Expedition Planner: Wind Rivers,
Bridger-Teton National Forest, WY
Getting there: Pinedale, Dubois, and Lander, Wyoming, are the three major portal towns. Many Winds trips work best with a car shuttle. Great Outdoor Transportation Co. of Pinedale (307-367-2440; www.greatoutdoorshop.com, runs shuttles between Jackson, Rock Springs, Pinedale, and all major Wind River trailheads. Prices range from $25 to $200, depending on shuttle length.
Season: Anytime before late June, you’ll probably cross lots of snow. Mosquitoes and wildflowers are thick from shortly after snowmelt until late July. By mid-September, ice starts forming on the lakes, and big snowfalls may remain until next spring. Elkhart Park and Glacier Trail/Trail Lake Ranch are the only trailheads readily accessible in winter.
Walk softly: Camp at least 200 feet from trails, streams, or lakes. Camp in previously impacted sites where possible, and always on resistant surfaces, either rock slabs or grassy meadows. Avoid camping on the fragile grouse whortleberry, which grows on forest-floor and forest-edge environments, and may be distinguished by its thready stems and tiny, blade-shaped leaves. Be quiet and considerate of nearby campers. Avoid the use of campfires, particularly in alpine regions. Some high- use areas have fire and site restrictions between July 1 and Labor Day.
Cautions: River crossings can be difficult during spring and early summer, when runoff is high. Snow-covered passes complicate alpine travel until mid-July. A light rope, a general purpose ice axe, and the ability to use both are all handy for Wind River travelers. Thunderstorms and hail occur on a near-daily basis from midsummer on, particularly around high mountains. Cross passes and summit peaks early in the day. Snow is normal during any month of the year. Hang unattended food, as black bears occasionally raid camps and grizzlies are expanding into the range.
Guides: Walking the Winds: A Hiking and Fishing Guide to Wyoming’s Wind River Range, by Rebecca Woods (White Willow Publishing, 307-733-0674; $14.95). Climbing and Hiking in the Wind River Mountains, by Joe Kelsey (Chockstone Press, P.O. Box 3505, Evergreen, CO 80437; $25). Wind River Trails, by Finis Mitchell (Wasatch Publishers, 435-285-2210; $5). The best overall maps for Wind Rivers travel are the Earthwalk Press maps Hiking Map & Guide, Northern Wind River Range, WY, and Hiking Map & Guide, Southern Wind River Range, WY (800-282-6277; both $7.95, waterproof editions). All available from Adventurous Traveler (800-282-3963; www.adventuroustraveler.com).
Fees and permits: For smaller, private groups, camping is free and no permits are required. School groups, youth clubs, stock parties, and commercial trips are required to obtain special use permits, for which a fee may be charged. Maximum group size is 20. Maximum stay for any party is 16 days at a single location.
Contacts: The 428,169-acre Bridger Wilderness dominates the west side of the range, where most visitors enter. It is administered by the Pinedale Ranger District of the Bridger-Teton National Forest, (307) 367-4326. The 198,838-acre Fitzpatrick Wilderness and the 101,191-acre Popo Agie Wilderness cover the northeast quadrant of the range and are administered by the Wind River Ranger District, (307) 455-2466, and Lander Ranger District, (307) 332-5460, respectively. Central approaches to the northeast side of the range are covered by the Shoshone/Arapahoe Wind River Reservation and administered by their fish and game office, (307) 332-7207. Permits and fees are required to park and camp on the reservation.