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Wind River Range in July
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Peter Sustr
(czechxpress) - F - M

Locale: Boulder
Wind River Range in July on 04/05/2011 12:14:37 MDT Print View

Planning a trip to the Winds first week of July, anybody been there that time of year? Saving up for Tenkara rod to take with me after reading posts on here about how great and light they are.

Not looking for secrets but, any advice/locations not to be missed would be appreciated.

Details: 5 days, 8-12 miles per day, coming up from Denver.

Michael Schwartz
(greenwalk) - MLife

Locale: PA & Ireland
Wind River Range in July on 04/05/2011 12:21:10 MDT Print View

Have you seen the Tenkara rods on sale now in the shop? The non-BPL model is a good deal. Mike

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Wind River Range in July on 04/05/2011 14:45:18 MDT Print View

You probably won't know for at least another couple of months what the snow conditions will be like. So far the snowpack is above average, but anything can happen the next 3 months. Right now, it's still the dead of winter up there. It's not much different from the Northern Colorado Rockies, so you'll know before you go.

In early July, the streams will be high and there will probably still be significant snow in some places. If snow melt is late, you might get there before the bugs. If the melt is earlier, though, be prepared! You may find many of the higher lakes still frozen. It all depends on the rate of snow melt! In some years, most of the melt is done by early July, but it's beginning to look as though this may not be one of those years.

A Plan B for somewhat lower elevations would be a good idea in case there's still too much snow up in the really high spots when you get there.

There are a zillion lakes in the Winds, and all but the most crowded (i.e. close to trailheads) are great fishing! I'm hoping to be there with my Tenkara rod in August. Practice a lot with it in the back yard and close to home!

Edited by hikinggranny on 04/05/2011 14:50:09 MDT.

John Vance
(Servingko) - F

Locale: Intermountain West
Re: Winds on 04/05/2011 14:55:29 MDT Print View

As an added bonus you may be in for a great show of wildflowers depending on how the melt goes. Have you figured out where you will be going in at?

Ted E
(Mtn_nut) - MLife

Locale: Morrison, CO
the winds in july on 04/05/2011 15:05:42 MDT Print View

i went up last year in early july. the mosquitoes were absolutely awful at lower elevations, but were bearable above treeline. there was no snow or frozen lakes/ponds till i hit the boulder field at the end of the glaicer trail and at the start of the gannett peak route.

I just got a tenkara from the sale they are doing now, and i really wanted to try it out another trip to the winds this year. im thinking i will try to hit the southern section this time, maybe the deep creek lakes or the slough creek lakes.

oh, the map from beartooth publishing is great for traveling with

Peter Sustr
(czechxpress) - F - M

Locale: Boulder
Wind Rivers on 04/05/2011 16:13:09 MDT Print View

I haven't decided where to go yet but I did order Wind River Trail by Finis Mitchel as recommended by R. Jordan. Some friends that have been there, not backpackers so they only fished the 'popular' spots said that it sucked up there... maybe time to get new friends but, want to check it out for myself. I've heard only great stories from the people on here.

I love these types of areas, last time I was in the Flat Tops, the fishing was unbelieveable.

Any great loops I should look into? Entry points?

John Vance
(Servingko) - F

Locale: Intermountain West
Winds on 04/05/2011 16:34:24 MDT Print View

Over the past 35 years or so I have spent many months in the Winds and interestingly enough the only place I got off track and a bit lost on a CDT hike. They are my favorite place to go with Patagonia a close second. Due to the fact that I am just 3-4 hours from them is a big plus.

I don't fish so I can't make any recommendations on that but certainly can on loops and in and outs with a loop.

If you are more about high alpine terrain and less about fishing, that sets the stage for one option. If you are about fishing first and wanting to minimize trail time, that's another option. Finally,I have run into a number of folks that just fish as they hike, preferring to hike along rivers and streams.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Wind River Range in July on 04/05/2011 18:12:32 MDT Print View

Are you planning mostly on or off trail travel? Are you interested mostly in fishing or is it incidental to scenery?

The Finis Mitchell book is delightful reading but please note that most of the info therein dates from the 1970's.

For strictly on-trail, there's Adkison's "Hiking Wyoming's Wind River Range." He does describe what fish are in most of the lakes, but note that this book is over 15 years old. Not all the existing trails are in there. I have no idea why he omitted the Deep Lakes/Ice Lakes trail (Popo Agie Wilderness), for instance--it's on my wish list, but not this year.

