Green River Lakes
Page Summary: Green River Lakes is one of Sublette County's most scenic and popular destinations accessible by car.
Green River Lakes is one of Sublette County's most scenic and popular destinations accessible by car. Located in the Bridger Wilderness of the Bridger-Teton National Forest, the lakes are 52 miles north of Pinedale in the northern Wind River Range. The lakes are considered the source of the Green River, a major tributary of the great Colorado River system. Like many of the larger lakes on this side of the Winds, Green River Lakes were scoured out by glacial action, then sealed off by an end-moraine dam.
The Upper Green River valley provided sustenance and marketable goods to the earliest trappers and settlers, and continues to support Sublette County families today. The road to Green River Lakes, which roughly parallels the river, is a trip back in time. Travelers pass homesteaders' cabins, and historic markers tell the story of the tie hacks and their camps. The remains of the earliest dude ranch in Sublette County, the first in a long line of successful local businesses, stand in this valley. For several weeks each June the Green River Drift, one of the longest (and longest-running) cattle drives in the nation, takes place when cowboys on horseback push livestock from the valleys to graze the rich mountain pastures, a distance of about 70 miles. Visitors on the road to Green River Lakes can observe this present-day historic phenomenon from the highway.
Along the way you will pass signs for Forest Service campgrounds at New Fork Lakes and Whiskey Grove. Both areas have developed sites for camping and trailers, drinking water, refuse containers and fishing. For fee information and reservations, call the Pinedale Ranger District at 307-367-4326.
Not only is the journey to Green River Lakes scenic and rich in history, but the end point rewards the traveler with the stunning, much-photographed view of Squaretop Mountain looming over the blue-green lakes, with stands of aspen and pine blanketing the hillsides. Depending on which time of day or phase of summer finds you there, expect to discover abundant mountain wildflowers and glimpses of wildlife such as moose, elk, deer, bear, hawks and eagles. Plan for plenty of time to simply enjoy your surroundings.
Summer recreational opportunities at Green River Lakes include camping, hiking and backpacking, trail riding and horse packing, fishing and boating. Forest Service facilities include a developed campground with group, trailer and single sites, undeveloped boat launch area, vault toilets, drinking water, public corral, and extra parking at the main trailhead. Green River Lakes is the starting point for many trails in the Wind River Range, and is the northern terminus for hiking the Highline Trail, which follows the spine of the Continental Divide south to Big Sandy Opening.
Green River Lakes Campground is tucked in the trees near the edge of the lower lake, and is one of the most scenic campgrounds in the area. It has handicapped-accessible restrooms and plenty of level ground for those who are not up to strenuous activity but may want to stroll. There are no showers or phones, and your cell phone reception may be spotty due to the surrounding mountains blocking a clear signal. This popular campground tends to fill up quickly, so reservations are recommended. For fee and reservation information, call the Pinedale Ranger District at 307-367-4326. A Campground Host is onsite during the summer season to answer questions from visitors.
June through September, fishermen can reel in brook trout, cutthroat, Mackinaw (lake trout), rainbows and whitefish. Motorized boats are allowed on the lower lake, however the earthen boat ramp is suitable only for smaller vessels. Jet skis and other personal water craft (PWCs) are not allowed. The upper lake lies within the Wilderness area - no motorized boats of any kind are allowed there. As with all fishing areas, check with the local Wyoming Game and Fish office for specific regulations and obtain a fishing license before heading out.
To reach Green River Lakes, take US Highway 191 west from Pinedale. About six miles from Pinedale, you will reach the Cora turnoff at the junction of State Highway 352. Turn right, towards Cora, and keep going until you reach Green River Lakes. The last 23 miles of the trip is on a rough dirt road maintained by the Forest Service. During the summer it is suitable for most cars, but slow speeds are necessary, so plan a leisurely pace for your trip.
Be sure to fill your gas tank before you go and always have a spare tire along. The closest commercial services along this road are available at Elk Ridge Lodge Resort on the Green River, which offers lodging and restaurant by reservation. The nearest gas station is at the Daniel Junction on Highway 191, five miles north of the Cora turnoff, or back in Pinedale.
In the winter, the road is plowed to the end of the pavement, where a large parking area for trucks and snowmobile trailers provides access to the groomed Continental Divide Snowmobile Trail, Union Pass, and Green River Lakes. A nearby elk winter feed ground affords many chances to view the animals. Because sled dog mushers and cross-country skiers also share the trails in this area, courtesy and awareness are essential. Snowmobilers should consult trail maps to avoid crossing into critical wildlife winter range and Wilderness areas.