Backpacking Wyoming: Wind River Range

Backpacking Wyoming: Wind River Range

This past weekend, we explored the highly acclaimed Wind River Range in Bridger National Forest in Wyoming. We hijacked a pre-planned trip with J’s sis, Jamie, and her wifey, Rachel.

The short story is that we backpacked 40 miles in 3 days and every mile and every minute lived up to its reputation.

But I don’t do short stories. I do long and detailed.

Day 1
Mileage: 12 miles
Elevation Gain: 2560 feet
Elevation Loss: 1063 feet

We started from the Elkhart Park Trailhead at 8,920 feet on the Pole Creek Trail. The first few miles traverses timberline terrain, then morphs into glacier-carved landscape and remote lake basins.

The hike was beautiful and uneventful, except for a passing thunderstorm along the exposed 1.4 mile Seneca Lake. To be safe, rather than sorry, we ducked into the boulder field for protection.

Our destination for the evening was Little Seneca Lake at 10,400 feet. We slept on a peninsula on the west end of the lake. There are tons of social trails leading you to pre-existing campsites, some a little too close to water, but all with rock chairs and dinner views.

Day 2
Mileage: 12 miles
Elevation Gain: 1601 feet
Elevation Loss: 1810 feet

The forecast remained blue sky and toothy for day 2. We planned an easy day with our backpacks … we dropped them and set up camp at Island Lake 2 miles beyond Little Seneca Lake. Island Lake has a 360-degree panorama where bold granite spires surround the crystal clear lake and wildflower meadows.

Photo courtesy of Rachel (DocDoc)

Then, we day hiked the additional 5 miles to Ticomb Basin, sort of the end of the line before you get into more technical climbing in the Wind River Range. This is one of the approach options for Gannett Peak, the high point of Wyoming. It’s 13,809 feet and entails crossing glaciers, snow climbing and technical rock scrambling. We’ll save that for another day (gulp).

Titcomb Basin is a chain of lakes and getting to the last one at 10,598 feet gets you closest to the grandeur peaks of Fremont, Henderson and the Buttress. The weather was turning a little bit, but we pushed on. It was definitely the most dramatic part of the whole trip.

Day 3
Mileage: 16 miles
Elevation Gain: 1918 feet
Elevation Loss: 3065 feet

Knowing a cold front was pushing in, we made a group decision to hoof it all the way back to the trailhead. It should only be a 14-mile pilgrimage, but J & I got turned around on the trail when separated from the girls. A minor setback, but a message made of sticks on the trail from Rachel reunited the group within an hour.

The Pole Creek Trail is a very popular trail in the Wind River Range and is heavily used by climbers, anglers and backpackers, but we lucked out with minimal crowds. In fact, we saw the most people when we were on our way out Sunday.

Also, despite warnings of being in bear (black bear and grizzly) territory, we saw no tracks or poop. Aside from a plethora of curious marmots and one mama and baby moose, the wildlife was scant.

I have been hearing about the Wind River Range for years and am so glad to have experienced it. The terrain definitely reminds me of other places we’ve been in Washington and Oregon, but it did not disappoint at all. There are tons of trails and I’m sure we’ll be back. 

4 responses to “Backpacking Wyoming: Wind River Range”

  1. Jamie L says:

    Good photo of the moose! I'd like to say I made the J&P part of the stick sign on the trail. Great trip!

  2. Janice Kovach says:

    Haven't you learned to not separate from the group by now???!!!!!

  3. Anonymous says:


  4. That is on my list. Maybe while hiking the CDT.

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