Summers 2009, 2011, 2014, and 2015 || A 95-mile world-class backpacking with 65 miles of off-trail travel, two 13,000-foot summits, nine alpine passes, and no road crossings.
Summers 2009, 2011, 2014, and 2015 || A 95-mile world-class backpacking with 65 miles of off-trail travel, two 13,000-foot summits, nine alpine passes, and no road crossings.
“After thinking that there was nothing that could be more impressive than Roper’s Sierra High Route, I can’t say enough how much my mind was blown by the grandeur of Skurka’s Wind River High Route.”
— Austin Lillywhite, Ithica, NY
“Skurka has created what is easily one of the best, and most challenging backpacking routes in the lower US. Yep, going to be hard to top this one.”
— Derek Bartz
“What a trip! The Winds defy description, the most spectacular scenery per square mile anywhere in the lower 48 in my humble estimation. Loop 2 was a great introduction. I am very grateful for the effort you have put into developing these lines and definitely want to go back.”
— Erik van Os, Colorado Springs, CO
For 97 miles, the world-class Wind River High Route follows the alpine crest of Wyoming’s Wind River Range, which ranks among the lower 48’s wildest and most magnificent. It is best completed as an end-to-end thru-hike, but its eight recommended section-hikes are more approachable and convenient.
From start to finish, the Wind River High Route remains immersed in jaw-dropping mountain scenery and topography. From high passes between towering peaks, it drops into deep, glacier-carved valleys and strolls past hundreds of lakes. In July and August, its alpine meadows are cloaked in lush grasses and colorful wildflowers. Elk sightings are common; seeing bighorn sheep or grizzly bears is more rare and special. The summertime weather pattern is predictable and mostly friendly: sunny mornings give way to increasing cloudiness in the afternoon, with possible thunderstorms, sometimes violent.
Without question, the Wind River High Route is the finest line in one of the finest mountain ranges in the world. But like other high routes — e.g. Sierra High Route, Kings Canyon High Basin Route — it is recommended and appropriate only for ambitious intermediate and advanced backpackers.
Sixty-five miles, or two-thirds of the route, is off-trail. The longest continuous off-trail stretch is 30 miles; another is 22 miles. There is extensive travel on talus, granite slabs, snow, and likely some glacial ice, but no technical climbing. It can be done entirely in trail running shoes, though micro crampons and/or an ice axe can be useful, if not required during some seasons and conditions.
The heart of the route is bookended by the range’s southernmost and northernmost named 13,000-foot summits, Wind River Peak and Downs Mountain. In between, the route hovers between 10,000 and 12,000 feet. It drops just once to 9,700 feet, which is more than offset by a 12,259-foot mid-route summit, Europe Peak.
The vertical change between the route’s nine passes and three summits, and the accompanying low points, adds up. There is more than 30,000 vertical feet of climbing, or an average of 620 vertical feet of change per mile.
Not surprisingly, the Wind River High Route never crosses a road and it is never immediately accessible from another trailhead.
The lands through which the Wind River High Route passes are managed by Bridger-Teton National Forest, Shoshone National Forest, and the Wind River Indian Reservation (for which a permit should be obtained). The route is not officially recognized, nor should it be.
There have been several efforts to establish the Wind River High Route. See Wandering Daisy, Dan McCoy, Backpacker Magazine, and most substantially Alan Dixon and Don Wilson. These routes are in the spirit of a high route, but they fail to fulfill the range’s full potential. Most importantly, they bypass entirely the northeast corner of the range, its most spectacular section, home to Gannett Peak (Wyoming’s high point) and the largest concentration of glaciers in the Rocky Mountains. Surely, “the” Wind River High Route must go there.
Hello Andrew, very cool page! Didn’t think others out there were doing the things I was doing up here, thank goodness for the internet! I completed a Wind River high route recently and came across your page and saw you did one similar. The route runs a bit higher and longer than the ones you’ve mentioned – but cool nonetheless! Just curious, is there a reason you skipped the ultimate north and south sections of the Winds? Lot of cool country to be had still! Hope you enjoy the Winds and maybe we’ll see you up there sometime. I think it’s awesome to be in agreement that this route is the best in the world, cheers!
I thought the northernmost and southernmost named 13’ers were good bookeneds. Yes, the range extends beyond that, but I don’t think it’s can’t-miss country and the logistics get much tougher.
Hello everyone. I am planning a trip to Wind river range. Initially, I was going to arrive on September 3rd and do combine Skurka’s loop 5 and 6 (appreciate any thoughts on this as a “worthy loop”). I settled on this because its been a long time since I’ve been in the rockies, thus a “bail out” is likely. I figured this would give me some good distance but also options. I live in the south east and comfortably average 15 miles a day, on trail. I can do more, but after that its a mind over matter. I figure Ill average between 7.5 to 10 miles in the winds (maybe less) so Im giving myself 10 days. If i go faster, that is just more time to play, if slower, I can cut it short.
Of course, the Court of Appeals has slated me for oral argument on September 7, and if I cant get it moved, that would make my arrival time September 11/12 and departure date Set 21/22/. What is the weather and do I need snow shoes and Ice Ax? already planning on the micro spikes, just curious as to what other gear I may need.
If its not doable this time of year, does anybody have any suggestions for some alternatives? In Wyoming or Colorado?
Expect sub-freezing nights and brisk days, especially if you’re not in the sun. I would wear pants full-time and a mid-weight long-sleeve, and have a 200-weight fleece available.
As you go into September, the odds of a winter storm increase, and at the highest elevations the snow could most definitely stick, especially on shady aspects. If you have time, you can wait out a storm, but it’ll probably close the route down for a few days. Hiking off-trail with even a dusting of snow becomes very hazardous. Unfortunately, once you are past Camp Lake (or Douglas Peak Pass if you follow the main route), there are no trails that parallel the route.
I would carry microspikes in the event you need to exit prematurely via Indian Pass or Bonney Pass. You might be able to avoid crossing glacial ice on Indian, but definitely not on Bonney. If you make it beyond Gannet Creek, they are a good insurance policy for the Gannet Glacier and Grasshopper Glacier, too, both of which could be frozen over after a cold night. Slope angles are low, so I’d put a lower priority on an ice axe.
Overall, so long as you get a decent weather window, the route will still go in mid-September. But if you get crappy weather, I would definitely have a backup plan ready to go. Since your travel dates are fixed, you have to work with what you’re given and can’t wait for a better stretch.
There is no glacial ice on Bonney Pass.
If you care to get very technical, no, there is no glacial ice on Bonney Pass itself. But glacial ice will be encountered on its north side assuming you don’t just go up there for the view and then descend back into Titcomb. The point is the same: traction is recommended.
There is no glacial ice on the north side of Bonney either, until you get to the valley floor. It’s not getting technical, it’s just the geological aspect of the range. Once mid-summer hits (late July/early August) the snow is all melted out and you’re travelling on scree.
Do you disagree with the recommendation of carrying crampons or microspikes? If not, I don’t understand the point you’re trying to make. The question posed was in regards to conditions and gear. I didn’t feel that it was necessary to specify that the edge of the glacier below Bonney is at about 12,200, about 600 feet below the pass, and that the current bottom edge of the ice is at about 11,400 feet. Short of technical rock climbing, there is no way to avoid glacial ice on the north side of Bonney.
I went that first week in September. We had thundersnowstorms and really high winds. We camped on the second Alpine Lake. There is not much natural windbreak there. The snow stuck and made the talus hopping a bit more difficult until we got all the way out of the Alpine Lakes Basin. We had one really tough night there on Labor Day weekend. Most nights were between 20-30 degrees. We had a great time.
Hello, sounds great! I’m on the CDT right now and will be doing the Wind Range, would love to do this route. Are there PDF maps available at all? We’re using Ley maps mostly and sometimes Guthook. Do you have any resources for a hiker on a budget? Thanks, Mark
Yes, PDF maps are included with the Wind River High Route Guide. I don’t have a “thru-hiker discount,” but if you supply me helpful feedback about the guide after your trip I would be happy to refund your purchase.
I’ve been a huge fan of your work and your writing for a few years now. I’m a big believer in high routes (did SHR last year in 12.5 days and became totally addicted) and I love your writing about them, and the excellent maps you put out. Definitely a super high quality product, and you obviously invest a huge amount of effort into producing top-notch stuff.
