South-Central Wind River Range
September 1, 2019 - September 7, 2019
Introduction
This trip report covers a backpacking trip in the Wind River Range of Wyoming that my wife and I took in early September, 2019, from September 1 to September 7, 2019.
Context
I am extremely fortunate to have a job with a generous and flexible vacation policy. Unfortunately, my best friend and favorite hiking partner does not have the same luxury these days. This year, we were able to take a full week of completely off-the-grid time. We threw around a few different ideas for this time, but quickly settled on a return trip to the Wind River Range. We were simply amazed by the range during our hike of the Wind River High Route the year before and had been eagerly awaiting the chance to return.
The Route
Despite living in a place where fair-weather backpacking is feasible year-round, I don’t get out as much in the wintertime. As a result, I become restless every spring and often end up making a few impulse purchases (maps and books mostly) to tide myself over until the snow begins to melt in the high mountains. One of this year’s purchases was Nancy Pallister’s book Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming, the authoritative source for off-trail hiking in the Winds. The guts of this book are 50 recommended cross country hikes in the Winds, ranging from an easy few days to month-long forays into the high mountains. In addition to these routes, the book contains a couple of other important pieces of information. First, the book outlines a grading system for on-trail and off-trail travel in the winds, based on difficulty, speed, and danger. This provides a good framing for each of these routes, at least relatively. Second, there’s a CD containing color photos of each of these routes and a 79 page annotated mapset showing the location and condition of every on-trail and off-trail route described in the book, an invaluable resource.
There weren’t any routes in Pallister’s book that I wanted to follow to a T, so I focused on picking and choosing bits from a few different routes to design a new route. We wanted to explore the south-central part of the range a little bit more, especially a couple of areas not visited by WRHR: the South and North Forks of the Little Wind River. After a bit more work, I put together a route plan that did this, including a number of shortcuts in case we weren’t able to complete the full route as planned for any reason.
Here’s the original route plan. The core route is in red, shortcuts are in green, and optional extension is in blue. The gist of it was to hike from Dickinson Park into the South Fork, then hike mostly cross country from the South Fork Lakes to the North Fork, hitting Spearpoint and Baptiste Lakes along the way. Then, we’d cross to the North Fork via Roberts Pass and explore the lakes in this basin. Next, we’d cross to the west side of the range via Photo or Odyssey Pass and follow the WRHR south to the Cirque of the Towers. From the Cirque, we’d follow trails back to Dickinson Park. This seemed a bit ambitious, but there were plenty of shortcuts along the way. I printed out maps and datasheets covering all of this.
Getting There
The gear, all ready to go.
Very fitting.
We flew to Denver on the Friday of Labour Day, and made our way to Lander via Boulder, in the local style.
Beginning to look like Wyoming.
In Lander, we stopped to pick up a reservation fishing permit, a bit of fishing gear for me, and some groceries before continuing on to Dickinson Park.
After a bumpy ride up the road through the reservation, we reached Dickinson Creek.
We set up camp for the night at Dickinson Creek Campground. Despite the fact that it was a holiday weekend, there were only two other groups at the campground, a stark contrast to what we’re used to out in California. We sorted gear and enjoyed some beers and the sunset before a restful night of sleep under the stars.
Day 1: Bears Ears Trailhead to South Fork Lakes
13.9 miles, +3,200’, 10% Cross Country
We slept in and enjoyed some coffee in the morning before hitting the trail around noon. Not knowing exactly where our hike would end, we parked the car at the Bears Ears Trailhead, along with the 6 or so other cars there.
The view of Funnel Lake from Adams Pass. We were climbing up, but the plateau to the west blocked our view. We saw a group descending from Adams Pass not far from the trailhead.
Shannon hiking towards Mount Chauvenet.
Mount Chauvenet from the north.
Shannon cresting the ridge to views of the peaks of the South Fork drainage.
