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.
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.
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.
I can help you plan the best backpacking, hiking, or family adventure of your life. Find out more here.
And visit my All Trips page for menus of all of my stories about outdoor adventures at this blog.
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