|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
Outside of the Cirque of the Towers, a popular climbing area in the center of the range, the Wind Rivers see a fraction of the traffic of their neighbors to the north, the Tetons and Yellowstone. Yet there's arguably more square miles of true high country here, and the mountain scenery is every bit as spectacular. Sharp peaks rise above crystal-clear lakes, streams burble through broad meadows frequented by elk, and lonely passes beckon the adventurous to high valleys glimpsed--in some cases--by fewer than a dozen people a year.
This hike penetrates one of the less-traveled sections of the Wind Rivers, making a beeline from Meadow Lake, which is just south of Pinedale on the west side of the range, to Timico Lake. The hike is is demanding: 12 miles and more than 2,500 feet of cumulative elevation gain, much of it in the first four miles, on a sun-baked path that gets pounded by ATVs in summer and horses in fall hunting season. But the rewards are many. Once you pass from national forest to wilderness area at four miles, the trail mellows and the landscape opens up. Lakes and granite dot a landscape burned by wildfire about a decade ago; the rounded, whitish-blond rock and fragrant new growth suggest Yosemite, as does the pink alpenglow that typically follows the late-afternoon summer thunderstorms.
Our trip took place in late September, as colors were changing and horsepackers were setting up camps in anticipation of elk season. Our goal was exploratory: to check out the Timico Lake and Fall Creek Pass area for future pushes into one of the truly remote parts of the range around Camp Lake and the Alpine Lakes basin. What we discovered is that Timico Lake--just a mile from the Continental Divide Trail--sees only a dozen or two campers each summer and that Fall Creek Pass is no more technical than a steep walk. In sum, it's the perfect place for a week of basecamping solitude AND a well-situated jumping-off point for dayhikes or longer backpacking trips into a constellation of 11,000-foot-high lakes, 12,000 to 14,000-foot peaks, and glaciers.
USGS topos: Fayette Lake, Horseshoe Lake, Fremont Peak South. There are two stores (Ridley's General Store and the Great Outdoor Shop) in Pinedale that carry maps, outdoor supplies, and groceries; both are easy to find on the main drag. The USDA/wilderness ranger office is to the right of Ridley's with the green roof.