The view of the South Fork drainage from the plateau. The massive Grave Lake is visible in the middle.
Panoramic view. In addition to Grave Lake, note the high flat top of Musembeah Peak on the horizon and the massive cliff face above Spearpoint Lake at left.
Shannon strolling across the plateau high above the South Fork.
One more shot from the high point before descending. Baptiste Lake is just barely visible in this photo, as is the top of Mount Hooker. We’d soon come much closer to all of this wild terrain.
Views of Peak 12030 above the Chauvenet Valley as we descended towards Valentine Lake. We originally planned to come up this valley and join the trail at the junction of the Bears Ears and Lizard Head Trails, but opted for the trail route to get into the mountains a bit quicker.
Descending towards Valentine Lake.
The meadow below Little Valentine Lake.
Views of Lizard Head Peak across Valentine Lake. We discussed making camp at Valentine Lake for the night, but opted to continue to the South Fork Lakes, as we had a bit of daylight left in the day.
We didn’t see any signs of a use trail branching south from the Moss Lake Trail, but we picked up this use trail after wandering through the woods for a few minutes. I suspect this is the old trail through this area.
Peaks of the South Fork, and the South Fork Glacier. An interesting field study of this glacier is discussed on this University of Maine website.
Shannon enjoying some evening light on the old trail towards the largest of the South Fork Lakes.
After a mile or so on the old trail, we cut off to intersect the lowest of the lakes (Lake 10462) and found a nice campsite on a bench with fantastic views. Evening light was waning, so we took care of our camp chores quickly so we could enjoy the sunset.
The view directly across the lake.
Looking towards the outlet of the lake.
One more evening shot of the headwaters.
Last light of the day on some small cumulus clouds overhead.
I was very happy to be back in the Winds at the end of this day. The beginning of the hike wasn’t too exciting, but after cresting the climb we were treated to nonstop beautiful scenery. And on top of that, we had been treated to perfect weather today. Not a bad start to the trip! Our plan for tomorrow was to hike to Baptiste Lake via Spearpoint Lake and Grave Lake. That would mean some cross country miles and a big climb early in the day, but then some relatively easy trail miles at the end of the day.
Day 2: South Fork Lakes to Baptiste Lake
11.2 miles, +2,800’ 50% Cross Country
A beautiful sunrise on Lizard Head Peak, Camel’s Hump, and the South Fork Glacier.
The morning sun on the pillars above our campsite.
The view through the forest as I took a morning walk to the outlet of Lake 10462.
More sunrise shots.
After breakfast, we lounged around the lake for a bit longer. I fished and caught a couple of cutthroat trout.
A couple more shots as we hit the trail.
Shannon hiking towards the outlet of Lake 10462.
At the outlet of Lake 10462 we tried to follow the contour to Little Washakie Lake as described in Pallister’s book. Our route wasn’t particularly easy, including some thrashing through willows over our heads.
Overlooking Ranger Park. After thrashing through brush for a bit, we had to negotiate a tricky ledge system that cliffed us out a couple of times. This ledge system is plainly visible on Google Maps satellite view. This traverse was a bit tricky. I’m not sure if we should have dropped a bit lower, that may have helped.
Mount Washakie and Little Washakie Lake from the lake’s outlet.
We crossed the lake outlet and quickly found the trail on the other side. Then we stopped for a snack and filled up water bottles before the steep climb to the pass above Lock Leven.
Climbing towards the pass north of Lock Leven. The final 400 feet or so of the climb crossed through a small forest that we had to skirt.
The view of Payson Peak and Washakie Lake from the pass.
The cliffs above Spearpoint Lake.
On the descent from the pass, we found an elk trail that went most of the way to Lake 10682. The views of the thousand-foot walls above the lakes were awesome.
Views from our lunch spot near the outlet of Spearpoint Lake.
The craggy ridge that separates Spearpoint Lake and Lock Leven. The pass we crossed is at the far right of this photo.
