Mountain Lakes of the Wind River Range—A Photo Gallery

By Michael Lanza

We followed the Doubletop Mountain Trail as it rolled over open plateau country above 10,000 feet in the Wind River Range, crossing one gorgeous lake basin after another where wildflowers still carpeted the ground in the week before Labor Day. In the distance, peaks along the Continental Divide soared to over 13,000 feet, jabbing at the underbellies of clouds. Turning onto the Highline Trail, we reached an unnamed tarn in late afternoon and walked beyond it to a flat, broad bench overlooking a meadow and lake below a pair of huge towers, 12,119-foot Sky Pilot Peak and 12,224-foot Mount Oeneis. It was a serendipitous find to make our home for the night.

But the real magic arrived the next morning, when nature served up a perfect stew of conditions—calm air, dappled light, still water, and a stunning backdrop—to create a scene that validates carrying all the weight on your back for days (and makes for a pretty good photo, above).

I first began exploring Wyoming’s Wind River Range about 30 years ago and have returned many times since, drawn back again and again by its almost bottomless well of adventure potential. In that time, I’ve learned about the many reasons to walk for days through the Winds, which exist in the deep shadow of Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks just a couple of hours to the north—a state of relative anonymity that many backpackers celebrate. Its lack of national park status and sheer vastness enable a high degree of solitude for backpackers willing to make the considerable effort (and take the time) to explore more deeply into the range, which extends for nearly 100 miles north to south.

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 watching the alpenglow light up peaks above Vista Pass, Wind River Range, WY.
Chip Roser watching the alpenglow light up peaks above Vista Pass, Wind River Range, WY.

And few mountain ranges match the grandiosity of the Wind River Range. The Colorado Rockies and High Sierra reach greater heights and I would include both among the handful of ranges—certainly the Tetons and the Teton Crest Trail as well as Yosemite and the High Sierra, Glacier, the North Cascades, and the Wonderland Trail around Mount Rainier—that project the breathtaking grandeur of the soaring, jagged peaks of the Winds, where some 40 summits top 13,000 feet, including Wyoming’s highest, 13,804-foot Gannett Peak.

Plus, much of the Wind River Range lies within federally designated wilderness, meaning no visitor centers, no motors, no roads crossing the range anywhere.

But it’s the lakes that will steal your heart. With the notable exception of the High Sierra, no mountain range in America harbors as many beautiful alpine lakes and tarns as the Wind River Range. Backpacking there, you will hike past several every day where you will wish you were camping.

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


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

I’ve carried a pack through many mountain ranges across the country over more than three decades, including the 10 years I spent as the Northwest Editor of Backpacker magazine and even longer running this blog. But there are just a handful of places I return to again and again as much as I do the Winds, which I count among “America’s Top 10 Best Backpacking Trips.” I think these photos of many of my favorite Wind River Range lakes might persuade you to explore these mountains.

But be forewarned: It can be habit-forming.

Click on the photo gallery to view each photo enlarged and scroll below the gallery to links to stories about backpacking in the Winds at The Big Outside.

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

See “5 Reasons You Must Backpack the Wind River Range,” “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 The Big Outside.

Get full access to all of my story about the Wind River Range and ALL stories at The Big Outside,
plus get a FREE e-guide and gear discounts. Join now!


Review: Arc’teryx Norvan Windshell Jacket

Photo Gallery: Backpacking Idaho’s White Cloud Mountains


Leave a Comment

2 thoughts on “Mountain Lakes of the Wind River Range—A Photo Gallery”

  1. I’ve only been to the south end of this wonder-filled range. Hopefully my next visit will hit the midsection (Mts. Bonneville to Lester) and include a base camp or two for quick visits to the east side, where glaciers are still hard at work. The area is rougher and both bugs and weather harsher than my several Sierra trips, but the effort is most rewarding.

    Thanks for the scenic tour!