5 Reasons You Must Backpack the Wind River Range

By Michael Lanza

On a cool early morning in August while backpacking the Wind River High Route a few summers ago, I hiked in the shadow of tall mountains to Jackass Pass at 10,790 feet—a spot I’ve stood on at least a few times before, overlooking the incomparable Cirque of the Towers in the Winds—and affirmed a truth about that patch of rocks and dirt: It still possessed the capacity to take my breath away and make my heart speed up a little bit (although the climb to the pass may have had something to do with that).

It was a comfort to see that the effect the Wind River Range has on me had not changed.

Despite lying just south of two of America’s most beloved national parks—Grand Teton and Yellowstone—Wyoming’s Wind River Range exists in a sort of odd state of exalted partial anonymity. Backpackers who go there almost invariably leave feeling they have discovered a mountain paradise (because they have). Yet, the Winds remain off the radar of many people who enjoy putting on a backpack and walking for days through mountains.

Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

A backpacker hiking into Titcomb Basin in the Wind River Range, Wyoming.
Todd Arndt backpacking into Titcomb Basin in the Wind River Range, Wyoming.

After several backpacking trips in the Winds, I find myself drawn back ever more strongly. I’m hoping to return again this summer—but in a sense, I’m always planning my next trip in the Winds. And I’ve hiked through many mountain ranges across the country over more than three decades of backpacking, including the 10 years I spent as the Northwest Editor of Backpacker magazine and even longer running this blog. I rank the Winds among “America’s Top 10 Best Backpacking Trips.”

This story will attempt to convey the many good reasons every avid backpacker should hike in the Wind River Range. Give it a read, I think you’ll be convinced. Click any photo to read about that trip. Please share your thoughts on this article—or your favorite Wind River Range hikes—in the comments section below this story. I try to respond to all comments.

I’ve helped many readers of my blog plan a very enjoyable backpacking trip in the Winds. See my Custom Trip Planning page to learn how I can do that for you.

Find your next adventure in your Inbox. Sign up now for my FREE email newsletter.

A backpacker at a tarn in the upper valley of Middle Fork Lake on the Wind River High Route.
Justin Glass at a tarn in the upper valley of Middle Fork Lake on the Wind River High Route.

1. Well, There’s the Mountains and Lakes…

Outside the High Sierra and Colorado Rockies, no mountain range in the Lower 48 matches the majestic heights of the Winds. Stretching for almost 100 miles from north to south and spanning more than 7,000 square miles, the Winds are home to about 40 peaks rising above 13,000 feet, including Wyoming’s highest, 13,804-foot Gannett Peak.

And besides the High Sierra, there may be no mountain range in the country with as many lovely alpine lakes and tarns as the Wind River Range—you will lose count of the lakes you hike past and regret not camping beside.

Plus, much of the Wind River Range lies within federally designated wilderness, enjoying all the protections conveyed on those lands: no motors, no visitor centers, no roads crossing the range anywhere. Unlike national park gateway towns like Springdale, Utah (Zion), Jackson, Wyoming (Grand Teton), and Bar Harbor, Maine (Acadia), the handful of small towns that ring the range remain uncrowded places with a feel of authenticity, where you can feast on a great dinner or breakfast pre- or post-trip and grab lodging without busting your travel budget or wading through herds of drive-by tourists.

As many seasoned backpackers know, if you’re looking for a remote and inspiring adventure in the best of the Rocky Mountains, arguably nothing beats the Winds.

I’ve helped many readers plan an unforgettable backpacking trip in the Wind River Range.
Want my help with yours? Find out more here.

A backpacker hiking to Island Lake in Wyoming's Wind River Range.
Todd Arndt backpacking to Island Lake in Wyoming’s Wind River Range. Click photo to get my help planning your trip.

2. No Permit Complications

With many marquis national parks and trails—Yosemite, Glacier, Grand Canyon, Mount Rainier, Zion, the John Muir Trail, Teton Crest Trail, and Wonderland Trail and others—you must plan and apply for a backcountry permit months in advance of your trip. And there’s no guarantee you’ll get it. (Learn some smart strategies for success at that in my “10 Tips for Getting a Hard-to-Get National Park Backcountry Permit.”)

Not so in the Wind River Range—just show up, throw your pack on, and start hiking. You still must figure out when and where exactly to go and perhaps corral some backpacking partners, but there are no bureaucratic hoops to jump through.

That’s very appealing for backpackers who don’t always plan their trips months in advance or who struck out getting a permit somewhere else—or who find themselves changing plans due to wildfires, a common summer occurrence these days.

