Trailheads & Transportation

Thru-hiking

East side

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.

West side

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.

Section-hiking

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.

2 Comments

  1. Eli on July 11, 2016 at 2:34 pm

    Hey Andrew,

    You said hitching on the west side would be unreliable. What do you think about the east side trailheads?

    • Andrew Skurka on July 11, 2016 at 3:27 pm

      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.

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