• Michael O'Keeffe

An Overnight Epic in the Wind River Range, WY

The Wind River Range in western Wyoming is in my opinion one of the supreme backpacking destination in the United States (if not North America). This 100 mile long glacier carved granite batholith (a fancy name for a large mass of igneous rock) is home to Wyoming's tallest peak, Gannett Peak, as well as some of the most pristine wilderness in the country. Nearly the entire length of the range is protected as federally designated wilderness making it one of the largest untouched roadless areas in the Lower 48. Here, the trails are long typically requiring many miles of rather monotonous hiking through thick forest to get to the "good stuff". Once you do though it is a haven of alpine splendor! Hundreds upon hundreds of sparkling alpine lakes, massive Yosemite like granite walls for climbing, craggy peaks that feature world class mountaineering, and some of the largest glaciers left in the Rockies. The Wind Rivers are a must for those who love big wilderness!

I had been craving to return to the Wind Rivers as it was now only a five and half hour drive from me in Colorado. The issue was the long approaches mean that to fully appreciate this wilderness one must spend several days or more backpacking in the range. And dayhikes are very hard to come by. I only had time for a one night backpacking trip, so the question arose. Could I pull off something worth driving out there for? Now there in mind I could've slogged a 11-12 mile one way to get to the good stuff and push myself. However, I didn't feel like doing that (been there done that), so I was hoping for something in the 6-8 mile one way range that still could get me to experience the best the Winds have to offer.

A few days of staring at maps, scouring Google Maps, and the internet I finally found a spot that looked worthy of the long drive. So off I went. The main access point for the western side of the Winds is the tiny cowboy town of Pinedale which has one of the best coffee shops I've ever been to, Pine Coffee Supply. Seriously, this place makes stunning single origin coffee with an aesthetic that looks like something you'd find in Portland, Seattle, or Los Angeles, not a tiny town of 2,000 people. Being only an hour and 15 minutes from Jackson, WY (Grand Teton) if you ever find yourself passing through Pinedale make Pine Coffee Supply a must stop!

Anyway, the trail itself was smooth sailing with the first half a hot dusty forest walk before hitting the first big view at Photographer's Point. This viewpoint (a great dayhike option!) offers an incredible view looking into the heart of the Wind River's highest peaks. It evokes comparisons to Yosemite's stunning Glacier Point view. From Photographer's Point, a few more miles passing peaceful lakes, wildflower filled meadows, and rugged granite domes got me to my camp spot for the night. A nice high point with far reaching 360 degree views.

After dinner I wandered to a potential viewpoint I had scoped out on Google Earth. Navigating the rough but open terrain of smooth glacier scoured granite, boulders, trees, and small ponds I reached the overlook. It was incredible! The granite dome I was camped on plunged over 1,000 feet into a deep gorge with a large lake surrounded by huge granite walls. Behind the lake a powerful river cascaded through a narrow canyon. The sound of the whitewater echoed across the gorge. Above the gorge sat the mighty high peaks of the Wind River Range and in between was an impossible maze of granite domes, lakes, rivers, and forest. It was one of the best views I've ever seen and I do not say that lightly. I have been lucky to see a lot of amazing views, but this was different. It felt so wild and pristine, there was no one else around, a true wilderness.

Wind River Range Wyoming
My first look into the gorge. I knew I had stumbled onto something special.

Wind River Range Wyoming
The peaks in the background are among the tallest in Wyoming.

Wind River Range Wyoming
A small tarn at the edge of the cliffs looking across the gorge.

Wind River Range Wyoming
Evening light beams across the sparkling white granite.

Wind River Range Wyoming
Marveling at the insane view before me.

Wind River Range Wyoming
A pano of the just stunning view looking into the heart of the Wind Rivers.

Wind River Range Wyoming
Just endless granite. This has to some of the most rugged country I've seen!


Wind River Range Wyoming
Looking to the west the gorge drops off revealing more granite ridges.

Wind River Range Wyoming
Fremont Peak towers above the rugged Wind Rivers.

Wind River Range Wyoming
As far as I know, no trails get you down into that gorge. Just imagine though.

Wind River Range Wyoming
Looking into the grand view.

Wind River Range Wyoming
A raging river cascades through a narrow canyon.

Wind River Range Wyoming
Far across the gorge the distant ridgeline of the Wyoming Range.



Wind River Range Wyoming
The Wind River Range is a granite batholith carved by glaciers over millions of years.

Wind River Range Wyoming
The Wind Rivers are currently home to some of the largest glaciers left in the Rockies.

Wind River Range Wyoming
Fremont Peak


Wind River Range Wyoming
A pano of the Wind River's highest peaks.






Wind River Range Wyoming
A lush meadow with one last look back.

Wind River Range Wyoming
A small shallow lake (infested with mosquitoes) at dusk.

Wind River Range Wyoming
Back at camp, the sunset colors were just beginning.

Wind River Range Wyoming
Last light over the peaks above a large lake.

Wind River Range Wyoming
This area near camp reminded me a bit of another granite batholith, the Enchantments in Washington.

Wind River Range Wyoming
Close up of the big peaks in late evening light.

Wind River Range Wyoming
The last light of day fades.

Wind River Range Wyoming
My camp under the sunset colors.

Wind River Range Wyoming
A wide shot of the large lake with the high peaks at dusk.

Wind River Range Wyoming
Sunset over the Wyoming Range.

Wind River Range Wyoming
A wispy little cloud at sunset.

Wind River Range Wyoming
Fremont Peak at dusk.

Wind River Range Wyoming
Wild sunset colors!

Wind River Range Wyoming
A wide shot of the sunset colors and rugged terrain.

Wind River Range Wyoming
The next morning at a peaceful lake along the trail.

Wind River Range Wyoming
Pretty trees along the trail.

Wind River Range Wyoming
Photographer's Point in morning light.

Wind River Range Wyoming
A close up of the rugged Winds.

Wind River Range Wyoming
An impenetrable maze of granite domes, cliffs, forests, and streams.





Wind River Range Wyoming
Wildflower filled meadows on the hike out.

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