I’ve been stoked about doing your WRHR for over a year now, and just returned back from it a few days ago. I have to say, your WRHR is an absolute MASTERPIECE of high route walking.
I took my father-in-law with me, who was totally new to high routes, but has some mountaineering and ultra-running experience. Unfortunately, he was coming off a nasty broken toe and a double meniscus surgery, so hadn’t been able to prep at all. That combined with a couple scary falls and altitude sickness, and he couldn’t deal with 5.5-6.5 day itinerary I had set up. He had a very hard deadline to be back to work, and I have a flight tomorrow morning to start a PhD program in NY, so when we reached Hay Pass we had pull the plug.
I’m so bummed I could’ve given you a documentation of the full thru-hike! As it is though, I’ve put together a video documenting the southern half of the journey at least, and a trip report with photos as well. Here’s link to the two of them in case you’re curious to have a look at them:
Also, I mentioned this in my trip report, but there’s a shuttle business named “Classic Cruise Control”, run by a man named Christian out of Lander, that took us from trailhead to trailhead for only $150. He’s a super awesome, standup dude, and I can’t say enough positive about his business and the fairness of his pricing.
Another question I’ve been meaning to ask you:
Do you have any other high route projects in mind? Anything you could put together from your experiences in Alaska? Colorado Rockies? Any notions about international projects, i.e., Cordilleras Blancas or Dolomites?
I’ll be sure to be back next summer to do a full hike of the 97 miles and will get a full documentation then. I absolutely can’t wait! Already scheming and fantasizing about it.
Seriously, huge props on this man. It’s by far the best high route experience that I’ve ever had. Most beautiful route-line.
(P.S., would love to meet you sometime and try to hike with you if you ever want a youngster for a hiking partner who loves to fast-pack!)
Glad that you had a great experience and that you’ll be returning in the future to finish up the rest of the route. Honestly, you were just starting to get into the good stuff when you bailed out.
A general comment (not specifically to you) that I’d recommend a 5.5-day itinerary for really fit backpackers who are traveling light and ready to put it down. When I did the entire route last summer it took me 4.25 days; I was hoofing it, and a few weeks later I placed 3rd in the Run Rabbit Run 100, which is a very competitive ultra marathon. Seven days is probably about right for the average fit backpacker; more if you want to take your time and your new to high routes, less if you have more of an endurance athletics background.
Oh, re other high routes, I’ve started to work on the Glacier Divide Route, and on one in Colorado. You’ll probably see pre-edition guidebooks this winter.
Christian at Classic Cruise is awesome. He goes over and beyond. Highly recommended. While my partner and I did not do the route andrew writes about, we had a fantastic time doing our own (mostly) off trail figure 8. Our focus was fishing and exploring and less about miles, though we did cover a lot to get to all the different areas.
Hey Andrew, thanks for the reply.
I could tell all to well from your route description that we were just getting to all the really lovely alpine goodness–absolutely breaks my heart to have left it behind! To your point about timing, I was feeling very able, but you’re absolutely right, it was way too much for my less experienced partner. Sadly he had only that brief bit of time off from work and he wanted to take the gamble…
Re: other routes — I saw your Glacier Divide Route post! Was super stoked about it!! I just went to Glacier and did the North Circle Loop with my wife and sister-in-law the week before the WRHR. I spent along time last winter trying to scope out off-trail routes in Glacier and found no leads. When I got there I totally saw why–just like you said, it’s a range that in no way lends itself to the classic archetypes of normal high routes. I had the same exact phrase run through my head while I was there “more like Grand Canyon at elevation than a mountain range”. Anyways, looks like I’ll have an excuse to go back to Glacier too 🙂
Also, yes please to the one on Colorado!!
Do you have any helpful leads on books for sleuthing info on putting together something high-routeish in Alaska? Is Alaska just too far out for you to get there often enough to practically be able put together a worthy high route attempt? I imagine there’s also more serious considerations and dangers when attempting anything those elevations than Sierras and Winds. That being said, I’m absolutely dying to get to Alaska. And I totally share your philosophy: I have limited time and funds, and if I’m making a special trip to a special range, I want to be sure I make the absolute most of it.
Been walking the divide for 40 years now, avoiding trails and running into maybe 3 parties in 3 weeks (usually all when crossing a trail)
In those 40 years I have passed 2 groups in the Alpine Lakes/Brown Cliffs canyon (1996 and 2 years ago) until this year when I ran into 34 people in 6 groups in one day. All were from this post.
I wish this page could be credited entirely for that, but I think a few other online resources are responsible as well.
Unlike elitists who think they have exclusive rights to the Wind River Range, I am thrilled that at least 34 new people experienced Alpine Lakes this summer.
The problem I have with you Andrew is you’re cutting out the acknowledgment of those who have done the route before you. You claim it as your own, or at least act like it is. When someone says, “I love your route,” you don’t say thanks. You say, “It’s not my route, I’m just telling the world about it.” You’re probably the 400th-500th person to do this route ever. That’s the problem people are having around here, you are offending the Skinners, Finis Mitchell, Yvon Chouinard, Forrest McCarthy and Paul Petzl (all whom have contributed to the Winds and significantly to this route). We’ve invested our lives into this range for many generations and to see you take credit for something like this is very unprofessional. I can see why you are a mountain runner…it’d be dangerous for you to hang out in the mountains too long that gave you a boost in your career and your wallet. There are many other locals who have completed better, higher and more adventurous routes. But they don’t swing their website around and take credit for things they haven’t done.
In short, you are a fabricator (a sly one at that). You have NOTHING to do with this route other than walking it and selling the information. I would be disgraced to wear that ‘honor’ as you see it.
Can you point to a single instance in which I have claimed to be the first to explore these areas? If I had, you’re right, that’d be disgraceful and ignorant. But to the contrary, I’ve been forthright in giving credit to earlier luminaries, such as here: https://andrewskurka.com/adventures/wind-river-high-route/history/.
I did the same when I released information for my Kings Canyon High Basin Route, like here and here. Unless I were interested in writing a complete history of these ranges, which is an entirely different project and which others are better capable of doing, I think my efforts to acknowledge that I stand on the shoulders of giants are satisfactory.
Regarding your claims of profit-seeing, I’m very comfortable with selling goods or services into which I have put significant time and/or that are of perceived value to others. I’m sure that you don’t work for free, and I’m sorry if you’re work and your passion do not coincide. I’m very fortunate that mine do. More reading, if you care to: “Is it wrong to profit from your passion?“
Andrew, Just finding these resources you have compiled…OUTSTANDING! Thanks you.
OldTimerClimber51, Can you please list links to other such resources you mention? If those resources were easier to find maybe Andrew would not get so much credit.. I am just trying to get out to WRR, but coming from the SE leaves many questions. Andrew’s site is the only thorough resource I am yet to come across. Sure they are out there, but where? Hesitant to drop money on a book. From previous exp. most tend to be outdated.
Ditto to what Andrew said…
I don’t have any problem paying a bit for an electronic publication that does me a huge service by saving me significant time and energy… I don’t know why this is such a hangup for people.
I probably would never have experienced the Winds in the way that I did if it wasn’t for Skurka and Dixon/Wilson, just like I wouldn’t have experienced the Sierras in the way that I did if it wasn’t for Roper. They are all awesome teachers. I’m massively grateful for the things they’ve taught which have enabled me to have experiences I otherwise wouldn’t have had.
Also, if there’s a higher, more adventurous route that doesn’t involve technical climbing, I’d love to hear it.
“I don’t have any problem paying a bit for an electronic publication that does me a huge service by saving me significant time and energy… I don’t know why this is such a hangup for people.”
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is precisely the problem.
Laziness and disrespect is what it boils down to.
Respect the process, reap the rewards.
Skurka, as well-intentioned as your guide may have been in the beginning, it has contributed to a major burden on a historically untrammeled range. In the last year, I have seen widening trails, new trails right next to existing trails, erosion and more trash than I care to carry out.
But I have to tell myself, to each their own. Not everyone enjoys the backcountry the same. Just realize that your proposed “High Route” isn’t even close to a true high route. I believe it was Conor who pointed out that your route misses some of the most beautiful country in the Winds, not limited to the very northern part of the range, which is some of the most wild and remote in the range.
The great thing about the Winds is the very fact that you can spend a lifetime in the range and still find new nooks and crannies. Different strokes for different folks!