One more shot of the sheer cliff above Spearpoint Lake.
The climb to the next little pass north was short.
The descent was a little bit trickier, with some talus and ramps leading into shrub brush that we couldn’t find a good way around. The views of this basin were fantastic, but the sun was directly above the peaks at the head of the basin, so I wasn’t able to get any good photos.
After filtering a bit more water and eating a quick snack, we continued on. We were almost finished with the off-trail portion of the day, with just one section left to the trail around Grave Lake. We had two options to get there, we could follow the creek down gullies to the trail, or try and follow the timberline directly north to the shore of the lake. We made our way to the large bench at 10,400’ to scope both options. The timberline route looked better, as the creek route had a few steep drops and quickly entered the forest. Here’s the view from the top of one of the talus piles we had to descend to get to Grave Lake, the tip of which is just visible.
The massive Grave Lake from one of the talus gullies leading down from Lake 10490.
Musembeah Peak framed by trees from the shore of Grave Lake.
The going was quite slow from Lake 10490 to Grave Lake, with a number of steep talus gullies and cliff bands to negotiate. But eventually we hit a nice sandy beach which was right next to the trail. After that, the walking became much easier.
The trail along Grave Lake crosses this impressively well constructed bridge across Grave Creek. I didn’t expect to see anything so well built this deep in the Winds.
We stopped for a lunch break on this big sandy beach on the shore of Grave Lake. Near here we encountered a group of men out on a fishing trip, they were having a fantastic time.
Shortly after the beach, the trail climbed above the shore of the lake near Pilot Knob to get around some cliffs bands.
Our first up-close views of Mount Hooker, after a climb away from the inlet to Grave Lake.
Musembeah Peak above Baptiste Creek.
Panorama shot of the stunningly beautiful Baptiste Lake. We arrived in the middle of golden hour and found the scenery even more impressive than we expected.
Shannon hiking towards the best looking area of camping, the light forest on the southwest side of Baptiste Lake. We found a couple of other groups camped in the trees here, but there was plenty of room to set up our own little area.
Last light of the day on the immense face of Mount Hooker.
Enjoying a little photoshoot after a difficult, but very fun day.
The fantastic sunset only enhanced the already amazing scenery.
After making it about as far as we had hoped for the day, we planned to go back down the trail a mile and then leave the trail for the headwaters of Grave Creek, crossing Roberts Passes 1 and 2 to Roberts Lake. This stretch was supposed to be somewhat difficult, with a good amount of talus. Depending on timing, we would then continue over Wykee Pass to Lake Polaris and the Little Wind River drainage.
Day 3: Baptiste Lake to Roberts Lake
14 miles, +3,000’ 65% Cross Country
Beautiful sunrise photos of Baptiste Lake and its surroundings.
Mount Hooker bathed in early morning light.
Baptiste Lake, Mount Lander, and the surrounding peaks.
By the time we packed up and hit the trail, some clouds had rolled in. We figured that it didn’t look too bad yet, so we’d take the high route we intended and if the weather degraded we could backtrack and follow the low route to Roberts Lake over Teepee Pass.
Musembeah Peak from Baptiste Creek.
Mount Hooker from the meadow near where we left the trail.
After we left the trail the views continued to open up. Here’s Mount Hooker again with Hailey Pass at the left.
The headwaters of Grave Creek, where the terrain eased up after some light forest and talus hopping. This basin has six large lakes, but they’re not pictured in this view. Roberts Pass West is the second saddle from the right that’s not very visible due to the angle. When we got here, it began to rain a little bit. We figured we had several more hours to get across both Roberts Passes, and were worried about the weather deteriorating further, so we decided to backtrack and head down to Teepee Pass instead of risk it.
Looking south to the basin on the other side of Grave Lake.
Overlooking the small lake at 10,500’ as we cut across to the small pond closer to the trail again. The conditions seemed to be getting worse soon, although there were patches of blue sky.