The most recent guidebook to the Winds is Nancy Pallister's "Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains" (2010). It deals in large part with off-trail routes, some easy, some requiring extensive mountaineering experience. The routes are, of course, partly on-trail, and she gives on-trail alternatives to some of the more difficult off-trail routes. She also has a lot of recent data on access roads, communities and other resources. If you get it, be sure to get the optional CD which has more detailed maps (the ones in the book are black-and-white and not very clear) and a lot of magnificent photos which will leave you drooling.

BTW, last year was a relatively dry year on the west side of the Winds. 2009, though, the snow was really late melting.

Edited by hikinggranny on 04/05/2011 18:14:12 MDT.

Peter Sustr
(czechxpress) - F - M

Locale: Boulder
Wind Rivers in July on 04/07/2011 16:07:03 MDT Print View

My plan is to lake hop. I want to hike most of the day on/off trail and then spend the last 2-3 hrs of the day fishing. Ofcourse I might get distracted from time to time but, I want different lakes each day to be my desitnation; then do it all again the next day.

I get 5 days of this so it seems from my research that the options are endless.

Where's the best place to enter? Any loop ideas?

Thanks guys!

P.S- Got a Tenkara Iwana 12' series II for my Bday yesterday so now I'm set! :)

Edited by czechxpress on 04/07/2011 16:09:51 MDT.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Wind River Range in July on 04/07/2011 22:06:51 MDT Print View

Petr, I haven't been in the central Winds since I was 9, but based on my research and just looking at the map (stupid Earthwalk Press, doesn't identify half the peaks), I'd suggest going in at Scab Creek (one of the lesser used trailheads on the west side, a little way south of Pinedale) and exploring the hundreds of lakes up there. There's the Fremont Trail (higher and closer to the Continental Divide) and the Highline Trail (close to but mostly just below timberline, in the region where campfires are allowed) and a bunch of connecting trails in between, which let you go back and forth and hopefully avoid major creek crossings, since the streams will be very high in early July. This section is on my wish list for next year. You'll be away from the really popular areas like Titcomb Basin and the Cirque of the Towers, and (IMHO), less popular = better fishing.

Another possibility would be the Deep Creek/Ice Lakes area in the Popo Agie Wilderness on the SE side of the Winds. You would access them from the Sinks Canyon-Louis Lake Road at Worthen Meadow Reservoir. The main problem in early July would be fording the Middle Fork Popo Agie (deep even in low water), but if you go in and out via Pinto Park, you'll avoid that issue. This trip is described only in Nancy Pallister's book, with a very brief writeup in FInis Mitchell's little book. I have no idea why it's omitted from Adkison's guide book. This is another trip on my future wish list. I'm hoping to take my grandkids there!

This year I hope to do three 8-10 day trips--two in popular areas and the third on the New Fork Plateau (which will still be frozen in early July). I suspect that by the end of the adventure, I won't want to look a trout in the face--or on my plate! There will be only a couple of nights that I won't be fishing.

The Earthwalk Press maps are sort of OK for planning, but you'll want more detailed topographic maps of the area you decide to go into. I haven't seen the Beartooth Press maps and can't find their Wind Rivers maps when searching online.

Ted E
(Mtn_nut) - MLife

Locale: Morrison, CO
beartooth press maps on 04/08/2011 00:34:45 MDT Print View

those maps are awesome. i have the original 1:100,000 scale, and its very useful. they now make a north/south version in a 1:50,000 scale that i haven't actually seen. their maps are beautifully done, and have won a couple awards. they also update them almost yearly to make sure they are acurate. i've only found one minor mistake on mine where they gave the wrong elevation of mount helen in wyoming, and its already fixed on their second edition.