Haha..Wow, just goes to show you Andrew, haters are gonna’ hate.
Hi Andrew. My son and I just hiked the Uinta Highline trail in Utah one end to the other last month. My question is how terrifing are the mountain passes in the Wind River Range? We were planning on doing this hike next. I’m asking because the passes on the Highline trail were so crazy scary!!! Anderson pass and Deadhorse pass plus others!!!! I just wanted to know how ahead of time how the passes were in the Wind River Range. The passes on the Highline trail were the kind that you could easily fall to your death with one wrong step.
I have not hiked in the Winds so I cannot offer first-hand experience. There are some dicey passes in the Winds that would be at least as difficult as anything in the Uintas, if not airier, but I’m sure you could link together a route with easier passes, too.
One month is a lot of time in the backcountry, and hopefully you were able to work on your map-reading skills. If so, you might be able to compare the topography of passes in the Winds with those in the Uintas.
Susan, I have hiked the Uintas Highline trail and been to many places on the “WRHR”. The “WRHR” will be MUCH harder mentally and physically. Some of the passes have less exposure but the fact that there is no trail for miles makes it way tougher mentally at least in my head. i think you could get used to scary passes by doing some good hard day hikes in a steep mountain range like the wasatch or tetons. The “WRHR” is way harder than the highline because of all the off trail sections and the isolation. The Winds are more rocky too. You can contact me if you have any more question
Thank you for your response. I’m seriously not worried about it being difficult mentally or physically. I just don’t want to fall to my death. I can take the physical extremes, the isolation and the hiking with no trail. I just wanted to find out if the passes have sheer drop offs. Its really hard to find that answer anywhere. Oh and I have practiced the scary passes in the Unitas!!! Lol. But I appreciate your information about the trail!!
Hello Susan, Dont think any of the passes in the winds should be any worse than anderson pass ( uintas ) . The west side of anderson or porcupine would be pretty sketchy IF there was no trail. I think some could be more mellow. But route finding errors or left over winter snow could make it tough. I would go for it but always have alternate routes/escapes available. The book-Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains by Nancy Pallister- has awesome off trail info I would get that too.
Thank you so much for that info. Anderson pass was so much fun!! Haha. I think we are going to go for it next summer! I can’t wait. Thanks for the book idea also. I was hoping someone could compare it to Anderson Pass or Porcupine!!
Andrew thanks for your reply. I’m not worried about how strenuous the passes are in the Winds. I don’t mind how hard it is. I only mine the fear of falling off the edge. The Uinta Highline trail was so awesome but the trails on the passes were so harzardous. More than harardous!!! Deadly!! You could barely fit your feet on the trail it was so skinny and usually not many switchbacks. The trail was missing in some areas so we had to step across areas with no trail. I felt like I cheated death on each pass. Lol. We didn’t take a month to do it we did it in 6 nights 7 days. Just curious about the trails in the passes in the wind range because I can look at all types of maps all day long but they don’t show what the trails r like. YIKES But no matter what we are going to hike the Wind River Range trail next.
Susan, I don’t recall any spot on the WRHR with as much exposure to deadly falls as what you describe in the Uintas. In ’88 I did a high traverse like Skurka’s except for the Wind River Peak and Alpine Lakes areas and I used different trail heads. The falling danger on the WRHR isn’t the falling off a cliff variety, but there are a lot of places were a misstep can cause a nasty tumble or slide.
Check out Austin Lillywhite’s posts above and the WordPress link to his excellent trip report and photos. Austin describes an accident his father in law had descending the west gully of Wind River Peak, perhaps the most difficult spot on the route.
A way in which the WRHR might be harder than the Uinta Highline is a lot of it is off trail, some of which is easy walking but there are hours long stretches where a misplaced step could snap an ankle etc. Before attempting the WRHR I think a person should be comfortable with tricky off trail foot work and navigation. I’ve seen guys that had a great on trail backpacking pace in the Winds but on off trail talus their pace went down a crawl.
The Winds are well worth multiple trips, if you don’t have a lot of high elevation off trail hiking experience I’d suggest doing a loop in the Winds first. If you are comfortable with the talus then go for it. Skurka’s guide includes an alternate to the west gully, longer but also beautiful.
I recommend a WRHR section hike for anyone who has not done a high route before. Ditto for KCHBR and SHR.
More reading, https://andrewskurka.com/2016/wind-river-high-route-thru-hike-reverse-psychology/
I’m planning a trip to the WRHR this year with a friend. We have pretty open calendars and would like to pick a time for the best experience and chance of success. When would you recommend?
My impression is that it would make sense to wait until late July for more favorable snow conditions. With storm risks increasing in September, looks like August is best? Would early or late August make any difference?
We are thinking 9 or 10 days. For reference, I completed the SHR in a total of 16 days (split over two trips).
Thank you for putting this together!
Have you read this page yet? https://andrewskurka.com/adventures/wind-river-high-route/scheduling-considerations/
Bottom line: The most optimal window is August through mid-September, or mid-July through mid-September after a dry winter. By pushing it earlier or later, you are more likely to encounter heavy bug pressure, high-water hazards, and/or excessive snow; or you are at an increasing risk of being shut down by an early winter storm.
Winter storms only become more probably as you go into September, and melt off more slowly. But I think anything in September is fair game; October is much less reliable. Early- or late-August would make no difference.
If you did the SHR in 16 days, 10 sounds about right for the WRHR. It’s a bit slower: less on-trail travel, less friendly footing on average, and higher risk of a weather delay.
If you need to commit to dates long before the trip, my recommendation is always to have a backup plan in the event of bad weather. That can happen in any month of the year, and it will shut down the route for a day, maybe two, usually not three. If you can cherry-pick your window by blocking out a 3-week span and starting as soon as the weather window looks good, then you have a higher chance of completing your primary objective.
A.S. An interesting bit of localism from the “Locals”…I understand their frustration coming from a surfing background. However, good or bad our world is smaller now and solitude has become a more ardent pursuit than even 10-20 years ago. A disappointing way to vent via an electronic public venue. Why not man up and meet to discuss or even a side bar convo.
Possibly a well intentioned duo but I can’t subscribe to their method.
I just purchased the guide and am planning a thru-hike of the High Route in mid-July. Do you think the snow coverage at that time of year (particularly after a stormy winter like we’ve had) will merit bringing gaiters? I’d like to save the weight but also would hate to end up postholing through snow fields and soaking the inside of my boots.
The Winds have been clobbered this winter and the snow will linger late, and in some patches it will stick around all year.
By mid-July the snow is consolidated so that you can walk atop it, and will not sink in or posthole. So gaiters are not necessary. I like to wear lightweight trail gaiters anyway, however, because they help keep crap out of my shoes, and thus improve foot health.
You would be well served to read this series on early-season conditions. I have been focusing on the High Sierra, but everything is applicable to the Winds, too.
Thanks for the fast response! I just read your post on early-season fords, which is another concern of mine. Are there any particularly difficult fords to be aware of along the primary high route? I’d like to try to camp as close to the worst ones as possible to be able to cross them as early as possible.
The bridge across the Little Sandy washed out last spring. That’s not the greatest early season
The Guide addresses them specifically, so I won’t go crazy here. In general, fords are not a huge problem on the High Route because you are almost always high in the watersheds, before water has had a chance to really collect.
That said, be careful in the Bull Lake Creek drainages (South, Middle and North Forks). The South Fork is below Photo Pass. Just cross it early and it won’t be a problem. The Middle Fork drains into Golden Trout Lakes, and its velocity might surprise you. The unnamed tributary of North Fork that drains Knife Edge Glacier is decently sized, but you should be able to find a safe spot. Finally, there is the North Fork itself. It’s the biggest of them all, but there are some safe ways through.
The last one is Dinwoody Creek. It can be safely crossed via the rock moraine, if it’s too big where it emerges.
My plans have changed slightly so I will be hiking the High Route in late July/early August. I know you generally recommend a South-North traverse, but after this heavy snow year, do you think North-South could be better? I figure since snow will hold on northern aspects much longer than southern, it would be preferable to ascend the north side of the many passes and descend the south side, rather than having to descend icy northern aspects, especially early in the morning when they’ll still be icy.