Back down at Grave Lake. This lake is enormous!
We stopped for lunch at the sandy beach again.
We dropped from Grave Lake at the junction towards Onion Meadows. This trail was lightly used and slightly overgrown, but fairly easy to follow. At Onion Meadows, we refilled water before the long climb to Teepee Pass.
Starting up Teepee Pass. Where the trees disappeared there were great views to the south of the basins we had explored yesterday.
Coming out of the trees near the lakes along Raft Creek. The clearing clouds made for dramatic views across the South Fork drainage.
The trail up Teepee Pass was covered with deadfall for the first 500 feet or so, and then it disappeared into nothing. There were occasional cairns to mark the way, but it was cross country travel. The section through the forest was somewhat difficult, but it became easier as the vegetation cleared.
Beautiful views across the South Fork, with Lizard Head Peak, the South Fork Glacier, and Ranger Park plainly visible.
We spotted a group of three elk at the top of Teepee Pass from about a thousand feet away, but they ran off as soon as they saw us.
Shannon walking across the broad grassy saddle of Teepee Pass under clearing skies.
Teepee Pass from the north. Travel across the tundra was very easy here. We weighed our options to follow the “trail” down to Trail Lake and then hike around the lake on the north to Roberts Lake, or take a shortcut down the creek on the south/west side of the lake and then climb again to Roberts Lake. Given that the trail was indistinguishable, we opted for the shortcut.
Trail Lake from the small gully where the creek flows in on its south side.
We came across an elk skeleton in the trees here.
The southern edge of Trail Lake. We had hoped not to drop down this far, but willows forced us down to the lakeshore where we could hop across rocks to make faster progress.
The southwest edge of Trail Lake is a maze of talus gullies. We considered following the lakeshore to the creek connecting the two lakes, but the forest looked quite thick, so we tried a slightly more direct route. Even though it was only a short section, navigating through this terrain was tough. We had to keep sending one person ahead to scout a route and then backtrack to go an easier way.
A beautiful sunset over Trail Lake.
The sunset view looking north from the flat-ish area near the outlet of Roberts Lake.
We had a bit of difficulty finding a good campsite, the flat areas here were mostly covered in rocks.
The last light of the day over the huge face of Roberts Mountain.
We were pleased to have made it to Roberts Lake today, but surprised that our planned easy route over Teepee Pass had been so difficult. We had expected the trail over this pass to, well, exist, and were slowed down significantly in our efforts to avoid the cliffs above Raft Creek on this climb. With this new information, we took away a couple of things. First, a good reminder that in the Winds, nothing is ever as easy as it seems. And second, we figured that Teepee Pass was a good example of what degree of trail maintenance we should expect on the reservation. The Forest Service lands in the Winds are wild, but they see way more traffic than the roadless area on the reservation. We expected that the entire North Fork of the Little Wind River would be just as rugged, even the sections with marked trails.
With this new information in hand, we discussed our plan going forward. We had originally planned to cross Wykee Pass to Wykee Lake / Lake Polaris and explore the North Fork of the Little Wind River before crossing Kagevah Pass and hiking the Wind River High Route south to the Cirque of the Towers. But when we put it all together, the timing didn’t quite add up. We would either have to hike quickly for several days, or skip one of the ends of our trip: the North Fork or the Cirque of the Towers.
After a bit more thought, we realized that there was no way we could do anything other than hurry through the North Fork basin, and that wasn’t how we wanted to see this area. So we decided to save it for next time. That meant that on this trip we would make our way back across Roberts or Teepee Pass to the South Fork, cross Hailey Pass, and hike south to the Cirque of the Towers. Our goal for tomorrow was to make it back to Baptiste Lake via the high route, weather permitting.
Day 4: Roberts Lake to Baptiste Lake
8.1 miles, +1,900’ 85% Cross Country
A clear sunrise on Roberts Mountain.