Want to read any story linked here?
Join now to read ALL stories and get a free e-guide and gear discounts!

A backpacker hiking toward Photo Pass on the Wind River High Route.
Kristian Blaich hiking toward Photo Pass on the Wind River High Route.

3. The Solitude

While there’s no permit system to limit the numbers of backpackers wandering the Winds—and a few areas are popular—the vastness of the range and difficulty of exploring deeply into it (see below) creates natural limitations on human density there. You may see numerous vehicles parked at busy trailheads like Elkhart Park or Big Sandy, but people spread out in this backcountry. I’ve walked trails in the Winds many times seeing very few other hikers.

The Winds also lie quite far from big cities and major airports, a major factor limiting the numbers of people; and in much of the range, the Continental Divide—nexus of the best scenery in the Winds—lies many miles from the nearest trailhead. Backpacking in the Winds demands a real commitment of time and effort.

The off-trail hiking opportunities are abundant (for people with the skills for that) and virtually guarantee hours and days of solitude—as I’ve experienced on two recent trips there, backpacking the 96-mile Wind River High Route, two-thirds of which is off-trail, and on a cross-country section of a loop hike through Titcomb Basin. My companions and I encountered other backpackers when following trails—though usually relatively few of them—but seeing other people when crossing remote passes and valleys where no trail exists were so rare they became a surprising pleasure.

Backpackers hiking past a tarn off the Highline Trail (CDT) in Wyoming's Wind River Range.
Chip Roser and Penny Beach backpacking past a tarn off the Highline Trail (CDT) in Wyoming’s Wind River Range.

And you can stay entirely on trail and still enjoy a high degree of solitude, as my wife, a friend, and I did in late summer 2022 on a five-day, 43-mile loop through an area of the Winds I had mostly not seen before. We enjoyed one of the best backcountry campsites I’ve ever had—to ourselves (as was true of every camp on that trip)—crossed four high passes and walked past countless gorgeous lakes. And I think the total amount of time we spent with other people within sight amounted to under two hours… over five days.

Plus, the Winds have a short peak season—generally mid-July to early or mid-September—and you’ll see fewer people by pushing the boundaries of that season with a good weather window (among my “12 Expert Tips for Finding Solitude When Backpacking”), remaining mindful that snow can fall in September.

After the Wind River Range, hike the other nine of “America’s Top 10 Best Backpacking Trips.”

Backpackers at a tarn above Golden Lake on the Wind River High Route.
Backpackers at a tarn above Golden Lake on the Wind River High Route.

4. It’s Not Easy… And That’s Good

Besides their location far from big cities and major airports, another major factor limiting the numbers of people backpacking in the Winds is the simple difficulty of hiking there. You will walk miles of rugged wilderness trails to reach the prime goods, above 10,000 feet much of the time and crossing passes usually well over 11,000 feet, all of which ratchets up the strenuousness and amplifies fatigue.

You’ll feel like you’ve earned your lakeside campsites and lonely sunsets in the Winds. And having to earn your wilderness helps keep the less-committed away.

Plan your next great backpacking trip in Yosemite, Grand Teton, and other parks using my expert e-guides.

Backpackers hiking to Island Lake in Wyoming's Wind River Range.
Backpackers hiking to Titcomb Basin in Wyoming’s Wind River Range. Click photo to see all stories about backpacking in the Winds at The Big Outside.

5. You Will Fall in Love With the Winds

The Wind River Range creates its own gravitational pull. Backpackers who go once find themselves returning over and over. I’ve met backpackers who’ve been numerous times and hardly go anywhere else—and I can’t blame them. The Winds offer an overt promise of a beautiful experience that’s quite unique in the country and deliver on that promise every time.

Personally, as someone who prefers seeing new places rather than returning repeatedly to one or two places, I’ve still found myself going back again and again to certain special parks and wilderness areas that never grow ordinary: Yosemite. The Tetons. The Grand Canyon. Glacier. And there are others.

I place the Wind River Range in that elite company. Each time I return reminds me why I do and inspires me to plan the next trip.

And I know I’ll never be disappointed.

See my stories “Backpacking Through a Lonely Corner of the Wind River Range,” “Best of the Wind River Range: Backpacking to Titcomb Basin,” “Adventure and Adversity on the Wind River High Route,” and “A Walk in the Winds: Dayhiking 27 Miles Across the Wind River Range,” and all stories about backpacking in the Winds at The Big Outside. Like most stories about trips at this blog, reading those in full requires a paid subscription to this blog.