If the winds were oriented north-south that would certainly be the case. But the Winds are unique in that they are oriented north-northwest/south-southeast. A lot of the snow ends up lingering on the south-southeast side of the passes, which are more leeward. For example, more snow accumulates on the south side of Alpine Lakes Pass and Douglas Peak Pass than on the north side. The Winds are still going to be holding so much snow in late-July/August this year that it almost isn’t going to matter — you will hit snow on both sides probably.
I still think you should go south-to-north, but for a different reason than I normally recommend. If you go north, you’ll be giving the northern more snowier miles a few more days to melt out. And in this time of year the difference of a few days can be fairly dramatic.
Another date question regarding the WRHR for you. I am lucky enough to have June free this summer, and I was really hoping to hike the WRHR. I see that you recommend starting in July, but would you advise against hiking the route in June (starting around June 12th)? I’ve got microspikes and have experience using them, but would consider picking up crampons and/or an ax if necessary.
The Winds (and other parts of northwestern Wyoming) had a very wet winter. Look at the statewide map on this page, https://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/gis/snow.html. It is showing snow water equivalent (which is not snow depth but which is strongly correlated) of 160+ percent of average for this time of year. I think June will still be ski season in the Winds this year. July will have early season conditions, and things will normalize in August.
It is a tough year throughout most of the West to do anything ambitious early in the summer.
Damn, that’s too bad. Thank you for that link, that’s a very useful resource. The Winds definitely look very, very wet this year. I have been looking at the section hikes listed in your guide, are there any loops you’d recommend that would be more doable than the whole route that early in the season? Otherwise I guess I’ll be sticking to lower altitudes (perhaps the lost coast or other parts of the PNW?).
I would not go further north than Golden Trout Lakes. Douglas Peak, Alpine Lakes, North Fork Bull Lake Creek, upper Torrey Creek, etc. Te southern end of the route is generally lower and gets less snow. Oh, but be careful of West Gully, will be a steep lick of snow probably.
Is there anywhere north of Bonney Pass which you can cross over the divide?
I have a friend willing to resupply me at New Fork Lakes and I”m wondering if there are any passable spots between Yukon Peak and Mount Woodrow Wilson??
The divide is not the problem. It’s the deep valleys you’d have to descend from the divide down into the upper Green River valley, e.g. Pixley and Wells. They’re nasty, and Bonney is definitely the better bet.
Agree that the western drainages would be a bear for just a resupply. Tourist Creek (went up it last year) or Pallister’s Slide Lake to Baker Lake routes (doing most of that this year) would be the best of those but no walk in the park by any means. Knapsack Col just SW of MWW would likely be the “easiest”.
Amy, more info would be helpful for recommending a route. What experience do you and your friend have in the Winds? Will you meet your friend at a trail head or will the friend hike in to you? Are you planning a WRHR through hike or?
Probably the easiest way from a western trailhead to the Divide is Elkhart TH to Indiana Basin (S of Fremont Peak) then over Indian Pass to the area of the WRHR though Alpine Pass. But it is south of where you are asking about and some of the most heavily used areas in the Winds.
A route I like is from Green River TH almost to Slide Lake, then up White Rock, across Lost Eagle Peak, past Elbow Lk No 2 and Golden Lakes (not the Golden Lakes of the WRHR) and on to the Divide at Iceberg Lake Pass. It is very scenic and compared to alternative routes in that area I’d say the footwork is easy, but the route finding is tricky. If you are interested I can write a more detailed description.
Bob, I was intending to wander around that area some in Aug if you don’t mind posting more details. I’ve seen Nancy’s description of it.
Hi Michael, have a look on http://www.greatoutdoorshop.com/conditions/trail-report/ and the further link to the 7/12/2017 report, at that time both bridges over Clear Creak were washed out. The Slide Cr area can still be reached by the trail on the southwest shore of lower GR lake, cross the bridge over the river between the lakes, then head north on the Highline to Clear Cr and follow it’s east side to the Slide Cr trail.
You have Pallister’s Beyond Trails… guide? Which edition? The second has better maps but not a route variation that is in the first. Both editions describe the standard route; I used it once in the early 90s to reach the divide. A couple of other trips I went from the divide to the Golden lakes and down Elbow Cr, it works but not as scenic as White Rock – Lost Eagle.
If my old body will do it I’d like to try these variations this August, up Slide Cr trail to 9000 feet, then off the standard route, west from the north end of the meadow then SW to pick up the ridge of White Rock at about 9800, follow the ridge traversing the summit panicle at about 11150. Southeast of point 11245 rejoin the standard route coming up the large gully. At the northeast corner of Lost Eagle’s summit plateau there is a descending ridge I’d like to try, that is the variation in Pallister’s first edition but not the second, from that ridge she then descended south to Elbow L No 2.
I’d like to try staying on the ridge to point 11894 on the Downs map. From the 11300 saddle head SSE, as the slope steepens you can see a small gully bending south from about 11500 to 11700. If it isn’t a “go” then it is a short back track to the 11300 saddle, from there go SSW down the gully to rejoin the standard route.
Obviously when doing these variations you don’t want to error to the north. In poor visibility, lightening etc. I’d prefer the standard route. But in those conditions at these elevations off trail in the Winds I’d rather stay in my tent anyway. Both the standard route and these variations aren’t the hardest in the Winds, but every route in this area requires experience and close attention, it can be confusing.
Have you ever tried following the White Rock ridgeline all the way from the Clear Cr bridge? Seems like it would go though there appear to be some cliff bands fairly low (8800-9000) that you’d need to head just a bit east to get around. There is a use trail that Y’s off the Highline in that direction shortly after crossing the now washed out bridge. You can even see the start of it on satellite, but maybe it’s only going to some campsites.
I have her first edition (2010). While there is a brief mention of it she didn’t include the alternate to Elbow #2 on the map, but I’ve read of someone else going down that ridge though. I had thought the same of staying high to 11894. Guess we’ll find out. 🙂
Have you ever gone from lower Golden to the upper one? Saw one report that said you couldn’t do it but sure looks doable from satellite. I sure can’t see where the pinch/cliff point was at least.
If you want to find real, honest, accurate current info on the Winds, talk with Joey Coconato on FB or watch some of his work/trips on YouTube (MyOwnFrontier). Now THERE’S a guy who’s living the dream and has feet on the ground 250+ nights a year.
(Michael, I had trouble posting this yesterday, will try answering to the page instead of your post)
Joe Kelsey (author of THE Winds guide book) has a memoir of his decades in the Winds called A Place in Which to Search, I highly recommend it to anyone with a broad interest in the Winds, it starts out rock climbing centric but over time shifts to backpacking, much of it off trail. He mentions enjoying going up the NW toe of White Rock on multiple trips, but his description isn’t meant to be a guide. Just looking at the topo it seems there are multiple ways to reach the mellow spot on the ridge around 8640 and from there contour to the gully that goes up to the east of point 9326. If you handled lower Tourist Cr last year you should do fine with this. Personally, starting a trip with a full pack and an old body I’d rather take Slide Cr trail to 9000 etc.
In chapter 7 of the memoir Kelsey tells the story of making several navigational mistakes while using the Golden Lk – Lost Eagle – White Rock route to exit Bear Basin, it made me feel better about my own mistakes while on foot lol.
I’ve been past Golden Lk 10940 on 3 trips, but it was over 20 years ago, I didn’t attempt to go to the upper lakes and don’t recall the details of them. In general I’m timid where steep rock meets cold water.
Since my previous post there has been a trail update at the link above, the Highline bridge over Clear Cr has been finished, no mention of the bridge further up Clear Cr used for the Slide Cr trail, I’d assume it has far less priority.
I believe Pallister’s second edition is worth buying even if you have the first, in the first the maps were scanned trail-used and pencil-marked in both the book and on a CD. Now the maps are digital originals and on CD only, far easier to read, and she used the space in the book for additional text.
On August 2nd, I and 2 other friends completed your Wind River High Route in its entirety. First, I’d like to say thank you for envisioning and creating what is now in my mind the finest line through the finest mountain range in the lower 48. From the summit of Wind River Peak to the summit of Downs Mountain, the route was packed with the most spectacular alpine scenery I have ever laid eyes upon. Also, your guide was done wonderfully, with just enough information to get us through but not enough to take away all the fun of route-finding along the way. Out of curiosity, do you know how many parties (if any) have completed the route in its entirety, without taking any alternates or deviations, since you first completed it?