Eric Jahn-Clough
(ejcfree) - F

Locale: off grid
Wind River Mtns- Awesome!!! on 04/08/2011 07:06:01 MDT Print View

Hi Peter,

Where ever you go you'll love it. I've done 10 trips 'tween 5 and 14 days there. I think my earliest arrival has been maybe the 12th and I had no issues with either excessive snow or high water crossings, thats not saying your route (whatever it may be) won't have these. Nor have I fished in the past (got myself a Tenkara now and really really looking forward to using it there!!!), but I've seen lots of lakes and once when relaxing along the shore of Grave Lake I was amazed to watch a 16in trout (I know water magnifies but I swear) meander lazily by about 2ft off shore.

dawn Grave Lakemorning at Grave Lake

I'm going to suggest a specific loop that I have enjoyed (more than once). I'm not sure when you say 5 days if you mean 5 or 4 nights. This was my first visit to The Winds and my first solo. For those reasons I chose a popular trailhead and one of the Sights (Cirque of the Towers). Here it is in skeleton form - Big Sandy trailhead- Marms Lake-Haily Pass (any pass that is shown on a map with "not suitable for livestock" is for me)-Grave Lake-Valentine Lake (lakes to south for less traveled fishing)-Lizard Head plateau-Bear Lakes-Cirque o' Towers-Jackass Pass-Bid Sandy trailhead. Camp at 1) Marms Lake 2) Grave Lake 3) Valentine Lake 4) Bear Lakes. If you've got 5 nights stay two at Grave Lake and day hike to numerous and gorgeous lakes to the north, you can also easily top Pilot Knob (Grave Lake Dome) from the backside on the way back to camp. Why do I recommend and like this route? It gives a good taste of what this area has to offer, lakes both low and high, high open terrain (Lizard Head Plateau), sheltered camping (or not as you choose), iconic world class scenery, and a taste of the remote (Grave Lake area) without a huge commitment in time or heavy duty untrailed travel

.n from Big Sandy headed north from Big Sandy

Valentine Lake Valentine Lake

c o t Cirque o' Towers from Lizard Head Plateau

I'll say it again. Where ever you go you'll love it. I get so exited just thinking about it I'm carried away. No one around here has any interest in hiking let alone talking about it, and I'm feeling the lack. I love these mountains. Enjoy yourself and good luck.

Take Care, Eric

Edited by ejcfree on 04/08/2011 12:05:05 MDT.

peter vacco

Locale: no. california
wind's, cirque, campsite sleeze... on 04/08/2011 10:32:14 MDT Print View

you are near the cirque, and you want to camp.. but ... you can;t. because of the regs. one is/was forced when in the cirque, to be at least 200' from the water, which rules out most of the places. this due to the use of the area, it's perhaps not such a bad rule, but it can be a bother. it does not help that there are legends of gov't turds MEASURING if peoples tents are 197', or the vastly less impactive 201' from the creek. for the combative amongst us, it may be safest for all concerned to avoid the entire issue ...

ahhh... enter v., steward of the environment, world's nicest man, and his curious interpretations of laws/regulations/and policy annoyances.

if you go to the top of the southmost pass, texas, jackass, i can't recall, and hump just a bit over the top, you will now be on watershed draining OUT of the cirque. thusly, one is no longer IN the cirque. camp wherever ya want.
you can set up a few yards away, a bit over a small rise and out of sight of the trail, and there is drinking water from a nice seep on the rock wall bordering the trail. views to die for. un-impacted. decent combo of rock and sandy stuff. durable as turf's going to get. in all .. not a bad site.

so there. you are legal out of the cirque, and ya got the view, and ya gots privacy, and ya got it to yerself.


John Vance
(Servingko) - F

Locale: Intermountain West
+1 on 04/08/2011 11:40:24 MDT Print View

I've camped there before and it's great. As a general rule, I try to limit my time in the Cirque as beautiful as it is, because of the people and rangers. In all my time in the Winds I have only run into rangers there, Valentine Lake area and the Elk Park area. Every time they measured, and at Valentine Lake insisted that we move since we where 195' from the lake.

Most of the time though, I only see people at the trail head and within a few miles and a couple hours of the trail head. Quite often I see no one the whole time. My favorite areas are off the trail and up high so I know that makes a big difference.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Wind River Range in July on 04/08/2011 15:08:00 MDT Print View

Eric, that's one of the trips I have planned for this summer, and I greatly appreciate the photo preview! I plan to take side trips to the south end of Baptiste Lake (south of the reservation boundary) and to South Fork Lakes. I'm told that both are outstanding fishing spots. I also plan to hike from Lizard Head Meadows over Jackass Pass to Clear Lake to avoid having to camp with the mobs in the Cirque. I've already seen the "back side" of the Cirque (Shadow Lake) so my interest is in going over the Lizard Plateau and then just getting out afterwards.

My concern is that Petr is going the first week of July, when that area, especially the passes, will be quite snowy, especially considering this year's above-average snowpack. If conditions are anything like 2009, which folks who live in the area are beginning to think it will be, the high lakes will still be frozen, too.