You live for the outdoors. The Big Outside helps you get out there.
Join now to read ALL stories and a get free e-guide!


How to Get a Last-Minute Yosemite Wilderness Permit Now

Review: Mountain Hardwear Phantom 30 Sleeping Bag


Leave a Comment

35 thoughts on “5 Reasons You Must Backpack the Wind River Range”

  1. Hi Mike,

    Thank you for an extraordinary and genuine description about the Winds.

    My father who recently passed was largely involved with NOLS and spent a lot of time in the Winds. Before he passed he told me about this area and it is goal to get there within the next few weeks.

    I have done a decent amount of backpacking and three/ four solo 1-2 night trips in the Sierras and on the east coast. I’m in good shape, and feel fairly confident going out there. Wondering what and where you would suggest route wise- for a 3 night solo trip this next month? Looking for solitude yet also keeping in mind being solo I may want to be able to come across a few people here and there.

    Also, do you know anywhere in Jackson or Pinedale I would be able to rent an in reach or sat. phone?

    Most importantly I will be leaving no trace and respecting the mountains as it is another other home- as I was raised.

    Thank you


    • Hey C,

      The Winds are extraordinary and I’m planning another trip there soon myself. There are numerous trailheads to choose from but the two on the west side that provide easiest access to some wonderful lakes and mountain scenery are Elkhart Park and Big Sandy and you can figure out variable itineraries from those spots.

      I’ve helped many other readers plan backpacking trips in the Winds. See my my Custom Trip Planning page) if you’re interested.

      Thanks for the comment and good luck.

  2. I agree, had heard rumors but never imagined the opportunities that were just to the east of Pinedale as i sped north to Yellowstone . Got a taste on an overnighter hiking the cirque loop. Trips are being planned!

  3. It is very selfish to see your responses to promotion. You clearly value your authority and image more than the health of the range. It is available to everyone…now. What happens when it becomes permitted because of overcrowding from sites like yours? You aren’t putting the mountains first. I’m on the inside as far as future plans and mitigation of the Winds…sites like yours are the reason that we will have to permit…making it unavailable to everyone that can’t get a permit. We either self govern or the government does it for us. Sounds like your ego is too important. Harsh truths are, well, harsh.

    • Well, I have to say one thing about those of you who share the opinion that public lands should not be used by all members of the public: You are all consistent in your argument. You all assume a holier-than-thou tone implying that you know what the problem is—which you apparently believe is that too many members of the public are becoming aware of the beauty of their public lands and using them—and readily blame blogs like mine (and before there were blogs, you blamed the outdoor magazines) without having any data to back up your argument, such as to how many visitors my blog has or how many visitors to the Wind River Range learned about it specifically from my blog. (I know how many visitors my blog has and how many of those visitors read my stories about the Winds and it’s frankly absurd to suggest that my blog is driving a huge influx of visitors. Plus, those who are discovering the Winds thanks to my blog are doing so of their own free will and I’m happy for them.)

      You also demonize as evil people like me who simply want to help other people discover the glory of their own public lands rather than trying to address me in a tone of respect. If you were to speak with any of your work colleagues in that tone, I can’t imagine you’d have much success. But it’s always easier to take a combative tone when posting a comment online or using social media to vent your misguided rage.

      I’ve often wondered whether people like you think through the assumptions you make. If the problem is that too many members of the public are discovering their public lands—presumably because of blogs like mine—then you imply that fewer people should have such knowledge of these places. You and others making this argument imply that these places have a “use by” date and anyone who didn’t find out about them years ago shouldn’t be showing up there today. How many years ago is your cutoff: 10, 20, 50 years ago? Does that mean that I can visit these places but my kids and their peers can’t? Does it mean that certain populations who historically have not used America’s public lands in high numbers, such as people of color who are discovering these places in greater numbers in recent years, should not have access?

      One thing I NEVER hear people like you say is: “The door to this place should have been closed before I first got there.” Your argument doesn’t suggest that YOU are the problem for using those lands, only other people who came after you. And you call me selfish.

      You should understand this fact: You are among a small minority of the public who feel this way. I’ve been an outdoors writer for 30 years and I encounter attitudes like yours very rarely. The vast majority of people are very appreciative of my blog and the information it offers. Many of my readers are discovering America’s beautiful public lands for the first time—and they deserve to discover them just as much as you or I or anyone else who first discovered them years ago.