Thanks, Dane Steadman
“Finest line through the finest mountain range in the lower 48.” But have you tried the Pfiffner Traverse or Kings Canyon High Basin Route? 🙂
Yes, you’re right, both are world-class.
Glad the guide was useful and struck a good balance between instruction and adventure.
No clue how many people are giving it a go. How many people did you see out there? I know sales numbers, but I don’t know the fraction of individuals that put it to use or that go for a thru-hike v section-hike.
Well I guess I’ll have to give them both a try. We didn’t really see anyone between the trail sections with the exception of a few Gannett climbers, but when we got out at Trail Lakes we did see one group when trying to get to Bruce’s Bridge to start the High Route. Unfortunately I couldn’t give them a ride due to lack of space since it was the end of a 6-week road trip, but I did feel good about convincing one to pack an ice axe.
I’m about to attempt a thru-hike, and I couldn’t be more excited. Although I haven’t done the route yet, just from the planning stages I appreciate that you strike a balance between providing useful information but not paving the way (e.g. no GPS track).
Anyways, there’s a chance I may have some extra time at the end of my trip. I am curious about potential lines through the northernmost section past Goat Flat, and the associated logistics necessary to get out of there. I was planning to hitch from Trail Lakes TH back to Bruce Bridge.
Another thing I’m curious about is Bonney Pass. I had pretty much resolved not to do the Titcomb Basin alternate, until I read some comments here. Should I expect the gully to be snow-filled this late into summer? If not, it sounds like the pass would be steep scree, and on the north side, Dinwoody glacier is shallow enough that it would be passable with microspikes. In other words, it sounds like the Tticomb alternate would be doable without an ice axe in late season. Please correct me if I am under the wrong impression.
I’d be grateful for any beta you care to share, and I’d be more than happy to let you know about how my hike goes once I’m done.
What questions do you have specifically about north of Goat Flat. I know you can do a loop around Ross Lake out of Trail Lakes, but I haven’t done it myself.
In a normal year the south side of Bonney Pass melts out, exposing steep but unexceptional talus. This year, it will melt out much later than normal, if ever, due to a HUGE snowpack in 2016-17 winter. I wouldn’t get on it without an ice axe if it were snow-covered — you wouldn’t stop if you fell.
The Dinwoody Glacier is low-angle (at least from the base of the pass to the bottom) and right now it’s likely still snow-covered. If it’s bare ice, traction is absolutely needed. Beware of the crevasses marked on the map and visible in Landsat imagery.
A friend and I just completed the route south to north on the 13th. I unfortunately cannot give much useful information about Bonney pass (we crossed Blaurock), but can tell you there’s quite a bit of snow – especially on the northernmost Alpine Lake (it’s frozen over by about a foot of ice), as well as the following pass. I would expect a non-trivial amount of snow on Bonney.
We were happy to have ice axes through Alpine Lakes (we never used crampons), but were able to safely navigate around/through snow hazards for the rest of the route without ice axes (we also skipped Wind River peak and New York pass, opting for Texas pass). Other hikers we passed during the trip relied more heavily on ice axes/crampons.
Perhaps in the next week or so the snow conditions will improve significantly, but I wouldn’t gamble your trip on it.
I just purchased the Wind River Bundle and the Hayduke Bundle. Hayduke has a legend for the maps but Wind Rivers does not. Comparing the two map sets, it appears that you have used different markers for each map set. Yes, No? Can you send me how to locate a legend for the Wind Rive map set? Thanks for your time with this!
Primary Route is black and red.
Alternate routes are green and yellow.
Loops are purple and blue.
In each case, one color is for waypoints. The other is for annotations. In the next version of the guide, I will probably just use one color for the PR, another for loops, and a third for alternates.
Thank you for your post on the Wind river high route. There is a group of us (10 people) that are doing the Titcomb Basin Loop in early July. From your post we know that mosquitos are going to be a problem, but I couldn’t find anything on bears or “mini bears”. Did you use a canister or Ursack? Also, would you recommend bear spray or firearm? Thank you.
p.s.- Thank you for your tip on getting your own clothing treated at “Insect-shield”. I just had my long sleeve Sierra design, pack polo’s treated. Hoping that it will work on a knit shirt.
You can probably get away with “rodent hanging” your food, a few feet off the ground and a few feet from a limb. If there are no trees around, an Ursack is a good idea at established sites.
Bears shouldn’t be a problem, in terms of food or bodily harm. So no spray or firearm.
The ‘skeeters in the Winds in July can be pretty wicked. You’ll probably want another half-layer of defense for evenings when they are at their peak.
Thank you for the quick reply and advice. What do you consider a half-layer?
Something you can throw over it for the ultimate defense. Nothing more than one of the collared shirts in this post, https://andrewskurka.com/2015/backpacking-clothing-go-suit-bug-shirt/. A lighter option would be a windshirt, although it’ll be less breathable.
Perfect. Thank you.
Hey Andrew, planning to tackle this come the first week of August. I’ve done the Sierra High Route a couple times, how does this compare in your opinion? How many days did you complete this in, and if you have done this more than once, what was your quickest trip? I am looking to complete it in roughly 4-5 days and fully aware of how absurd that might sound to most people who have experience with off trail backpacking of this nature. Thanks for providing these resources! Looking forward to getting my hands on them when its time.
If you did the SHR, you should be able to calculate accurately the days you’ll need for the Wind River High Route. Here’s an article, https://andrewskurka.com/2018/high-route-time-days-management-vertical/.
WHRH is more difficult than SHR. More off-trail as a percentage of distance, higher max and average altitudes, worse weather, more exposure, longer lingering snow and ice. I would add a full day to your itinerary in case you get shut down.
I completed the entire route in 4.25 days (a few hours after dinner on Day 1, then four full days) as part of my yo-yo. I was in extremely good shape, and ran a very competitive 100-miler two weeks later in 20 hours.
Thank you for your reply Andrew! Just purchased your guide download. Heading out on the 1st of August. Will you by chance be at Outdoor Retailer? I’ll be bouncing around on Wednesday and Thursday.
Hi Andrew – I did Loop 1 last summer and really, really loved it; thank you for putting it together. It looks like I’m going to get to go back in September, and I’m thinking about combining Loops 3 and 4. I’m trying to get a handle on whether I’m ready for the technical difficulty (as opposed to the route-finding and distance/elevation, which I know are their own challenges).
I’m still relatively new to backpacking and this was the most advanced hike I’ve done. I did both bypasses (Texas Pass and Coon Lake) – was solo hiking (and will be again) so wanted to stay somewhat conservative. I heartily enjoyed the scrambling all the way up and down Wind River Peak (the only real off-trail section I did) and didn’t find it physically challenging. Not sure how I would have felt in the West Gully but I knew I didn’t want to try it alone. The other passes (Washakie, Texas, Temple) were steep and rocky but had trails so didn’t really pose a challenge.
From reviewing the descriptions and trail reports about 3 and 4, it looks like Europe Peak and the Alpine Lakes/Knifepoint section are the hardest parts? I think they seem doable, but it’s tough to gauge – is it possible to say how they compare to the boulder fields at the top of WR Peak, for example? Or is there anything else you would recommend looking to from loop 1 or otherwise that would provide a sense of the technical demands of loops 3 and 4? I’m not sure whether anything I did counts as “class 3 scramble,” but from looking at the pictures I can find that are labeled class 3 I think I could handle it – I have no technical climbing knowledge but I’ve scrambled/hopped a lot of rock.
My girlfriend and I just completed the route south-to-north Aug 14th through 22nd. It was tough, but very rewarding and amazingly beautiful!
The only thing I have to add to the already abundant information here is a footwear recommendation: consider using “approach”-style shoes.
— For non-climbers who aren’t familiar with this category, they’re basically hiking shoes with outsoles that have stickier rubber. They also tend to be a little thinner in the midsoles and have shallower lugs, both for proprioception/feel and precision foot placement due to more surface area with rock (the idea is that to access lot of climbing crags, one often travels off-trail and on rocky/slabby “approaches” to the vertical rocks that will be climbed, hence the need for this niche category).
— Well, precision feel and stickiness can be really nice for the dozens of thousands of rocks you’ll be hopping on and over during the route. Minor slippage, corrections, and minor ankle tweaks can add up and take their toll, so mitigating them is really in one’s best interest on this rocky route.
