Stellar hiking in Wyomings Wind River Range

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
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Stellar hiking in Wyoming’s Wind River Range

Stellar hiking in Wyoming’s Wind River Range
Question: I’m planning a trip for a group of people to the Wind River Range. Can you give me some info about trails or anything else? Thanks.

R. Dowe
Calumet, Michigan

Adventure Adviser: There are literally hundreds of miles of hiking trails in Wyoming’s lofty Wind River Range, so it’s a fine choice for your group. The Wind River Range encompasses some of the highest and most rugged peaks in the Rocky Mountains and is surrounded by vast forest lands and sagebrush-covered plains. There are numerous peaks to climb, including glacier-surrounded Gannett, at 13,804’ the state’s highest.

Lander is a perfect base for exploring the Wind River area, and it’s not surprising that the National Outdoor Leadership School picked this peaceful but environmentally-active town for its headquarters. For hiking the western slopes, plant yourself in Pinedale (and be sure to stop in for a pint at the elegant Magruder’s Pub). As for pre-hiking accommodations, Lander’s Silver Spur Motel (307-332-5189) is a good budget choice for groups and has nightly barbecues.

On the east side of the Wind River Range is the Shoshone National Forest, and a 2.4-million acre chunk of wilderness. Best accessed from either Lander or Dubois, this protected land is loaded with wildlife, including moose, elk and grizzlies. One of the most challenging treks through the Shoshone is the 25-mile long Glacier Trail, which crosses several high ridges and meanders past meadows, thick forests and alpine lakes before ending at the Dinwoody Glacier on Gannett Peak. The hike begins at Trail Lake, 12 miles south of Dubois along County Road 257. A shorter option is the Frontier Creek Trail (9 miles), which traces an Absaroka Mountain stream through a canyon and into the Washakie wilderness area. You can find the trailhead on Forest Road 285, just north of Dubois. The rangers at headquarters in Lander can give you additional ideas (307-332-5460).

Also nearby are the Popo Agie Wilderness and the Sinks Canyon State Park (307-332-6333). The Middle Fork Trail (6 miles) is an easy trek through the Popo Agie, with Sweetwater Gap (16 miles) and the spectacular 22-mile Cirque of the Towers two other good choices. Sinks Canyon also has plenty of hiking and, in midsummer, is emblazoned with wildflowers.

The western slopes of the Wind River Range is engulfed by the even larger Bridger-Teton National Forest. The 3.4-million acres of protected land encompass the Bridger Wilderness Area, which hosts 16 of the state’s 17 highest summits, 1300 lakes and 600 miles of hiking trails. A short and sweet hike here is the 8-mile Horseshoe Lake Trail, which climbs into the Bridger Wilderness area. South of Pinedale, take Country Road 125 (also called Boulder Lake Road) to access the trailhead. Call headquarters at 307-367-4326 for more information.

If you tire of hiking and backpacking, there are endless options for other activities. Horseback riding is big in this area, and there are lots of outfitters to choose from, like Diamond Four Ranch in Lander (307-332-2995). If you’d prefer riding a llama, well, you can do that too. There’s canoeing and kayaking along stretches of the Roaring Fork Creek, and rafting through the awesome Wind River Canyon (call Wind River Canyon Whitewater at 307-864-9343 for details). Miles of forest and BLM roads make for prime mountain biking. And if you feel like taking a cold plunge, spend a day at Boysen State Park (307-876-2796), a 20-mile long reservoir north of Shoshoni ideal for swimming and fishing.

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