If you’re looking for a simple and non-technical hiking route through the North American Alps, the Wind River High Route can be a great choice. The course is exciting and provides spectacular views of the snow-clad mountains. The Wind River Range is a truly enormous mountain range, and there’s something really special about it.
This post will serve as a detailed guide for anyone who’s planning to explore the Wind River High Route. We’ve included necessary information such as an overview of the route, the best time to visit, essential gear, and a lot more. Keep reading to know everything about the Wind River High Route.
The Wind River High Route runs along the spine of Dinwoody and Torrey Creeks, in northern Wyoming , and is located amongst the highest concentration of glaciers in the American Rockies. For those not familiar with the American Rockies, they’re a major mountain range in western North America. They stretch more than 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometers) from the northernmost part of British Columbia, in western Canada, to New Mexico in the Southwestern United States.
The route follows a beautiful trail similar to the Highline Trail and is close to a highly glacial landscape, the Continental Divide. The trails that are a part of the Wind River High Route are complex trails, i.e., they’re nearer to the peaks. The Wind River High Route trail is definitely more rewarding and challenging than the Highline Trail.
The journey begins at the Trailhead of the Green River Lakes in the north and the origin point of the Green River. It heads towards the Continental Divide in the southeast direction, crossing it almost 4 times. It continues through the fabulous Cirque of the Towers and terminates at the Big Sandy Trailhead.
The route is almost 80 miles long with substantial on-trail and off-trail travel and almost 20,000 feet of collective elevation gain. You’ll travel through 9 passes between 11,500 feet and 12,200 feet: 3 on-trail and 6 off-trail. The off-trail sections are somewhat challenging.
There are fewer comfortable sections and one glacier adventure. You can cover the Wind River High Route in about 6-7 days. It is best to travel during the summer months, especially the last few. During this period, the snow melts out and becomes lighter.
A closer look
Part 1: From the Trailhead of the Green River to the Upper Indian Basin
The beginning of the Wind River High Route hike is pretty gentle and comfortable. For the first few hours, you’ll encounter flat terrains and enjoy the scenic wonders of the Green River. You’ll also catch some brilliant views of the Squaretop Mountain.
After the Trailhead of the Green River Lakes, you’ll get on the trail that travels along the eastern coast of the two turquoise painted Green River Lakes. This trail is known as the Continental Divide Trail as well as the Highline Trail. Once you cross both the lakes, you’ll gradually climb towards the Three Forks Park.
As soon as you reach the Three Forks Park, you’ll notice that the trail takes a sharp turn towards the west and you’ll begin to climb to reach the high country. At this point, you’ll be close to almost 10,000 feet and above the Vista Pass. Then you’ll encounter a minor dip in elevation and continue climbing a gravelly basin to reach the Cube Rock Pass.
At this point, you’ll be above 10,000 feet yet again. For the subsequent 5 to 6 days, the Wind River High Route will stay over 10,000 feet and not drop until you reach close to the Big Sandy Trailhead.
From the Cuba Rock Pass, the track will continue towards the Peak Lake. You can camp on the western end of the Peak Lake or in the basin towards the east of the Peak Lake. At the exit of the Peak Lake, the trail will take a curve around the lake’s north shore and pass via a massive slide that’ll take you to the coast. Then you’ll head towards Knapsack Col.
Reaching close to Col
As you reach closer to Col, try to find use trails that’ll take you directly to the pass down. On the south end of the basin, as you move downward to the pass, you’ll approach the Stroud Glacier. In case you don’t know, the Stroud Glacier is the source of the Green River.
At Knapsack Col, you’ll get to witness some of the most incredible views of the complete Wind River High Route. You’ll suddenly spot the Alpine Cirque towards the east, and far-off Western Wyoming ranges on the west. You’ll notice more snow in the east side of Knapsack Col than the western end.
Descend from the eastern end crossing a few snow slopes and avoid the slopes that are steep. Skip the pass heading east and move to the left. Continue moving down and move to the right as soon as you spot the base of the opening headwall approximately 250 feet under the pass.