After eating breakfast and packing up, we set out across the outlet stream and along the south shore. I had spotted a massive trout in this stream the night before while getting some water before bed.
Shannon bashing through willows as we make our way around Roberts Lake.
The view of the slope above Lake 11035. The first 300’ of this climb weren’t quite this talus-y, but it wasn’t easy walking either.
Pallister’s comment, “extensive talus” is very correct. Fortunately, it was mostly stable except for the uppermost section. It still made for very slow going.
Looking across the saddle between the Roberts Passes. The terrain eased up for a bit with sections of tundra here and there.
Looking back at Roberts Mountain.
Nearing Roberts Pass West where the terrain turned to full-on talus again.
Looking back across the massive talus bowl. The travel through here was very slow and tedious.
The view atop Roberts Pass West. The far end of the lake at the foreground is where we had turned around yesterday.
Shannon making her way down Roberts Pass West. The top part was steep but easy, in the middle there was 200’ or so that involved a couple of tricky downclimbs before the slope eased again.
We saw tons of these grasshoppers.
Panoramic view of the Grave Creek headwater basin.
A couple of the larger lakes. This would be a very fun spot to spend a day fishing in each of these different lakes. Maybe another time!
Views of the drainage basin. In the last couple of photos you can see the route to Roberts Pass West, up the obvious ramp and then a sharp right to the saddle.
We came across the remains of another elk up here. This size of these bones was impressive, it must have been a large elk.
A couple more shots of the Grave Creek basin before heading down.
Shannon walking across the tundra towards the descent route to the trail. There’s nothing like the feeling of some easy tundra walking after several hours of talus hopping!
The basin directly south of us, which doesn’t have any names on the USGS map except for Lakes 10604 and 10568. There’s a small glacier sitting under the shaded north face of the mountain.
The field of talus we had to cross on our descent back to Baptiste Creek.
Overlooking the small lake at 10,500’ again, under fairer weather this time.
Another shot of Baptiste Creek and Musembeah Peak.
Hailey Pass from afar. The trail up the pass is just barely visible.
Shannon hiking across the tundra to one of the forested camps near Baptiste Lake.
I went on a little walk to the top of the hill along the southwest short for some views of the Baptiste Lake basin.
The two-thousand foot northeast face of Mount Hooker is home to some of the biggest and hardest backcountry rock climbs in the continental United States, including the worlds first backcountry grade VI climb. Here’s a fun article about the climb in Climbing magazine.
A clear sunset over Baptiste Lake. Without company at the lake, we had our choice of campsite, and selected the most desireable one with a nice little forested windscreen.
Looking back at our day, it was smart to have taken the low route the day before, as the talus on the high route would have been unbearable when wet. That said, it was nice to get the chance to explore both routes from Baptiste Lake to Roberts Lake. By this point in our trip, we had pretty thoroughly explored the drainage of the South Fork of the Little Wind River, exploring the headwaters of all but one of its tributary creeks. So, it seemed it was time to move on. Our plan for the next day was to hike over Hailey Pass, follow the Pyramid Lake Trail south to the Shadow Lake Trail, and then cross either New York or Texas Pass to Lonesome Lake in the Cirque of the Towers. We expected to see a bit more traffic in this area, especially past the Shadow Lake Trail, as this is one of the more popular areas in the Winds.
Day 5: Baptiste Lake to Cirque of the Towers
15 miles, +2,700’ 0% Cross Country
Another beautiful sunrise over Baptiste Lake.
After a bit of morning fishing, we were off, down and across Baptiste Creek one last time for this trip.
A different perspective of Mount Hooker, from just across Baptiste Creek.
Shannon hiking through beautiful alpine meadows in the shadow of Mount Hooker.
A (somewhat underexposed) panorama shot of Mount Hooker, Mount Lander, Musembeah Peak, and others.
