By Michael Lanza
In late afternoon, near the end of a day of backpacking some 14 miles—mostly above 10,000 feet—two friends and I walked into Titcomb Basin, deep in Wyoming’s Wind River Range, mouths gaping open. Forming a horseshoe embracing this alpine valley at over 10,500 feet, mountains soared more than 3,000 feet above the windblown Titcomb Lakes, including the second-highest in the Winds, 13,745-foot Fremont Peak, on the Continental Divide.
But by that point on the first day of our 39-mile backpacking trip, my companions were fully smitten by the Winds—as I have been since my first trip there 30 years ago.
Our three-day, mid-September hike from Elkhart Park, on the west side of the Winds, took us on an up-and-down tour past several dozen lakes (we were tempted to camp at most of them) and over three 12,000-foot passes, one of which, Knapsack Col, we reached via an off-trail route that added a spicy flavor to our trip.
After several jaw-dropping backpacking and climbing trips and one very long, east-west dayhike across the range, I’ve gotten to know the Winds well enough to rank these mountains among the top 10 best backpacking trips in America, a list that draws from my more than three decades of backpacking, including formerly as the Northwest Editor of Backpacker magazine for 10 years and even longer running this blog.
Every time I return to the Winds—as I did in each of the past two summers, including backpacking the 96-mile Wind River High Route in August 2020—I tend to ask myself the same question again and again: “Why don’t I just come here all the time?”
With sheer-walled mountains rising to over 12,000 and 13,000 feet, numerous passes over 11,000 and 12.000 feet, and a constellation of trout-filled lakes that offer some of the most scenic campsites you will find anywhere (not to mention some very fine trout fishing), I think you would fall in love with the Winds as quickly as I did.
If you are looking for a trip to take this summer with no permit reservation required, the Wind River Range has numerous trailheads to access various parts of it. And I can help you plan a trip in the Winds (as I have done for many readers of my blog). See my Custom Trip Planning page for details.
I’ve helped many readers plan an unforgettable backpacking or hiking trip.
Want my help with yours? Find out more here.
As many time as I’ve walked through the Wind River Range, there remains much I want to explore there. I’m already planning my next trip.
See my stories “Best of the Wind River Range: Backpacking to Titcomb Basin,” “Adventure and Adversity on the Wind River High Route,“ “A Walk in the Winds: A One-Day, 27-Mile Traverse of the Wind River Range,” and all of my stories about the Wind River Range at The Big Outside.
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