Actually, the rule throughout both the Bridger and Popo Agie Wildernesses is that you must camp 200 feet from all lakes or from established trails. In the Bridger, it's 100 feet from streams; in the Popo Agie it's 200 from streams also. In the Cirque, it's 1/4 mile from Lonesome Lake, one of the earliest mountain lakes to get polluted. I have never met a ranger that actually measured except for one infamous character in the Naches Ranger District of Washington's Wenatchee NF. Do you suppose he has a twin?

Peter Sustr
(czechxpress) - F - M

Locale: Boulder
Wind Rivers on 04/08/2011 15:34:40 MDT Print View

Thanks for all the insight guys and the trip report and pictures are great.

I'm concerned as well with the high lakes still being frozen. From the recent data that has come out this week, the snow pack is above normal and should remain this way unless a heat wave comes through. I'm a backpacker first, then a fisherman, so I wouldn't mind seeing those high areas as well. I was planning on avoiding the cirque because of the high crowds and justified nazi rangers. I perfer the less explored areas of the places I go, so keep those ideas coming for those types of spots.

Appreciate everyones help!

Eric Jahn-Clough
(ejcfree) - F

Locale: off grid
The Winds go on & on on 04/09/2011 07:06:44 MDT Print View

lonesome Lake

Here's my take on places like the Cirque (Island Lake, Three Forks Park). Nice places to visit (so classic you kind of ought to) but I wouldn't spend much time. Expect to see people and heavily used campsites. These popular spots seem to attract lots of rookies and some folks who either just don't care or don't know any better (though I have to add that I can see yahoos camped right on lake shores and trailsides having fires anywhere). I don't camp in the Cirque. That's why I mentioned Bear Lakes, still well used (most likely neighbors) but not like Lonesome Lake. Lizard Head Meadows has plenty of established sites not all next to each other. That noted, I've passed through the Cirque three times, and twice I did not see a single soul until headed up the pass, some tents (1/4mi ?) thats it.

The conditions will be what they are. You won't really know till you're looking at that pass in front of you. I've turned around twice when I met spots beyond my comfort. I tend to make these overly ambitious routes or no route just a trailhead and 10 days food. One of the beauties of The Winds is that you can do whatever you choose, change your mind whenever you feel like it, go anywhere. Ah! freedom! and self reliance.

middle alpine lake Middle Alpine Lake

Another nice trip nearby the Hailey Pass-Cirque route is to go south over Temple Pass-around Sweetwater Gap-summit Wind River Peak-out through the Cirque. There are so many options!

Little Sandy Lake north over Little Sandy Lake

So Mary, what are your other plans? I recently bought Nancy Pallisters book (turned on to it by your mention here on BPL, thanks) and am enjoying it. I'd been thinking about a trip cruxed by Bloody Hell Pass and find her description valuable. I'm planning to be there mid July-August. I'll go to the Tetons as well. The Absarokas are also in my mind. It's all in my mind now. Are we there yet! Take Care, Eric

Ted E
(Mtn_nut) - MLife

Locale: Morrison, CO
Extreme snowpack on 06/11/2011 15:14:49 MDT Print View

the snow pack this year is immense. Just an FYI

last year it was around 130% of normal, this year it is 325% of normal.

All of wyoming has some heavy snowpack!

Chad Crucj
(ccrick) - F
Winds July on 06/13/2011 10:09:37 MDT Print View

I too am considering a trip in the beginning of July. I have been checking the snow pack in the area and things aren't looking super positive.

has anyone done a trip in the wind river range in the beginning of July on an above average snow pack year? I don't mind crossing some snowy passes and hiking in a bit of snow but I don't want to have to trudge through the snow all day.

Its my guess that we may not need to worry about crowds if there is still a large amount of snow.

I have not picked a route yet because of the snow issue. But I have six days to hike.

Ted E
(Mtn_nut) - MLife

Locale: Morrison, CO
Re: Winds July on 06/14/2011 11:08:01 MDT Print View

i wouldn't think crowds will be an issue either way. if you're more than a mile or two into the back country, you'll have more wilderness to yourself than you'll know what to do with.

I will be doing a short backpacking trip July 5-8th in the southern part if the loop road is open by then (its still closed apparently). I will be bringing some strap-on crampons with me just because, and i will be bringing my ice axe to the trail head in case the snowpack is still substantial.