      You don’t explain how exactly you’re on the “inside” of future plans for the Winds, but if you work in management there, you have a shortsighted attitude to believe that a permit system is a terrible outcome. I just returned from a nine-day backpacking trip in the High Sierra, where I obtained a permit from the Inyo National Forest. They have a fine, well-functioning permit system that’s easy to use and affordable and it helps control overuse—and the Sierra sees far more demand from users than the Winds. The permit system brings in revenue for the national forest to help maintain trails. Other national forests could use it as a template for a permit system modified to suit their specific demands and impact.

      That would certainly work much better than trying to find a scapegoat for growing public demand for public lands, which is, in reality, an outgrowth of a growing population with greater mobility and greater interest in getting outdoors, which the pandemic greatly increased. Those people who have discovered the outdoors in recent years will come back for the same reasons as many of us who’ve kept coming back for more years. America’s public lands have no “use by” date and are not there only for certain people to use and not others. If you want to be part of the solution, I urge you to begin by not misidentifying the “problem.”

  4. Hi Mike,

    My wife and I just got back from a 35-mile lollipop out of the Elkhart trailhead–our first visit to the Winds. You are right: phenomenal country and the scale boggles the mind. The route to Titcomb and Indian Basins was kind of a zoo, but like you mentioned, we found that there are many trails and lakes where you can get away from people. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Hey Tom,

      I’m glad you and Kim had such a nice hike. I’m planning a return to the Winds again soon. Talk to me when you’re thinking about going back. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  5. I was desperately looking for people to backpack with during the first 2 weeks of August this year and I was offered an invite to join someone in the Wind River Range, and that was very kind, but I must admit, I have been to a few places and I have viewed a LOT of pictures of backcountry locations on the internet over the years and I must admit: it’s a landscape that DOES NOT interest me. I like more of a balance of “lush” and forest with my rock! The Wind River Range, particularly up high seems to be pretty much ALL rock. Feel free to set me straight if I’m wrong, I still have time to take this guy up on his offer.

  6. Wonderful description of the Wind Rivers. My family and I backpacked in the Wind Rivers over 47 years ago. We had the pleasure of meeting Finis Mitchell and we’re fortunate to have gotten to go in with him a few times. If you’re not familiar with the contributions Finis made to the Wind Rivers you should research his background.

  7. Michael, I tend to agree with those who disapprove of advertising this area by encouraging everyone to go there. Having backpacked in the Wind River Range for over 4 decades now, I have witnessed dramatic and terrible changes, primarily due to people who either don’t understand the concept of responsible stewardship, or don’t care about it. I respect everyone’s right to go there, but to me it makes no sense to beg them to come, because there will always be that percentage of backpackers that abuse this amazing and in the not so distant past pristine place.

    With that you and I are not going to agree about much, I get it. Could I ask you to at least emphasize the necessity of proper stewardship when you promote this? I presume this is probably one topic where we are not miles apart. Take care,

    • Hi Mike,

      I appreciate and respect your perspective on this. I do try to educate my readers about all aspects of backcountry travel, including responsible stewardship. I personally have volunteered thousands of hours of my time to help with public lands management and on the board of a conservation organization. And I will always believe that we all have an equal right to access public lands, a point I’m sure you agree with. I concur also that we all share a responsibility to help care and advocate for these places to protect them for everyone who follows us.

  8. Two short hikes to Cook Lakes were exhilerating, and we caught what appeared to be golden trout. We only had to go about 6 miles from the trailhead, not far from Pinedale, but then ascending about 3,000 feet with 50 lbs on our backs was about all of us out of shape easterners could handle. Loved every minute.

    • Cook Lakes is more like 11-12 miles from the closest trailhead (Elkhart). Golden trout are no longer in those lakes. Total elevation gain is about 3500 but it is a lot of up and down. 50 lbs is certainly heavy, so no doubt you were tired.

  9. Hi Michael,

    Really enjoyed the article and your blog generally. I will be in Wyoming and am consider a trip in the Winds but have a concern. I have a lot of backpacking experience but it has all been on fairly well-established trails. As such, I really don’t have good navigational skills in terms of my ability to use a map and compass to figure out where I am and where I need to go. I haven’t really done any off-trail hiking where a map and compass would be necessary to figure out my situation.

    My question is, is my lack of navigation skills a dealbreaker as far as a trip to the Winds is concerned? I am considering a 4-day loop to Titcomb, but the more I look into it, the more concerned I am about my lack of navigational skills. I see pictures of people hiking across bare rock with no discernable trail, and that concerns me. I will be taking my InReach Mini with me, but the Winds is a very remote area and I don’t want to end up in a situation where I don’t know where I am or where I’m going. Are there areas where there is a real chance I could get significantly lost and end up in trouble, or is the way actually fairly straightforward and my fears are overblown?