Mount Lander and Musembeah Peak from the beginning of the climb up Hailey Pass. Some cumulus clouds were beginning to build,a likely indication of thunderstorms this afternoon. Around here, we ran into another hiker coming the other direction. He had spent several days in the North Fork basin and confirmed that it was indeed very wild, without much more than game and use trails. It sounded like he had enjoyed a great trip and was trying to make his way back to Dickinson Creek in a day.
Hailey Pass from below.
One of the rock formations near the top of Hailey Pass.
Mount Geikie on the descent from Hailey Pass. Note the relatively recent massive rockfall in the middle of the face covering the old snowfield. We ran into another couple of hikers heading the other way over Hailey Pass.
The peaks of the rugged East Fork from the trail below Pyramid Lake. Those peaks line an incredible valley that’s part of the Wind River High Route, but we wouldn’t have the chance to visit on this trip.
We stopped at Mays Lake for lunch.
Another teaser of the East Fork. For some up-close-and-personal pictures of this basin, check out day four of my Wind River High Route trip report.
Lunch spot at Mays Lake.
First views of the Cirque of the Towers as the trail peeks out from the trees south of Skull Lake.
Shannon hiking towards Shadow Lake, with the rugged peaks of the Cirque of the Towers as a backdrop. New York Pass is the low saddle below the sloping mountain at left.
Looking back the other way at the weather that was coming in.
Washakie Creek and some incredible rock formations.
At Shadow Lake we took a minute to enjoy the awesome views and encountered a group on a pack trip.
Peeking through the trees on our way up to Billys Lake as the dark clouds settled in.
New York Pass from below. With some darker clouds overhead, we thought it would be wiser to stick with the easier Texas Pass this time. We planned to turn around if we saw any signs of thunder or lightning. But for now, it just looked like a bit of rain.
The dark clouds made for some nice photos, this is looking east towards Barren Lake and Camel’s Hump.
Another shot of the clouds looking west.
We encountered a couple of groups camping near Barren and Texas Lakes. We decided to try and get over Texas Pass, weather permitting.
Shannon climbing Texas Pass.
Pingora Peak, Wolf’s Head, Bollinger Peak, and the Cirque of the Towers! As we crested the top of the pass, it began to drizzle just a little bit. Time for rain jackets!
Warbonnet Peak and the Warrior Peaks.
The other side of New York Pass. I’m still not sure exactly which route you’re supposed to follow up this side of the pass.
As we hit treeline, the skies opened up on us. Now we just had to find a spot to set up camp.
The classic Lonesome Lake shot. We set up camp off to the southeast of the lake and waited for the rain to let up before a bit of fishing and book reading near the lake. The rain mostly let up by early evening.
Day 6: Zero Day in Cirque of the Towers
2 miles, +800’, 0% Cross Country
We planned to spend this day in the Cirque of the Towers, climbing a peak or exploring a bit, depending on the weather conditions. It was cloudy in the morning, but cleared up by mid-morning for some nice views. However, our satellite weather forecast said more rain was definitely coming in the afternoon, so we decided to keep it low key and just hike up to Texas Pass.
The view of Pingora Peak from Lonesome Lake.
Warbonnet and Warrior Peaks from the climb up to Jackass Pass.
Overlooking the Cirque of the Towers from Jackass Pass, with some nice lighting breaking through the clouds.
Dramatic lighting on Warbonnet Peak.
The Cirque, again.
After hanging out atop Jackass Pass for thirty minutes or so, the clouds began to get darker, so we headed back down. Once we were back in camp, the clouds got darker and it began to drizzle a bit, before several hours of on-and-off downpours in the afternoon.
Luckily for us, it cleared up in the early evening, so we were able to get out of the tent and cook dinner.
Late afternoon blowing clouds in the Cirque of the Towers.
Our camp kitchen was underneath a large rock with a 15 foot overhang. It stayed dry in all but the heaviest downpours.
The sunset produced some brilliant colors over the North Fork of the Popo Agie River.
