Rip & Go: Horse Heaven Loop - Wyoming Range, WY

Discover a pocket of wildlife beyond Yellowstone's borders.
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Discover a pocket of wildlife beyond Yellowstone's borders.

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Do it

Thanks to more popular neighbors in the region, the Wyoming Range has open ridgeline miles, trout-filled streams, and pristine campsites—and no crowds. The catch? You have to find the way using unnamed paths that can fade into nothing. Start this three-day, 17-mile loop at the Little Greys trailhead (1) and follow the Little Greys River Trail along a grassy bench for 1.1 miles to the Pickle Pass Trail junction (2). Go right, continuing .5 mile through an aspen grove. At 3.5 miles, traverse a 60-foot-wide gully that smells of sulfur from a nearby thermal area. The trail parallels the Little Greys for a mile to a rocky, calf-deep ford of a freestone (i.e. snowmelt-fed) river (3) that may become impassable during June. Boot up, cross a meadow dotted with white mule’s ears flowers (August), and turn north at a trail junction(4). In .1 mile, fork northeast and begin a 2.5-mile, 1,000-foot ascent that ends in an immense alpine meadow at the headwaters of the Little Greys River. Camp at mile 7.5 near an unnamed pond (5) shaded by subalpine fir and whitebark pine.

Next morning, hike north, crossing 9,000-foot Cliff Creek Pass (6) then the creek itself to enter Horse Heaven Meadows. This remote, several-thousand-acre upland area houses moose, elk, mule deer, and sometimes gray wolves. Crest a 9,100-foot unnamed pass (7) at mile 8.6, hike along the western rim of a 700-foot-deep gorge, then bend west. At 10.4 miles, reach the top of a timbered ridge (lost the trail? See “Topo Tip,” next page), and continue 1.6 miles to the night’s camp in a meadow (8)

On the final morning, hike southwest into a forest of fir, pine, and spruce. At mile 13.1, climb north to a rocky ridge with views over the Wyoming Range to the Tetons, 35 miles north. At Pickle Pass (9), begin a gradual descent toward the Little Greys River, which courses 1,300 feet below. Reach the Pickle Pass Trail junction (10) in another 1.8 miles and head west to the trailhead.

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Trip Planner

Get thereFrom Alpine, Wyoming, take the Greys River Rd. 8.3 miles south and turn left onto Little Greys River Rd. In 11.5 miles turn right; park in two miles.

MapUSGS quads Pickle Pass, Hoback Peak ($8 each, store.usgs.gov)

Gear upTeton Mountaineering, 170 N. Cache Dr., Jackson. (307) 733-3595; tetonmtn.com

PermitNot required

Contact(307) 739-5500; fs.fed.us/r4/btnf

Trip databackpacker.com/hikes/1142271

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Key Skill: Staying bite free

Here’s a simple equation: warmth + wet meadows = swarms of mosquitoes. But the presence of skeeters doesn’t mean you have to pay for this trip in blood. Get the perfect combination of bug deterrents and strategies with this competing equation: physical + chemical + timing = protection.

Physical Bring long sleeves, pants, and a head net (we like Sea to Summit’s Mosquito Head Net for its visibility and packability, 1.3 oz., $8, seatosummit.com) to shield bitable skin areas. Best for: lowland areas with thick swarms, taking breaks, and hiking in morning and evening, when mosquitoes are most active but the weather’s not too hot.

Chemical Deet (try 3M Ultrathon, $8-15, solutions.3m.com) and permethrin repel bugs or kill them on contact. Best for: all-day protection, especially on hot days (tip: reapply every four hours), and

covering the gaps between clothing and skin (neck, hands, and ankles) that mosquitoes always find.

Timing Hike when the bugs aren’t active (late morning-early afternoon), and before June or after August, when swarms typically subside. Best for: planned rest stops, bathing/bathroom breaks, and getting respite from the other methods.


See This: Snake River fine-spotted cutthroat

With the amount of megafauna around, it’s easy to miss what’s just beneath the clear waters of the Little Greys. Scan riffles in the river with beds of small- to medium-size gravel for the sideways motion of the female cutthroat as she scours a hole to deposit her eggs in early summer. Males follow just behind. Best part? They’re easy to catch and they fight like hell. Use dry flies like Royal Wulff, trudes, stimulators, elk hair caddis, and Parachute Adams, and cast into deeper pools in late summer.


Locals Know

Standing at the top of 10,862-foot Hoback Peak northeast of your first night’s campsite, you’ll see an endless expanse of lakes, peaks, and meadows. Others have looked at the same places and seen dollar signs. Scattered throughout the Wyoming Range are 75,000 acres of oil and gas leases, including one covering Horse Heaven Meadows. In 2009, the Wyoming Legacy Act protected 1.2 million acres of the area from further leases, but didn’t supersede agreements already in place. So what’s that mean? Industrial oil machinery could someday dot the landscape now ruled by elk, deer, bears, and open space. Groups like Citizens for the Wyoming Range are trying to buy up and retire all of the remaining leases in the area to keep the place pristine for backpackers, hunters, anglers, and wildlife. Learn more about efforts to preserve this landscape at wyomingrange.com.



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On The Menu

Breakfast 1

On the road

Lunch 1, 2 & 3 

Crackers, Italian dried salami and extra sharp Cheddar cheese

Dinner 1

Greys River Fajitas

Breakfasts 2 & 3

Oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar

Dinner 2

Range Rice and Beans

Snacks 

Raisins, Clif bars, string cheese

Greys River Fajitas 

Sizzling and delicious

12-ounce can chicken

1 tomato finely chopped 

1 small onion finely chopped

1 small red bell pepper

1 ripe avocado

8 ounces shredded Cheddar

4 flour tortillas

2 tablespoons olive oil

chili powder, salt and pepper

Sauté onions and pepper. Add tomato and simmer until soft. Add chicken and spices. Spoon into tortillas and heap on the toppings. Serves two. 

Range Rice and Beans

Simple, nutritious and hardy

2 packages boil-in-bag rice

15-ounce can black beans

1 small onion finely chopped

1/4 cup  sun-dried tomatoes, chopped 

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small jar salsa

dried oregano, garlic powder

Cook rice according to package. Add the sautéed onions, beans, sun-dried tomatos, and stir. Season with 1/2 teaspoon oregano, and top with salsa and avocado. Serves two.

The Grocery List (Aisle # in Nearest Store Below)

[ ] tomatoes (produce)

[ ] onions (produce)

[ ] red bell pepper  (produce)

[ ] avocados (produce) 

[ ] sun-dried tomatoes (produce)

[ ] Cheddar (dairy)

[ ] string cheese (dairy) 

[ ] dried salami (meat)

[ ] crackers (deli)

[ ] canned chicken (1)

[ ] boil-in-bag rice (1)

[ ] salsa (3)

[ ] raisins (4)

[ ] oatmeal (5)

[ ] Clif bars (5)

[ ] flour tortillas (7)

[ ] can black beans (7)

PackOlive oil, brown sugar, spices

PIT STOP

The Cheeseburger Factory has our map correspondent’s all-time favorite chocolate milkshake and burger. 160 US 89, Alpine, WY; (307) 654-3663 

NEAREST GROCERY STORE

Alpine Market

100 Greys River Road

Alpine, WY; (307) 654-7573