    I don’t want to put myself in danger, but I also don’t want to allow my concerns to cause me to miss out on what could be a fantastic trip if it is in fact doable. Bottom line, does a lack of good navigation skills make an attempt to do this genuinely unsafe? I appreciate your advice.

    • Hi Vincent,

      Thanks for that good, legitimate question. As you may have surmised, I’ve backpacked in the Wind River Range several times, most recently just a couple of weeks ago with my 20-year-old son. The Winds are definitely among my favorite mountain ranges. I’m sure you’d love exploring them.

      Many of the established and maintained trails in the Winds are adequately marked, signed, and quite visible on the ground, and most maps show those trails. Some maps and mapping programs also show unmaintained routes, usually marking them differently to indicate that they may be harder to follow. Some backpackers may want to avoid those routes, but most backpackers wouldn’t have trouble navigating the maintained trails. Off-trail routes, like much of the Wind River High Route, traverse much more difficult terrain where navigation requires expert skills, so you’d probably not prefer those routes.

      I think you’d find the trails beginning at either Big Sandy campground or Elkhart Park, both on the west side of the range, offer good options for first-time backpackers there. I drove the road to Big Sandy recently, it’s passable for any cars when driving with care. The road to Elkhart is good.

      Check the forecast right before your trip, of course. Many trails in the Winds get up over 10,000 feet and snow can fall in late summer, and snow covering the ground would definitely obscure trails and complicate navigation greatly.

      I hope you sign up for my free email newsletter and decide to Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. And click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

      Enjoy your first trip to the Wind River Range. I expect you’ll return.

      Thanks again and keep in touch.

      • Thank you for the reply, I looked at some routes from the trailheads you mentioned and found some that I think will be OK for me, I appreciate the advice. I think I’ll make a point of using the next several months getting my navigation skills up to par so that next summer I can confidently tackle something more ambitious. Thank you!

      • Thank you for all of this information. I lost a great friend this summer on Gannett Peak. He had suffered a fatal fall on descent in early August. As a Wyoming native, I treat these mountains with great respect.

        • I’m sorry for your loss, Nicholas. I know the heartache of losing a friend in the mountains. I’m sure many people who explore the Winds, wherever they are from, treat those mountains with respect.

  10. In 1992, I went on a spring cattle drive along the upper Green River based at a ranch in Cora, WY. I always wanted to return and in 9/2019, with my eldest child graduated from college, I returned and solo backpacked for 6 days in the northern section. My daughter and I returned in 8/2020 and backpacked for 3 nights. Minor medical issues cut the trip short. I am now drawn to return mid-September. I guess I am hooked! Thanks for the article!

    • Hey Thomas,

      Thanks for sharing, that’s a great story. The Winds do hook you like that. I feel the same way. I was there recently and may go back again this year. September can be a nice time in the Winds, but you can see snow, too. In fact, right after a September trip I took a few years ago, a foot of snow fell in the high country.

      Good luck and stay safe.

  11. I wish you wouldn’t promote great places such as the wind rivers. They will only get overcrowded by this kind of commercialization. I realize you probably have good intentions — but this kind promotion is really a disservice to those of us who appreciate keeping wild areas wild. Word of mouth is good enough as far as I am concerned — and I don’t even do that with the wild areas I like to visit. Thanks for listening.

    • Hi Brad,

      I understand that sentiment and I hear it occasionally—though not always expressed as respectfully as you have expressed it—but I’ll be honest, I’m not sympathetic to it. As with all the places I write about at this blog, the Wind River Range is public land (with the unusual difference that part of it is on a reservation, and that’s also open to the public with a fee) and open to everyone. There is plenty of information about the Winds available from many sources, including the websites of the national forests that manage those public lands. This place is no secret. Anyone looking at a map can see it.

      I’ve never heard anyone who argues against sharing information about public lands suggest that they personally should never have heard or learned about a place. People making that argument always suggest that others should not hear about a place they love after they’ve discovered it. I don’t believe people really think out the many implications of that attitude, including that more and more people of color are now enjoying the outdoors than have in the past—which is a good thing—and saying that they shouldn’t learn of a mountain range as special as the Winds is simply elitist and a little too selfish for me.

