Backpacking the Wind River Range—a Photo Gallery

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 more than 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.


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A backpacker overlooking the Cirque of the Towers in the Wind River Range.
Justin Glass overlooking the Cirque of the Towers in the Wind River Range.

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 four summers, including backpacking the 96-mile Wind River High Route in 2020 (photo above), this beautiful, five-day loop in 2022 (photo below), and a four-day hike I consider the best backpacking trip in the Winds in 2023—I tend to ask myself the same question again and again: “Why don’t I just come here all the time?”

See “The 10 Best Backpacking Trips in the Wind River Range.”

Backpackers hiking past the tarn overlooking Mount Oeneis and Sky Pilot Peak, on the Highline Trail in the Wind River Range.
Chip Roser and Penny Beach backpacking past a tarn below Mount Oeneis and Sky Pilot Peak, on the Highline Trail in the Wind River Range.

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.
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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 “The 10 Best Backpacking Trips in the Wind River Range,” “The Best Backpacking Trip in the Wind River Range? Yup,” “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,“ “A Walk in the Winds: A One-Day, 27-Mile Traverse of the Wind River Range,” and all stories about the Wind River Range at The Big Outside.

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6 thoughts on “Backpacking the Wind River Range—a Photo Gallery”

  1. Living in Wyoming most my adult life I’ve spent many days in the Winds. They are beyond belief! But I’d like to point out that there is the Roaring Fork mountains on the South end of the Winds and to the West the Wyoming Range. Wyoming is full of mountains, just leave them like you were never there.

    Reply
  2. Why not the Winds every trip? Because they’re mean! Compared to the Sierra, weather can be nastier, bugs definitely buggier, and just getting there is a workout. All that factored in, though, the views and relative solitude are worth a few bug bites and white hairs. They’re definitely a sight (or a few dozen sights) not to miss.

    Reply
    • Yes, the weather in the Winds can be rougher than it typically is in the High Sierra, but I would say the Sierra mosquitoes in July and the first half of August can compare with anywhere in the Lower 48. And the scenery in the Winds is definitely worth the effort in getting there.

      Reply
  3. Miichael, your thoughts on Bobber lake and Fish Pole lake so possibly a 5 or 6 mile one way in to some good high mountain lake fishing. Not much time each summer to get out so good info is hard to rely on as eash summer seems to go faster and faster. Thanks for your time!

    Ron

    Reply
    • Hi Ron,

      I’m not familiar with the two lakes you mention, but for relatively short and quick access to numerous backcountry lakes in the Winds, the easiest and best trailhead is probably starting at Elkhart Park and to hike out the Pole Creek Trail to Sweeney Lakes or Seneca Lake. There are numerous other lakes you can hike to in that area. See this story for photos from that area.

      Thanks for the question.

      Reply