The most logical termini for a Wind River High Route thru-hike are on the range’s east side:
- Bruce Bridge, 15 miles west of Lander, entirely on pavement
- Trail Lakes, 10 miles west of Dubois, mostly on gravel
At both trailheads, you will find only a parking lot and an outhouse. No facilities, no services, no running water. There is car-camping a few minutes downhill from Bruce Bridge, but not near Trail Lakes. Lander has a full range of amenities; Dubois only has basic services.
The trailheads are separated by 90 miles and two main intersections. Driving time is 1 hour 50 minutes.
Because the heart of the High Route lies between Wind River Peak and Downs Mountain, and because both of these points are accessible from trailheads on the west side, a west-side start and finish can still be consistent with the High Route experience. Use:
- Big Sandy, 45 miles east of Boulder, mostly on gravel
- Green Lakes, 50 miles north of Pinedale, mostly on gravel
At both locations, there is a parking area, outhouse, and car campground, but no running water. Big Sandy is serviced by Big Sandy Lodge, which offers lodging and meals; reservations are recommended, especially during peak months.
West-side access is less ideal for a thru-hike. It’s a 4-hour, 100-mile drive between trailheads. Hitchhiking is unreliable, due to multiple junctions and low-traffic roads. And there’s no good route to Wind River Peak from Big Sandy: to avoid a loop or an out-and-back, it’s necessary to drop out of the high country for an unacceptably long time.
The four aforementioned trailheads can be used to section-hike the southern and northern portions of the High Route.
The middle of the route can be accessed from two trailheads on the west side:
- Boulder Lake, 12 miles northeast of Boulder, mostly on gravel
- Elkhart Park, 15 miles north-northeast of Pinedale, entirely on pavement
At both locations, there is a parking area, outhouse, and car-camping; there is non-potable water at Elkhart, but no water at Boulder Lake. Pinedale has a full range of amenities, while Boulder only has basic services.
These mid-route trailheads are worth identifying beforehand on a large-scale recreation map, even if you do not plan to use them, in the event of a self-rescue or bail-out.
There are no viable mid-route trailheads on the east side, due to distances and to access issues through the Wind River Indian Reservation.
Transportation and trailhead permits
The Wind River High Route Guide includes extensive information about transportation options and permits.
You said hitching on the west side would be unreliable. What do you think about the east side trailheads?
Hitching on the west side is difficult because of (1) long distances and (2) low traffic. But your odds are at least high when you get an opportunity: a lot of traffic is going out to Green River Lakes or Big Sandy.
The east side should be easier. A decent amount of traffic between Bruce Bridge and Lander, and then plenty of traffic along the two-lane highway to the turnoff for Trail Lakes. The only trouble spot is getting to the Trail Lakes TH — at this point, you’re in a similar situation to Green River Lakes or Big Sandy — not much traffic, but most of it is going where you want to go.
I don’t want to resupply and am thinking about starting at Big Sandy (I will be climbing in the Cirque the week before) so this should cut off about 20 miles, don’t you think? (My friend can drop me off after we go into town and resupply). I was trying to decide whether to go out at Dubois or Green Lakes. Since I won’t have a car at Green Lakes, I’m thinking hitching into town from Dubois to Lander would be easier. Or calling a car shuttle. What do you think?
PS> I hiked the SHR 2 years ago and used your stuff!
You can calculate the mileage effect using the datasheets in the Guide.
It’d be easier to hitch from Trail Lakes into Dubois than from Green Lakes into Pinedale. But shuttles service both areas.
Thank you, I figured out the mileage looking at your data sheet. So does your guide end at Green Lakes or Trail Lakes? Because you mention that it isprettier to not end at Green Lakes.
I recommend Trail Lakes because it’s easier to run shuttles or get hitches between there and Bruce Bridge. But you could certainly end at Green River Lakes — there is a good route from Downs Mountain to it, via Roaring Fork.
Is Trail Lakes where your guide ends, so I can figure out the mileage? Should my friend buy her own guide or is it okay to share, since we are hiking together?
I don’t know if this is comment is appropriate here, but I’m looking for a car swap for the WRHR end of July-beginning of August if anyone is interested. I’d be down to get creative with a partial shuttle as well. After three consecutive years exploring different parts of the Winds, and three years of dreaming, I’m hoping to finally do Andrew’s full route and cannot wait!
We are looking to do the WRHR starting no later 3rd week in July, following Andrew’s suggested route so a car swap might not work but may be worth discussing options.
Hi Linda! Thanks for your reply. I ended up finding a good shuttle option with family. Are you still planning on starting out the third week in July? I have the 25th on my calendar – fingers crossed the weather stays nice and summer keeps inching into the high country!
My friend and I have a 10 day high route trip planned and we are looking for someone to drop our food at a halfway point (Golden Lake) so we don’t have to carry so much. Anyone know of a service that offers that sort of thing?
Thank you for all the great information. I’m meeting up with a couple friends hiking the CDT for the Wind River High Route. I fear I won’t make it to them before they depart from Landers. Do you have any recommendations of people in the area to call for a ride to or from one of the western trailheads?