wind River Mountains (2013) - Joe Kelsey

Hiking in the Rocky Mountains - Lonely Planet

Hiking Wyoming's Wind River Range (1996) - Rod Adkison

Wind River Trails - Finis Mitchell

Chapters on the Highline Trail in Trekking Atlas of the World - Ed. Jack Jackson; World's Great Adventure Treks - Ed. Jack Jackson; Classic Treks - Ed. Bill Birkett

Other books

Rocky Mountain Tree Finder and Rocky Mountain Flower Finder, both by Tom Watts

Maps

1:48,000 maps for the northern and southern parts of the Winds are issued by Earthwalk Press.

Stanfords: www.stanfords.co.uk. A good online specialist source of worldwide maps (it is also good for guidebooks). Also try www.mapsworldwide.com and www.trektools.com.

Best times to walk/weather

Best times to walk

July to September (late July to mid September for best and last uncertain weather and to avoid lying snow and deep streams). A short walking season, as these are high mountains and snow arrives early and melts late.

Weather

Generally fine in season, but come fully prepared for unpredictable mountain weather and cold nights.

For detailed weather information, have a look at: www.worldweather.org or www.bbc.co.uk/weather/world/country-guides.

Getting there/transport/permits/fees

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All trailheads are accessible by car, down long dirt tracks, starting from some way off from Pinedale in the case of the Highline's trailheads. The problem with the Highline and any other non-circuits is how to get your car at the end - but it is said to be easy to hitch to/from the trailheads.

See www.greatoutdoorshop.com/shuttles.htm for a Pinedale based shuttle company.

Nearest airports are Jackson Hole and Rock Springs.

Permits are not needed to do most walks in the Winds.

Route(s)

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See Walk Summary above.

Possible problems, health, other warnings

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    • Altitude: will affect you, at least to a degree. Acclimatize appropriately, come prepared to cope, be ready to evacuate people in extreme cases.
    • Extreme mountain weather: snow, rain, severe cold and wind are possible at any time of year and the weather can change rapidly. Lightning can occur in afternoons. Come prepared.
    • Heat and strong sun. Carry enough water and protect yourself.
    • Heights: can be dangerous; not for those who have difficulties with heights.
    • Unpleasant animals including mosquitoes, stinging/biting insects and plants. Black Bears can be a problem: come prepared to deal with an encounter and store camp food appropriately. There are plenty of websites with advice on hiking in bear country, and a particularly good one is the US National Parks Service site. Take all appropriate precautions.
    • Several riversneed to be crossed on the Highline.
    • This is remote country: you will have to carry all your food and other supplies and help will be hard to get if things go wrong.
    • Health risks:you will not get prompt medical help of a standard available elsewhere if you become ill. Potential problems include giardia. Come prepared, including getting all appropriate inoculations/medications. Boil all drinking water.

See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and problems can arise on any walk. Many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks and possible problems. This website cannot, and does not purport to, identify all actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to a walk or a country. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to "Important information" for further important information.

Make sure you have appropriate insurance.

Guided or independent?

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We are not currently aware of any guided expeditions here, so you will be on your own!

PLEASE HELP Walkopedia by recommending any reputable tour organizers that you know of - local or otherwise.

Accommodation

Camping is the only option once in the Winds. You can camp freely in the Winds, but keep at least 60m from water and trails. No fires.

Big Sandy Lodge (www.big-sandy-lodge.com/) near the start of the Highline and Cirque of the Towers and Deep Lake Cirque.

Try www.pinedaleonline.com/ for a selection of accommodation.

Hostelbookers usually has a good selection of cheaper-end accommodation.

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Other information and tips

Bring light binos.

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Useful websites and information

There are many websites with relevant information. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.

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Other things to do in the area

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Other walks

Northwest USA has a huge variety of great walks. There is likely to be a good walk within range wherever you may be.

Other activities

Endless.

© Ben Duncan

OTHER ACCOUNTS
share your experiences

Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

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