Pinedale is the primary gateway to the rugged Wind River Range, which spans more than a hundred miles in western Wyoming.
Explore the Wind River Mountains
The Wind River Range encompasses an area of 2.25 million acres and forms a triple divide for three major western watersheds: the Columbia River, the Colorado River, and the Missouri. The Winds are the most popular section of the Bridger Wilderness of western Wyoming. This rugged piece of the Rocky Mountains, extending for approximately 80 miles along the western slope of the Continental Divide, contains a unique combination of jagged granite rock, alpine forest, and open alpine meadows. Serving as the headwaters for the mighty Green River, this wilderness holds 7 of the 10 largest glaciers in the Lower 48, more than 2,300 crystalline lakes and ponds, and numerous glacier-carved cirques, kettles, valleys, and hanging troughs.
The high country typically opens up around mid-July and remains open through mid-September. Snow can occur at any time, however, and visitors should be prepared for the possibility of subfreezing daytime and night temperatures even in the summer. Afternoon thunderstorms, with lightning and rain showers, are common during the summer, and some of the peaks hold snow all year.
Hiking, Backpacking, & Rock Climbing
The Wind River Mountains are a popular backpacking area for visitors from around the world. The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail traverses the Winds from South Pass to Union Pass as part of the trail system that extends from Canada to Mexico. The Cirque of the Towers, in the southern portion of the range, is a popular technical rock-climbing destination, as are any number of sheer granite peaks that make up this range.
Trailheads lead to 600 miles of trails to access this seemingly boundless area. With the jagged peaks and the authentic backcountry experience, the Winds are a versatile range for every type of adventurer. If solitude is what you seek, it can be found off any given path. With stunning scenery everywhere you look, and wildlife around every bend, the Winds vanquish other Wyoming mountain ranges in breadth of beauty and true alpine experiences.
Continental Divide National Scenic Trail
The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDNST) runs from Mexico to Canada, and in Wyoming goes from the Sierra Madre mountains to the western edge of Yellowstone National Park along the Continental Divide. Approximately 80 miles of the CDNST passes through the Bridger-Teton National Forest from the Big Sandy Opening to Green River Lakes. The Trail reaches an elevation of over 11,000 feet in the Wind River Range and then drops out near Green River Lakes. The higher portion is usually free of snow sometime around mid-July, depending on the weather. August and September are more reliable to have clear trails all along the route. The trail is obscure in places, but is marked with CDT signs, wooden signs, tree blazes or rock cairns. The Trail passes through glacier-carved valleys surrounded by high, snow-capped mountain peaks and lush alpine meadows dotted with wildflowers.
The Winds are home to many species of wildlife including moose, elk, deer, black and grizzly bears, wolves, and mountain lions. Many of the high lakes are stocked with fish including Rainbow, Cutthroat, Brook, Golden and Brown trout, as well as Grayling and Mackinaw. Fishermen are required to have a valid Wyoming fishing license and should be familiar with current fishing regulations, which may change each year. Wildlife is truly wild in Wyoming, and visitors to this area should exercise caution when in the presence of any animal. Protect yourself and our wildlife by keeping a clean camp and respecting their habitats and space.
Bridger Wilderness Area
The United States Congress designated the Bridger Wilderness in 1964 and has a total of 428,087 acres. The Bridger Wilderness area makes up the majority of the Wind River Range's western slope. This wilderness is named after one of the most famous mountain men in American history, Jim Bridger, who lived in this area during the early 1800s. Most of the Bridger Wilderness lies within Sublette County and is managed by the Pinedale Ranger District of the Bridger-Teton National Forest.
Some trailheads are as much as 50 miles from the nearest town, so be sure to have a full tank of gas, good tires, plus at least one spare, and bring extra clothing, food, and water. There are no telephones at trailheads and cell phone reception is very unlikely. Be aware that trails may not be well marked in some places or may be unmaintained. A good hiking map and a compass are valuable instruments in the backcountry and a guidebook is highly recommended.
Special regulations apply to those using the backcountry, and visitors should check with the local Forest Service office for specifics that may apply to their visit. Pets are allowed, but must be kept under control and away from other camps. Registration boxes are provided at all major trailheads, and visitors are asked to register at these stations. Organized groups are required to obtain a permit from the local Ranger Station office before venturing into the Bridger Wilderness area, as are parties with livestock entering for at least one overnight. Parties of 15 persons or more must remain separated for the duration of their visit in efforts to preserve our beautiful and fragile wilderness. Campsites must be vacated after 16 days. Fines apply to those who are found to be delinquent in following preservation regulations.
The water in the backcountry looks clean and pure, but visitors are advised to safeguard the water before drinking it to destroy organisms that can make you very ill. Drinking and cooking water should be treated with a filter or purifier, by boiling, or by using chemical treatments to prevent water-borne illnesses. Camping regulations are in place to maintain cleanliness of available water and to preserve our fragile ecosystem. Unless otherwise noted, camps must be made at least 200 feet from water sources, and livestock is not permitted to graze within 200 feet as well.
Commercial services for pack trips, guided hunts, and guided fishing are provided by licensed guides under Special Use Permits from the Bridger-Teton National Forest. The Pinedale Ranger District office can provide a list of qualified, permitted outfitters and guides who can provide fully catered trips, horseback or llama support, and climbing equipment.