This was our last full day of the trip, tomorrow we would hike back to Dickinson Park via the North Fork trail.
Day 7: Cirque of the Towers to Bears Ears Trailhead
17 miles, +1,400’ 0% Cross Country
We made sure not to miss the sunrise this morning and were rewarded for getting up early.
Mitchell Peak with brilliant sunrise colors.
One final up-close view of the Warrior Peaks as we crossed the North Fork of the Popo Agie and headed downstream.
A half mile or so later, the view opens up in Lizard Head Meadows, here are the Warrior Peaks again.
And the full Cirque.
As we moved farther east, most of the hiking was forest, but there were a few areas where it opened up to dramatic cliffs. I think this is near Papoose Lake.
Very far downstream at one of the crossings of the North Fork, looking back at the high mountains.
There’s a small burn scar where the trail exits the wilderness, so we were rewarded to great views on this climb, including Wind River Peak at left. It also meant there was little shade on this climb.
We found some lovely little groves of Aspen in the lower elevations.
Shannon hiking across the plains in Dickinson Park.
Looking back across Dickinson Park.
A neat rock formation near the Bears Ears Trailhead. After this long haul down the North Fork of the Popo Agie and then a sharp turn north to Dickinson Park, we made it back to our car. We loaded up and aimed the car down the long dirt road back to Lander.
Epilogue
The Next Day
We made it back to Lander without incident, checked into the Pronghorn Inn, and walked over to the Lander Bar for burgers and beers.
Overnight, significant cloud cover came over the Winds and Lander. We couldn’t see too far into the foothills from town.
Having some fun with some of the decorations at the Pronghorn Inn before the drive back to Denver. On the long drive back to Denver, we drove through an impressive thunderstorm that darkened the skies, dumped buckets of rain, and blew a fantastic wind. We were sure that our flight would be cancelled, but after reaching a crescendo, the storm passed, and our flight home was just a bit delayed.
Looking Back
While we hadn’t completed the route we originally planned, and had skipped most of the North Fork of the Little Wind River, we had certainly had a great adventure. In this section, I’ll talk a little bit about each of the areas we visited, including passes, trails, and specific off trail sections. But I probably won’t get too detailed into this.
The Bears Ears approach trail was pretty nice. After some miles through the forest, it gained a good deal of elevation and the views opened up nicely. The views from the plateau near Mount Chauvenet were fantastic and made for a great first day on the trail.
The South Fork was a beautiful area of high mountain scenery, especially the upper reaches of the creeks that drained the area. Each of the high lakes and basins that we visited offered fantastic views and solitude. We explored this area pretty thoroughly and found beautiful lake after beautiful lake. Baptiste Lake was especially impressive.
We found Tepee Pass more difficult than we assumed based on the map. The trail through this area disappears shortly after leaving Onion Meadows. I would consider this a cross country route. The upper lakes of Raft Creek (Lake 10455) looked like they offered good camping, and the views across the South Fork Basin from the top of the pass were awesome.
The high route between Baptiste Creek and Roberts Lake was basically what we expected, exposed, covered in talus, and quite slow. But the views were great, especially over the Grave Creek drainage from the west Roberts Pass.
The trail sections through the East Fork drainage, Washakie Creek drainage, and the Cirque of the Towers were pretty straightforward. This area of the Winds is relatively heavily used, so travel is easy and we ran into several other parties here. The Cirque of the Towers was just as impressive on our second visit.
Our return route down the North Fork doesn’t need much commentary either, it was a pretty straightforward hike on trail the whole way.
While I probably wouldn’t recommend retracing our exact route, I would encourage experienced hikers seeking adventure in the Winds to create their own routes, and for this purpose Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming is a great resource. You can certainly stick with the routes recommended in the book, or use the included photographs and annotated topo maps to craft your own adventure. Either way, it’s worth the thirty bucks.
That’s all I have to say for this one, hope you enjoyed it!