— For me, the efficiency of precise, quick, solid foot placements on all the talus/boulders/slabs far outweighed any comfort loss due to possibly less cushioning or minor work increase due to slightly more weight (as compared to light trail runners).
— Plus, approach shoes now come in light, synthetic versions that have many of the same advantages of trail runners that Andrew Skurka extols (lightweight, dry out after being soaked, etc.). I’d recommend shoes like the LaSportiva TX3, Arcteryx Acrux SL, Scarpa Gecko Lite, or Adidas Terrex Swift Solo.
Happy (off) Trails!
I agree entirely that footwear needs to be looked at differently on a high route. My solution is the La Sportiva Bushido, https://andrewskurka.com/2017/review-la-sportiva-bushido-high-route-backpacking/
Andrew, thank you for creating this rad resource. I did your Loop 4 Labor Day weekend 2018 and was blown away by its beauty and adventure. I picked it as my first solo backpacking trip, finished the loop in 4.5 days, and fell in love with the experience and the landscape. Your guide was worth far more than the $25 price tag, as it provides the perfect mix of data and the opportunity to go figure things out for yourself. Now, I’m planning a trip for this summer that mixes up your full high route with a little bit of peak bagging – so thanks for empowering me to do something like that. Last year I got pretty humbled by the bigness of off trail-travel in the Winds. My “planned rest day” to try to summit Fremont Peak was quickly abandoned in favor of just trying to cover the route itself. So this time around I’m hoping to mix more on- and off-trail travel with the idea of extra time and energy to scramble up some of those glorious Wyoming summits. Anyway, just wanted to say thanks.
Hi Andrew! My boyfriend and I are planning to do this route in late August, and I’m mixed on what to use for food storage. My AllMitey can only fit 6 days worth of food for 1 person so I’d need 3 for the two of us…since this route is mostly off trail do you think rodent hang / sleeping with food with a normal sack could work? Bear canisters are so heavy, and we’d still need two if we used these. Thank you in advance for your insight!
I would go with the Ursack Major XL.
You shouldn’t have rodent problems along the route, very few established camps. If you are in an established camp, do a rodent hang with your Major.
Perfect. Thank you or the quick reply! Super excited about the route 🙂
Hi Andrew! I’ve wanted to go to the brown cliffs for many years and it seems like things are lining up for me. I will be headed there via Indian pass and alpine lakes pass. I’m curious about knifepoint glacier this year since it has been a cooler summer here. Have you been out that way recently? I have my ice axe and crampons but I will be solo and don’t want to put myself at too much risk. Any information would be appreciated!
Where you will cross Knife Point Glacier, it’s moderate angle, has no crevasses, and is probably snow-covered until very late this summer, maybe the entire year. At most, I would take the spikes. Leave the axe at home.
Andrew, do you personally use a Ursack on this route? Wondering if I absolutely should purchase one.
This route is almost always above usual bear habitat, so I think it’s pretty low-risk. Also, I’d find comfort in knowing that it gets quite a bit of traffic but that reports of bear conflicts or even bear sightings are (almost?) non-existent.
That said, I’d be careful of:
* Cirque of the Towers, which is within their range and relatively high-use;
* The established sites at the foot of Dinwoody Glacier, which might also have some rodent issues
If I think of other spots, I’ll add them to this list.
Appreciate the quick response. So pumped for this route. Also, appreciate your reply…. ultimately it’s my choice if I want to carry an extra 8.2 ounces, just like I choose how I want to do the WRHR. Thanks for the facts.
Is it ok to keep my Ursack in my tent while sleeping? (I’ll have an odor resistant OPSACK liner) or do I need to store it outside my tent every night?
Highly highly subjective but I did sleep with my food. I did carry bear spray.
Not sure why I’d do this beyond pure laziness…..
If I was carrying an Ursack, I’d be more inclined to tie it up to a tree nearby (within easy earshot of my shelter). If you’re going to sleep with it, then why carry it at all?
I appreciate your advice! I’ll let y’all know how it turns out!
I’m returning to the Winds for my second trip (did the southern half up through Europe Peak back in 2016, going to attempt the entire thing start to finish next week, Aug 11-18). My buddy and I were leaning towards leaving the ice axe at home. I watched a video of some CDTers who did the southern half up to Bonneyville Basin a few weeks ago in mid-July and all the passes up through there looked very clear. However, I haven’t been able to find any reliable data on Douglas Peak Pass, Alpine Lakes Pass or Blaurock Pass. Thought I’d ask your two cents just in case. What do you think, should I be concerned about these? We’d obviously be more than happy to bring the axes if it meant avoiding being turned around an not finishing the route.
Thanks so much! Warm regards,
The southern half of the route holds less snow than the northern half, which starts with Alpine Lakes Basin. So there might be more snow on that part of the route.
Still, though, I can’t think of too many places, if any, where I’d want an axe at this time of year. It gets on some steep slopes, and some of them may be snow-covered, but the snow should be soft and you shouldn’t find any cornices. So low risk of a fall, and unlikely need to cut steps or self-belay anywhere.
Austin, I’ll be on it the day before you (tomorrow, 8/10). May run in to you guys. Was thinking of going without an axe. Let me know if you have found beta to suggest bringing one.
And thanks Andrew! Your Guide has been a superb tool for preparing in my opinion.
If I fall short, it won’t be for lack of beta.
First off thanks for the guide! Heading to Gannett Peak via Glacier Trail through Dinwoody starting in Dubois. Then looping back via your High-Route plan up to Down Mountain then back to Glacier Trail over Goat Flat.
One question is how deep will some of the creek crossing be through Dinwoody? Have concern with making it to Gannett with wet boots/shoes. If not too deep, are waterproof socks doable for the crossings, or is the creek bottom far to rocky (slick, large rocks, or smaller rock/sandy bottom?) Or maybe you have a preferred UL sandal/camp shoe you can recommend? Tried many options over the years, but still have not found anything I love under 7oz.
Any other gear recommendations would also be appreciated as just not real sure what to expect weather-wise. We are planning to be able to rope up, have crampons and ice axes… With the long winter will the misquotes be an issue (last week in Aug)?
Thanks for any information you have to offer.
Didn’t go down that part of the Dinwoody this year on the high route, but I did two years ago with my son and we were able to jump or cross logs at most of the streams, but we had to wade thigh deep at one point. We took Xero shoes sandals.
But on my WRHR this week I took Andrew’s advice and waded wet crossings in my socks. Then I changed into my extra hiking socks and let the wet ones dry in a mesh bag on the back of my pack. Worked like a charm and gave me an excuse to wash those stinky socks out. I will never take wading shoes/sandals again.
I saw tons of people at the Dinwoody camp so it can’t be too bad to cross this year.
Just arriving home from a successful WRHR (8/10-16/19) and wanted to say thanks!
Also thought I’d post my itinerary. Total of 6 hiking days that were hard but doable for a 53yr old weekend warrior. I carried 7.5 days of food and a base weight of 12 lbs for 26 lb load out. I think carrying a lot more weight/food just increases your chances of bonking/bailing early.
Day 1 (3/4 day) Shuttle ride and hike to highest camps below WR peak
Day 2 WR peak to close to East Fork River
Day 3 PR-17 to below Europe peak
Day 4 PR-28 to Alpine Lakes
Day 5 PR-37 to the Dinwoody moraine. These are great sites, but they look they they might be used by NOLS which would be a shock if occupied (short milage but two big passes and allows time to rest for D6).
Day 6 Dinwoody to Aero Pass. I actually planned to stop at walled site at the foot of Downs Mtn but the weather was deteriorating and so pushed lower. This was a long day and I underestimated no-mans and goat flat a bit. Still finished in the light.
Day 7 (2 hrs) Aero pass to car.
I know some people want the route wired with step by step info. But I think you have produced the ‘goldilocks’ guide — not too much beta, not too little. Its clear you put a ton of time into exploring the area and linking the best paths to these classic parts of the range.
And I wanted to contradict the blogosphere: I loved the West Gully descent of WR peak. Its tough but takes such a cool, improbable route that it was one of my favorite parts. People should be prepared and should have practiced a lot of talus before doing the WRHR in general. Take your time and its just not as bad as I read. I think with more traffic it will become a classic feature of the route.
Again, many thanks. It was indeed the best outdoor adventure I’ve had and my feet will heal in time 😉
Who did you use for your shuttle ride?