Descend towards the north of the Twins Glacier to reach the base of the Titcomb Basin. Move south towards the trail alongside the eastern coast of the Titcomb Lakes. Continue to move on this trail, and you’ll soon reach the Indian Pass Trail. At this point, turn east and step into the stunning Alpine Terrain in the Indian Basin. You can comfortably camp here and enjoy some remarkable views of the Fremont Peak. Relax and cook some scrumptious meals.
Part 2: From the Indian Pass to the Golden Lake
The beautiful route from the Indian Pass to the mesmerizing Camp Lake is the primary attraction of the Wind River High Route. On this route, you’ll spot some of the most impressive and rugged terrains on the route. It passes through the huge Knife Point Glacier. This section of the route is highly challenging (there is another off-trail path to avoid this section).
The Indian Pass Trail begins from the tiny lakes at the termination of the Indian Basin and traverses east towards the Indian Pass. Once you reach the glacier, use the rocks of traction to drop away from the glacier. Head northeast to reach the bottom of the Alpine Col. You may encounter uneven terrain here.
Heading towards Alpine Lake Pass
From here, the ascent towards the Alpine Lake Pass’ north side is not that difficult. From the top, you’ll see the valley weathered by the glacier. Prepare yourself to move towards the Alpine Lake Basin. This particular hike involves moving around cliffs that point directly towards the lake and other challenges here and there that can make the route tough. As you continue to pave your way through the cliffs and rocks, you’ll reach the Alpine Lake.
As you continue to trek along the western coast of Lake 11,335, you’ll come across difficult terrains with plenty of rocks. You’ll also encounter cliffs that may appear almost impossible to cover. But, don’t give up and keep going. As you pass the cliffs, you’ll reach a class 3 climb up and climb down setup that’ll take you to the flatter portion near the lake’s outlet. Keep walking to reach the center of the Alpine Lake 10,988. The hike along the western shore of this lake will take you to Lake 10,895.
From the east most end of Lake 10,895, head east-southeast and you’ll reach a narrow drainage system south of the Lake 10,239. Use slopes and gorges to pave your way through steep rocks and cliff bands that’ll take you to the lake.
You’ll find a use trail near this anonymous lake to the Camp Lake. The trail to Lake 10,787 is straight and easy. And, the trail beginning from Lake 10,787 and ending at the Golden Lake is even better.
Part 3: From Golden Lake to the Lee Lake
You’ll find a beautiful stream at the Southern tail of the Golden Lake. It is a good water source, and you can rest here for a while and cook your meal. As you ascend this trail, you’ll reach the spectacular and stunning Hay Pass by crossing over to the western end of the Continental Divide. From the Hay Pass, a trail will take you down to the west, moving alongside the eastern shore of Lake 10,756.
At approximately 10,600 feet, move away from this trail and toward the basin on your southeast. Once you reach the first main lake of the basin, keep moving alongside a grassy and flat valley flooring that’ll take you to the southwest coast of Lake 10,555. The basin floor will remain damp till you start ascending toward a low-slung pass preceding Lake 10,683 (also called Long Lake).
Walking along the Easter Coast
Walk alongside the eastern coast of this isolated lake. The trail gets difficult as you continue to move along the shore to reach the western end of the lake. You’ll encounter a lot of rocks and ramps in this area. Continue to ascend a little, and you’ll soon drop into a remote Europe Canyon.
At this point, you’ll reach the beginning of a trail that’ll take you unswervingly to the east coast of Lake 10,542. From here, climb around 300 feet above a minor pass and laterally the northern end of Lake 10,806.
Now starts an adventurous navigation toward the channel brook on the southwest end of the massive Hall’s lake. On this route, you can expect a plethora of trees, bushes, lakes, marshes, and climbs. As you reach the Hall’s lake, move toward the southern side and walk through some small lakes.
