In the Wind River High Route Guide there are turn-by-turn directions, both in narrative form and in annotations on the maps. The route description below is an overview.
The heart of the Wind River Range High Route lies between the range’s southernmost and northernmost named 13,000-foot summits, Wind River Peak and Downs Mountain. For an end-to-end thru-hike, the most obvious trailheads are on the range’s east side: Bruce Bridge, 15 miles west of Lander, and Trail Lakes, 10 miles west of Dubois.
There is west-side access, too — via Big Sandy and Green Lakes — but they involve a longer shuttle; the route in the south is less clean, too. For thru-hikers on the Continental Divide Trail, there are several options to link with the route from the south and north.
From Bruce Bridge, climb out from Wyoming’s high grasslands and sage, into the lodgepole forests typical of mid-elevations in the Rockies. The 15-mile hike to the base of Wind River Peak is an opportunity to acclimatize and work out the kinks before it gets real.
After summiting Wind River Peak, which thanks to its prominence provides a view of the range’s northern peaks, descend the steep and loose West Gully to Black Joe Lake. From the outlet, follow trails into the world-famous Cirque of Towers, and exit off-trail via New York Pass or the easier and less direct Texas Pass.
The next three pass-and-valley pairs follow the same fault line: the upper East Fork and Raid Peak Pass, Bonneville Basin and Sentry Peak Pass, and the upper Middle Fork and Photo Pass.
At Photo Pass, enter the Wind River Indian Reservation, for which a permit should be obtained. Descend to 10,100 feet in the South Fork of Bull Lake Creek before climbing again to the Continental Divide and returning to public land.
Follow the Divide for a few miles, including over Europe Peak, before taking a 330-degree bearing to Golden Lakes, over Douglas Peak Pass, through the barren Alpine Lakes basin, and over Alpine Lakes Pass. Indeed, it’s easier said than done.
In the North Fork of Bull Lake Creek, find Sound of Music-worthy scenery: soaring peaks, large glaciers, lush alpine tundra, and milky gem-colored rivers. The climb out over Blaurock Pass is stout: in 1.2 miles it rockets 2,000 vertical feet up, to 12,750 feet. Sadly, all of that elevation is lost on the descent to the Dinwoody Glacier.
Here, start the most rugged and most committing section of the entire route. Alternatively, if it’s not meant to be, exit 20 miles to Trail Lakes via Glacier Trail.
From West Sentinel Pass, shoot across the Gannett Glacier to the saddle east of Flagstone Peak. Gain the Continental Divide and loosely follow it for eight miles, to Downs Mountain, dropping below 12,000 feet just once. Traverse Goat Flat to Glacier Trail and the northern terminus of the Wind River High Route at Trail Lakes. If weather is approaching, drop off Goat Flat and exit via East Torrey Creek, instead.