Booked online with Wind River Shuttle. They were great.
Steve Bleyl, thanks for posting your trip report! You did an awesome job! Completing that hike in 6 days is no small feat!
Me and my buddy Matt also successfully completed the whole thru-hike on 8/11-16. Cool to see that we were overlapping or close together for most of the trip! And definitely a great window of weather! But lots and lots of snow on Wind River Peak and in the northern half from Alpine Lakes Basin forward!
For reference, I’ll put up our itinerary too:
Day 0 (8/10) – drive up from Salt Lake City, park car at northern terminus (Glacier Trail trailhead), shuttle back to Bruce Bridge around dinner time, camp just a bit out from Bruce Bridge.
Day 1 (8/11) – Camp below Wind River Peak
Day 2 (8/12) – The plan was to camp in the Cirque. But we lost a Garmin Inreach somewhere around Black Joe Lake and couldn’t find it; we didn’t want our families to freak out and call search and rescue, so late in the afternoon we desperately started hiking out toward Big Sandy Trailhead asking everyone they passed if they had a Garmin; the very last group we passed did have one, and they very kindly texted our families for us to let them know we had lost our Garmin and that they shouldn’t expect to hear from us again until we finished. We slept at Big Sandy Campground. Altogether, this mess-up added 12 miles to the trip for us. Definitely some lessons learned the hard way here!
Day 3 (8/13) – Big Sandy Campground to upper East Fork River
Day 4 (8/14) – Upper East Fork to below Hay Pass
Day 5 (8/15) – Below Hay Pass to the North Fork of Bull Lake Creek
Day 6 (8/16) – North Fork of Bull Lake Creek to car at Glacier Trail Trailhead. We contemplated pitching a camp at Iceberg Lakes Saddle, but the wind was blowing super hard and it was only 4pm, so we decided to just finish off on that day. We ended up hiking the last half of Goat’s Flat and Glacier Trail in the dark. An adventurous finale!
Please don’t publish your campsites, as one small way to prevent concentration of use. I’ll edit to remove some of the details.
Yes, good idea.
Good point Andrew. Please mask my post to reduce overuse as you see fit.
And Great job Austin! I kept expecting you to catch me and its clear you would have if not for the Inreach incident.
Too bad as it would have been nice to meet you both!
I kind of agree with the two dissenters. I respect the route. I wish we didn’t have to popularize it so much. It seems like some things might still be worth discovering on ones own. Just an opinion.
Oh, so only YOU can tell people what to post or not? But locals can’t ask you to do the same? They put in hard work to find those sites so why can’t they post it? The locals put in a lot of work to avoid exactly what you’re doing, popularizing and commercializing. Talk about elitist… Locals have given a nickname to people like you. We call them ‘Skurkas.’ Definition: one who only sees value in the potential rewards given by the mountains for glorification and money and not for appreciation of the land itself. One who is very ego-saturated. Example: look at that Skurka up there on the mountain looking for a phone signal to hashtag his sponsors.
I like the term, it comes off the tongue nicely.
Surfing and Hiking have a lot in common ie; localism feelings. I understand/experience both so can’t criticize either party. Human nature I reckon. M
The whole idea that “locals” should have some special say over the use of a national treasure like the Winds is just ridiculous.
From a conservation standpoint that is good. I doubt the few “local” dissenters posting here represent the views of the majority in Lander or Pinedale where the influx of paying visitors coming to hike or whatever is very desirable.
Use will increase. Come to peace with it. But having done the route, I’d say Andrew did a great job of recommending responsible use and left plenty to “discover on one’s own.”
Andrew – got your guide and am finally planning a trip to the Winds in two weeks, super excited. We want to hit the Cirque and Wind River peak. Am looking at Loop 1 but it looks like a fairly long approach and exit over the same flat dry ground; would like to spend those miles and time up high. Any reason not to just do Loop 2 but add on the northern portion of Loop 1 in reverse (i.e. Big Sandy to the Washakie, Valentine, and Lizard trail section, then down into the Cirque from the east)?
The section-hikes are simply recommendations. Edit as you need to. Your particularly recommendation sounds fine.
The section-hikes are just recommendations. Edit as you see fit. Your particular edit sounds fine.
I did Loop 1 and I think this is a good idea – the whole route is awesome but there are more exciting ways to use your time than those approach miles. I think going through the Cirque at the beginning or the end would let you hit all the features without doubling terrain after the first trail miles – you could either start the way you said but go directly from Lizard Head to the “ramp” up Wind River Peak, then down to Big Sandy Lake via the West Gully or Temple Pass alternate (I did the latter and it was beautiful), into the Cirque through Jackass Pass, and out over Texas/NY Pass. Or, start by going to Big Sandy Lake then over Jackass Pass, use Texas/NY to get to the Washakie/Lizard portion, up WRP via the ramp and down to Big Sandy Lake and out from there – I think the second way would be lower miles overall. Either way, there’s good camping a little ways east of the intersection of Lizard Head and North Fork trails – may be better than crowded Cirque.
Thanks, Andy and David – this is great.
As far as ending the hike on a high note, in your opinion is either the Cirque or Wind River Peak a bigger exclamation point, or do you think they’re apples and oranges different-but-equally-amazing? I’ve looked at visiting the Cirque for many years, am not so familiar with Wind River Peak.
David, both your route thoughts are much appreciated. And I hadn’t looked at the Temple Pass alternate – will definitely have to consider.
They are both amazing but I would personally say the peak is a bigger exclamation point simply by virtue of being a summit where you’d be able to look down at the features you just traveled through. But most important to do the climb on a clear day for the views and dry boulder-hopping conditions – you could plan some flexibility as weather dictates. Overall you can’t go wrong in this area, as you can maybe tell from the fact that I’m commenting about route planning for a hike I did several years ago.
I chose to go through Temple because I wasn’t very experienced with off trail and some reports said the west gully felt trickier – if you go up via the ramp, you could look at both descent options before selecting one. On the Temple alternate, the scramble to or from Coon Lake is brushy and steep – not difficult, but was more time-consuming than just trail walking would have been.
Four of us in our 50’s completed the WRHR Sunday evening after seven days (six nights), south to north. Two of us had done Loop 8 last year, so somewhat knew what to expect. There was considerably more snow than last year, perhaps not surprising since we were there ten days earlier this year. Very low mosquito pressure. The route is spectacular! Lots of people on the trail portions, though I gather this is the case all over the country this year. We only encountered two other parties doing the route, three guys looking to be in their 20s and a young couple from Telluride, both groups going north to south; both of them in the Alpine Lakes. And not a single person from Alpine Lakes Pass to well beyond Goat Flat. Thanks for putting together this resource!
Hi Kristian — thanks for posting! I am due to leave for the Wind River High Route in about 1.5 weeks. Super excited! Have done the Pfiffner, but this will be my first off-trail in the Winds 🙂 I was surprised to see you comment on how much snow there is…would you recommend spikes and/or an ice axe with the current conditions? I know that things can change quickly, and we aren’t starting until a week from Sunday, but still curious as to your thoughts here. Thanks so much for your advice in advance!
Hi Jillian — you’ll love this! I was glad to have microspikes on parts of section four. The two glaciers were super soft in places, to the point that we sometimes sank into nearly ankle-deep water in places, and didn’t need them there. But there was enough snow on West Sentinel Pass and the subsequent unnamed one that we were able to avoid the loose scree by staying on the steep snow. We wouldn’t have been able to do that without the spikes. I definitely wouldn’t take an ice axe. That said, we could have avoided carrying an extra 8-10 ounces the rest of the route. And there will likely be lots of melt over the next 10 days; it’s been very warm. If you can time your crossings to later in the day when the snow is soft, you may not need them.
Thanks, Kristian! Super helpful. We were planning on camping not too far from West Sentinel Pass, so I would anticipate hitting it in the morning haha…may decide to bring spikes. Will have to think on it!
Just finished Saturday 15th. Microscopes were nice but a group of 3 i was following got through fine without them.
Skeeters were horrible right around Blaurock pass but non existent everywhere else.
Looks lunar like and rather bleak. Not a fan of virtually forest-less mountains.
Our group of five did this route in 1971. At that time the USGS had not yet updated its maps from the original 1909 survey. We used aerial photos to get around. We put in some new routes (White Hat, Tri-Cirque Pinnacle) and saw very few other humans over the 3-1/2 weeks we were there. One of the great experiences of my life.