      I see the fact of more people discovering the outdoors as good for the health and mental well-being of individuals and good for our country if people are healthier and happier. It also creates more advocates for preserving and taking care of these places—and we sorely need more people like that.

      I’ve been exploring backcountry areas all over America and the world for about four decades and I’ve always found that one of the best ways to escape the crowds is to simply hike deeper into the backcountry, as I suggest in my “12 Expert Tips for Finding Solitude When Backpacking.” The Wind River Range has enormous area to lose yourself. I just received an email from a reader who said his family saw 200 or more cars in the parking lot at the popular Big Sandy Trailhead on a recent trip, but still enjoyed plenty of solitude on their hike. I’ll be heading there with my son very soon.

      I wish you much continued backcountry enjoyment and moments of solitude, just as I wish that for everyone.

    • EXACTLY!
      Every wonderful pristine place that is promoted gets overrun with people who destroy it. They leave trash and human waste, pollute the water and otherwise make it less appealing with their disruptive presence. Let those people stay in the State and National parks where they have custodians to clean up after them and make them abide by the rules.

      • Dean,

        See my above response to Brad’s comment. Everything I wrote there applies to your comment, but I’ll highlight this point in particular: I’ve never heard anyone who argues against sharing information about public lands suggest that they personally should never have heard or learned about a place.

        If you believe any place receives too many visitors, then do the noble and selfless thing and stop going there yourself. Otherwise, accept that everyone else has equal right to use public land as you do. And enjoy it.

        Backpack deeper into the Winds, more than a day’s hike from a very popular trailhead like Big Sandy, and you will see far fewer people. I’ve backpacked for days seeing very few other people there.

        • Michael,

          I cannot help but respond to the “debate” on this page about access and overuse of supposed remote wilderness areas. I did not discover backpacking till I was in my forties and now closing in on 70, I consider myself an above average hiker in terms of experience. I have hiked in some of the most popular national parks and have never been bothered by overcrowding…once you get past the first mile. And I am assuming that will be the case during my upcoming trip to the Winds. I have discovered many places via The Big Outside, and I do not think the blog has contributed in any way to overuse of specific trails or destinations. A good example is the Teton Crest Trail which you write about often, one of your favorites. On our trip on the Teton Crest, we encountered very few hikers and spent the night in Alaska Basin totally by ourselves.

          I live less than 2 miles from a State Park located in a metropolitan area. On a Saturday, if you do not arrive before 9AM, you will not be able to find parking. But even on peak days, you can find solitude on trails if you go further than a mile. I have hiked the main rim trails in the Grand Canyon twice, and was always amazed how respectful hikers were – never saw a speck of trash – until you get within a mile of the rim. I have backpacked in the Great Smokies many times – by far the most visited national park – and have always been able to find solitude and a permit for days I want to go. This year the Smokies require a daily parking permit (entry has always been free) and I applaud that as a way to raise revenue to maintain the park. $5/day hardly keeps anyone away.

          Bottomline, I agree with your comments. Blogs and magazine articles may encourage more folks to discover the great outdoors, but are not “spoiling” the experience for the rest of us. I love seeing more people outside exercising and enjoying the beauty of their public lands, it can be life changing. There is enough space for everyone. And for those who are concerned..just go the extra mile!

          • Well said, Barry, thank you for sharing those thoughts and your personal experience. As you have read in my comments, I categorically reject any suggestion (made by a very few readers of this blog) that public lands should only be enjoyed by people who “got there first” (a myth) or first discovered a place decades ago. Managing public lands for preservation and access is wise management. The attitude that some people don’t deserve to be there doesn’t serve anyone.

  12. Hi Mike,

    Good story. We meet some FS personnel on the way out last summer. They were, amongst other things, researching the possibility of a permit system. At least you’re an expert, but I’ve seen way too many not so experienced hikers now blogging about Titcomb and the Cirque. Don Henley’s famous truism “call some place paradise, kiss it goodbye” has found a new home in the Winds.

    On a brighter note, when will you be there? I’m planning on being in the area for most of July/August. Maybe some time in the Bighorns but mostly in the Northern Winds.

    Hope we cross paths this summer.


    • Hey Peter,

      Thanks and good to hear from you. Yes, I know we see more and more people in the backcountry. People are increasingly mobile and willing to get to places like the Winds. I still get reminded all the time that the number of people we see in the backcountry is primarily affected by not just how well known a place is, but how hard it is to reach any spot within it and whether you go during the very peak time when everyone goes. And we were all those inexperienced people walking into the mountains at one time.

      I’ll email you about my plans. It would be fun to connect.