Keep moving in the south direction around Peak 11,586. When you cross this peak, move east toward your next destination, the opening of Middle Fork Lake next to which is the Lee Lake. This part of the Wind River High Route is exceptionally attractive and pleasing. Here, you’ll find several small ponds with giant fish.
Part 4: From the Lee Lake to the Texas Lake
Your next destination is the canyon between Raid Peak and Mount Bonneville. From Lake 10,521, take the easier route along the inlet watercourse. The climb to the pass is simple. Don’t get fooled by the mini-trails here and there. As you climb down the east end of the pass, walk toward a tiny lake above Lake 10,566.
Move toward the exit of the lake to rest for a while and enjoy the breathtaking views surrounding the lake. From here, walk toward the Pyramid Lake. The track from Pyramid Lake will take you to the Texas Lake. Trek the track from Pyramid Lake to Washakie Creek. Cross to reach the south end of the creek and move upstream toward Shadow Lake. At this point, you’ll get to witness stunning views of the rear end of ridge creating the Cirque of the Towers. This place makes a fabulous break-point for lunch.
Heading towards Texas Lake
From here, take a used trail to the Texas Lake located below the Texas Pass. The journey from the Texas Pass into the Cirque of the Towers is also one of the most exciting sections of the Wind River High Route Trek. The Cirque is the most stunning landscape on the Wind River High Route for its beauty and rock-climbing adventures. The trail to the Cirque begins from the southeast end of Texas Lake and rises slowly. As you climb down the pass into the Cirque, you’ll be spellbound by the sublime views of nature. From the Texas Pass, you’ll hike along the northeast shore of the Lonesome Lake to enter the Cirque.
If you want to camp at the Cirque for a day, you can set up your tent in the basin at the base of the Warrior and Pylon Peaks.
The next morning, you can move off-trail around the east side of the Lonesome Lake and take the official route to reach Jackass pass around 10,400 feet. From Jackass Pass, take the major trail to the Big Sandy Lake. This marks the end of your trek.
Which is the best season to trek the Wind River High Route?
The late summer season is the perfect season to trek the Wind River High Route. During this time, the dense snow sheets melt, and the mosquito pressure is also under control. Snowstorms are common toward the middle of September.
What is the weather like during the trek?
The weather and the winds can vary a great deal depending upon the time of the day, month, or year. You may witness minus temperatures during the nights and sunny afternoons. However, it is best to check the weather predictions before you plan your trek. Glaciers, elevations, valleys – everything can affect the weather and temperature. It can rain or snow any time, anywhere; doesn’t necessarily have to be a fixed month or time of the year. Navigation becomes really challenging during the rains. The rocky terrains become difficult too.
Essential gear for the Wind River High Route Trek
Don’t forget to carry these items:
- Sleeping bag or sleeping pod
- Cooking stove and other cookware
- Water bottles
- First aid kit
- Maps for navigation
- Clothing to keep you warm during chilly nights
- Ice ax
So, are you ready for the Wind River High Route trek?
Now that you have an idea of the Wind River High Route, are you all set for the adventure with your friends? If you clearly follow the route we’ve mentioned in the guide, we don’t think you’ll get stuck anywhere. However, make sure you pick the right time and check the weather before you leave for the trek. Also, make sure you carry all the essential gear to keep yourself comfortable and beat temperature extremes.
We’ve been there and done the trek, so we’re well aware of the hardships you can face. You may encounter difficult, rocky terrains here and there, but don’t get hassled. Keep calm and be careful. Don’t rush into reaching the final destination. Take your time and go slow, especially on the boulder-laden trails.
You’ll be stunned at the beauty of the massive mountains, pristine lakes, serene glaciers, lush-green trails, majestically flowing streams, and changing hues of the sky above. The wonders of nature cannot be explained in mere words. Be ready to witness some of the most remarkable views of nature during the trek.
We hope you found our guide useful. If you have any other questions related to the Wind River High Route, please feel free to get in touch with us. Also, if you feel we’ve missed some important points, you can post them in the comments section below.