Richard and Elly Rumelt, Norman Toy, Paul Teplitz and Ed Rumelt.
> One of the great experiences of my life.
I bet it was.
Planning to hike Section 6 while on a trip to the Lander area this summer. I will be there between August 9-27, and will have flexibility during those dates to choose a good weather window if one presents itself. Could anyone comment on a good source to get info on current conditions on this section of the High Route? Most concerned about the need to bring microspikes and mosquito levels. Thanks for any help and very much looking forward to this experience.
That section shouldn’t have much, if any, snow this year. Anything below 13000 ft on the south side of the range has melted. Mosquitos will be there but should be manageable.
Hi Andrew, looking to do the WRHR the second week of September, I’m a proficient east coast hiker and ultra marathoner, with extensive off trail travel, but admittedly not much time at any serious elevation. First off, I appreciate all the legwork you have put into this route.
Secondly, have you ever considered this alternate for the West Gully? It seems like one should be able to stay on the divide from Wind River Peak and head north/northwest at a bearing of about 330 for 3 or so miles, before continuing west over Big Sandy Mountain. The western side of Big Sandy Mountain seems much tamer on topo, and this alternative would keep the hiker higher. Should be able to drop into the North Creek basin before ascending Jackass Pass without conflict.
Seems this could be a viable, lower mileage alt to the Coon Lake Bypass, no? Would I be missing any must see country in the Black Joe Creek/Big sandy Lake area? I feel like I might be overthinking the West Gully, or who knows, this could be more interesting than dropping down. Thanks
Yes, looked at this. There’s a little problem at 42.7129, -109.1330
Get a sense for it here, https://www.google.com/maps/place/42%C2%B042'46.4%22N+109%C2%B007'58.8%22Wemail@example.com,-109.1523981,1661a,35y,90h,38.51t/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x0:0x0!8m2!3d42.7129!4d-109.133!5m1!1e4
Gotcha. It was hard to make out the contour lines on both the printed maps and in Gaia, but it seems quite impossible after checking Google Earth. West Gully it is. Thanks for the reply
Ordered the Winds HR and when I tried to download the file it said download limit reached.
Dennis – I just sent you an email. Your permissions have been renewed so you can attempt the download again. Let me know if you continue to have issues.
Purchased the High Line Guide download zip. But… could not download in the alotted 2 tries. Partly my fault (somehow got 2 going at the same time and cancelled one), partly my server’s fault (download failed). Can I have another shot at it?
I’ll have Matt get hold of you.
Hey there! I’m
Going to attempt a trip on the high route this July. Currently snowpack
Is 115%. Do you think a NOBO starting 7/18 is too early? Will
Valleys be mostly snow free? Thanks man!
There are other sites with snow info, I like this one:
My memory is out of date, I’d expect valleys to be clear by 18 July, some snow still in passes and where avalanches have piled it up. Have you been to the Winds before? It’s a beautiful and wonderful hike. Please post how your trip goes.
Not too early, but I’d expect snow in the most suspect spots, like high passes, leeward sides of ridges, and shady aspects up high.
Thanks for the comments guys. I hiked thru the winds on the CDT which barely touches the goods. Maybe the snow will cover up some talus scrambling. Either way, excited to revisit the range. Also, awesome job on the Yosemite high route! Had a blast on it last year. We went sobo from Sonora pass to the valley.
Mid July 2022. Spike and axe or no? I know this is highly subjective. I’m extremely comfortable on snow and ice and usually don’t carry. Just not sure the overall steepness of terrain and passes. Thank you
Very, very unlikely
Any concerns with snow level first week of august this year? Seems we are above a stage snow in the range this year. Thanks!
By the first week of August the concern shifts from lingering snowpack to bugs and exposed glacial ice. Wearing clothing to mitigate the former, and some spikes for sections of the latter.
Thoughts on a trip from Sept 7-20th? that’s my window this year! Would you recommend ice axe? Thanks 🙂
No on the axe. But you probably will want spikes for crossing the glaciers, which will be melted down to bare ice by then.
Great page! Are there specific sections (of the 8) that are more dog-friendly vs. others? For instance, sections that require long scrambles over big boulders which would require the dog to be lifted and transported would be a no-no. Also not great would be sections with known grizzly activity. Thank you!
I would not take a dog on any section of this route, even very good trail dogs. The talus is just too widespread.
I think you could set up a good loop through the southern area of the route if you don’t go over Texas Pass or Wind River Peak. It would be a trail route rather than the WRHR, but you’d still get a lot of awesome views and terrain. My dog is great on trail, not great at boulders, and I would feel confident taking him in from Big Sandy, over Jackass Pass to the Cirque (might need to boost him up a couple ledges), east and then north to the Lizard Head plateau, west to Washakie Pass (some talus but mostly a trail), and then back out. You could add on out & back overnight spurs south from Big Sandy Lake to Temple Lake, or north from Washakie to Pyramid Lake and then as far up the East Fork Valley off trail as you’re able to make it – both gorgeous.
Second what David said. I’d stay on trails with a dog; I did those trails a couple years ago and they are fantastic. You could also head from Lizard Head plateau directly to Hailey Pass rather than Washakie, and hit the white sand beach (maybe!) at Grave Lake along the way. The big wall on Mt. Hooker is really something, like a backcountry El Cap. Supposedly, there are less grizzlies in the south part of the range than the north, though that info is a couple years old so may be out of date.
WRHR completed! 7/17-7/23. Definitely lived up to reputation. Hard and beautiful hiking. Spectacular route. Had a good amount of snow which made some passes significantly easier, however it also made the mosquitoes horrible. I would not go back during mosquito season for this reason. No ice axe or traction devices carried or needed. Warm nights and blue skies. I was very lucky with weather. There were only a few insignificant places where I was not able to follow guidebook and maps but definitely not a big deal. Just walked in circles for a few minutes. Overall very well written and developed route.
I linked the WRHR with the CDT solo from 7/14–7/20, and it was one of the most important experiences of my life outside! Thank you for the vision and the guide. I also found what I’d consider a pretty ideal route from lake 11684 to Crescent Lake on the way from Downs to the CDT—let me know if you’re looking to fill in that section of the guide more.
Hello, wondering if anyone is familiar with Europe pass or the ridge between Europe pass and Europe col. Plan A would have us ascending Europe pass from Europe canyon in the second week of July this year and descending into milky lakes. Plan B would have us ascending from milky lakes in the last week of July and descending into Europe canyon. I read that the north west side of the pass holds snow later into the year but north east side does not, but requires a traverse of the ridge between Europe pass and Europe col. I’ve never been able to find a description of this traverse.
At the pass, the ridge is quite broad, so it’s not a place where you likely will find an impassable cornice in mid- or late-July. The USGS maps show some permanent snowfields in the area, but they’re relatively low angle the snow should be soft at that time of year. Bottom line, I don’t see much of a hazard.
Andrew thanks for your response. Being the one in charge of planning these excursions I try to gather as much info as possible. We have spent many weeks in that area but haven’t done that pass. We can do the loop either direction depending on how severe the winter is. 2017 had a good amount of snow in that area come July and so far this winter is on par with that. I’m happy that you don’t think there is much of a hazard there. Thanks for your time and consideration.
2017 was a monster winter for most of the West, the Winds included. On average, you won’t see that in 2023.
A good tool for assessing early-summer snowpack is looking at the historical Sentinel satellite imagery, which is available through both CalTopo and Gaia.
I’ll definitely look into that resource! I’ve been relying on snowtel for years and haven’t heard of historical sentinel satellite imagery. I use Google earth for satellite images but that’s only going to show you 2014. I started using CalTopo last year but haven’t dug into all of its capabilities yet. I have family east of the range and was just told the 2017 record for snowfall in Riverton has been broken by 2 inches. Riverton is a distance from where we are discussing but that info did get my attention.
I’m in the Wasatch so a couple hours south, but our snowfall in the mountains is often similar to the mountains in SE Idaho/SW Wyoming. And this winter has been crazy so far. Nonstop atmospheric rivers. Dunno what will happen with the weather the next couple months, and sure it could get warm and dry or be different up there, but so far anyway Alta and Brighton are reporting some of the highest resort snowfall totals in the world, so I too am wondering when the snow will melt out in the Winds this summer / what conditions will be like in July. YMMV, I guess.