3-Minute Read: Backpacking to Titcomb Basin, Wind River Range

By Michael Lanza

Titcomb Basin, deep in Wyoming’s Wind River Range, is the kind of place that can induce neck problems. The environs force you to perpetually look around, mouth gaping open at the mountains towering above it—because many people coming here have quite possibly never seen a place like it before. An alpine valley at over 10,500 feet, it lies astride peaks on the Continental Divide that soar more than 3,000 feet above the Titcomb Lakes, the highest of which is 13,745-foot Fremont Peak. But the valley is flanked on three sides by high peaks; the only straightforward route in is from its southern end.

Spending time here—as two friends and I did on a recent, 39-mile backpacking trip—can really give your neck a workout.

Our three-day, mid-September hike from Elkhart Park, outside Pinedale on the west side of the Winds, took us on an up-and-down tour, mostly above 10,000 feet, that included several dozen lakes (we were tempted to camp at most of them) and three 12,000-foot passes. We reached one of those passes, Knapsack Col at the upper end of Titcomb Basin, via an off-trail route that added a spicy flavor to our trip.


Descending to Island Lake, Wind River Range.
Descending to Island Lake, Wind River Range.

Titcomb is also an approach route for climbers headed to Wyoming’s high point, 13,804-foot Gannett Peak. But that’s not why we went there. With wildfires raging around much of the West, we were smoked out of plans for a six-day hike in Glacier National Park. But by scanning airnow.gov, we saw that, at the time, the Winds remained one of the few areas between the West Coast and the Northern Rockies that wasn’t inundated in post-apocalyptic smoke. So we abandoned our plans for Glacier and beelined for the Winds.


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Our 39-mile loop from Elkhart Park took us to Titcomb via Elklund, Seneca, and Island lakes, over Knapsack Col to Peak Lake, and then to Elbow, Summit, and Trapper Lakes and the surprisingly stunning canyon of Pine Creek.

Check out the photos below for a sense of just how spectacular the entire hike was.


I’ll post a feature story with many images from that trip, and information on how to pull it off yourself, in coming months at The Big Outside.

Meanwhile, see my other stories about the Wind River Range at The Big Outside, including my feature story about a 27-mile dayhike across the Winds that passed through one of its other magical spots, the Cirque of the Towers, and this Ask Me post where I suggest other backpacking trips in the Winds.


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And visit my All Trips page for menus of all of my stories about outdoor adventures at this blog.


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4 thoughts on “3-Minute Read: Backpacking to Titcomb Basin, Wind River Range”

  1. Great pics of the Winds, Michael. I remember the first time I backpacked into the Titcomb Valley in 1978. I definitely did experience those neck things you wrote about. We ran into Finnis Mitchell the day before. We were using his guidebook. I think he had a bunch of fishermen with him that day. I never got back to the Winds again … too many places to explore, too little time. But, I have a photo I took of the basin, and it still looks just as surreal today as it did back then. So many wonderful places in this wonderful world.

    • Hi Eric,

      Thanks for sharing that story. What a special treat to have met Finis Mitchell himself, the man famous for stocking the alpine lakes of the Wind River Range with more than two million trout! That’s amazing, just like the Winds.


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