Nov 29, 2010 at 5:04 am #1266029
Looking for suggestions and ground transport info, please.
A friend and I have 2 weeks–maybe a bit more if negotiations go well–this summer (mid July–ish) and we are looking at ranges in Montana and Wyoming. At the moment we are considering the Winds, Tetons and Absaroka, but we are open to all suggestions, though I seem to hear my name being called on the Winds. We are also considering Bob Marshall. Looks like it takes about a week each to walk the length of the Winds and Tetons. Resupply while getting from one range to the other. Really, we'd prefer not to have to come out of the mountains for transport from one place to another but I will do if people recommend two destinations that require some travel between them. This leads to my next question.
What is the public transport like in this area? Are there good options for flying into Salt Lake and catching a bus to either the Winds or the Tetons?? I'd hate to rent a car and have it sitting around most of the time while I was backpacking, but maybe this is the best option since I have limited time?
I am open to any suggestions and would appreciate any advice/info to help me plan this trip to an area I am not familiar with. I haven't backpacked in the West for many years, and I am really looking forward to this trip.
MikeNov 29, 2010 at 6:49 am #1668978
Public transport is poor to non-existent in Wyoming and Montana. I've left rented vehicles at the trailhead many times because I was unable to coordinate transportation even with some local help. And many of the hikes in the Tetons, Yellowstone Park, and Absaroka-Beartooth areas (the ones I'm most familiar with) require long shuttles. There are services that will handle the shuttle for you, for a fee of course, that the Park Service can recommend. I've only hiked stretches of it, but the Grand Teton Loop is an exception and supposed to be spectacular, though you might encounter some snow in July. The Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex (another personal favorite) is a good day's drive from any of the other areas you've mentioned, so unless you want to hike the full two weeks there (not a bad choice) I'd rule it out. You might consider flying to Jackson (JAC), doing the Teton Loop and then driving to the Winds for the remainder of your trip. If you book early, fares to Jackson aren't much different than to Salt Lake City. If I had to choose I'd probably do a week in the Absaroka (Three Passes route), then Yellowstone Park or the Teton Loop (or Teton Crest if you can arrange a shuttle). You probably know this but permits are required for Grand Teton and Yellowstone backcountry camping; Yellowstone has an April application date.
Sorry for a somewhat disjointed answer but you asked many questions! Sounds like a magnificent opportunity.Nov 29, 2010 at 11:12 am #1669065
@sharaldsLocale: Gallatin Range
Free, public transportation is available in Glacier National Park and you can take Amtrak to various Northern trailheads into the Bob Marshall Complex.
All the areas you mentioned are of superb quality in terms of backpacking. What is more important, being able to get there easily or quality of trip? Once you've decided between those two it will be easier to whittle down where to go.Nov 29, 2010 at 1:25 pm #1669100
The Great Outdoor Shop in Pinedale, WY, runs an excellent shuttle service for the west side of the Wind River range. They also run shuttles to the Rock Springs and Jackson airports. Not cheap, though: I paid about $160 two years ago for a shuttle from the Green River Lakes trailhead to the Elkhart Park trailhead. They were kind enough to come get me at the last minute (6 pm) on a Friday evening when, thanks to missed connections with the couple with whom I was doing a car swap (my fault), my dog and I were stranded at Green River Lakes while my car was at Elkhart Park.
I'd look into car rental details from Salt Lake City to see what kind of cheap rates you can get for the 2 week period. There will be more choices and lower prices than in Jackson or Rock Springs, and the airfare will be cheaper.
As has been said, the only way you'll get public transportation to the mountains in that two-state area is to take Amtrak to East Glacier and the national park shuttles from there. If you look at the distances and the small population of the towns, the reason for no public transport will become quite obvious!
The Winds call my name constantly! I had to cancel last summer's trip, but unless I drop dead in the meantime I'll be there next summer, for nearly all of August.
If you want to do the Wind Rivers, there are other options than the 80-some miles straight through on the Highline/Fremont Trails from Big Sandy Opening to Green River Lakes. You could do enough side-trips along the range to last another month!Dec 3, 2010 at 6:41 am #1670414
Richard, Sam and Mary, thanks for your advice and insights. This is exactly the kind of info I was fishin for. Sam, to answer your question, QUALITY is most important to me. I'm intrigued. What do you recommend? MikeDec 4, 2010 at 10:43 am #1670791
@ryan_hutchinsLocale: Somewhere out there
I would start in Lander, WY. I'll give you and your friends a ride to Bruce's bridge just outside of town. You can fly into Riverton, take a shuttle to Lander for $40 (round trip)get anything you could ever need at NOLS, Wild Iris,Wind River Outdoor or Safeway and Mr. D's. From Bruce's you hike north through the winds until you hit Hwy 287 north of Union pass, an area called Togwotee pass. Cross the rd and you are now in the southern Absorokas. Travel from here to wherever you want to go in this amazing wilderness. This combo = more time in the mountains and less time driving, though you will have to figure out your pick up point and travel on the tail end. You could do a cool loop into the Thorofare and back out to Togwotee to make transportation easier. Call the cowboy lodge on Togwotee to see if they'll run a shuttle from the lodge up there to Jackson and fly out of Jackson, easy (at least doable!).
I'm pretty confident that no matter where you end up out here, you'll be psyched.
And, If you give me the dates, I really will drive you to the roadhead, it's about 15 minutes from town.Dec 4, 2010 at 11:23 am #1670802
Ryan's post sounds like an offer you can't refuse!!!
Question–how much off-trail navigation experience do you and your companions have? The reason I ask is that the largest percentage of the wilderness in the Winds is trailless. However, you really need to know what you're doing before venturing off-trail–the terrain and the weather can be very unforgiving! There is a recently published book, Nancy Pallister's "Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains," which describes a number of off-trail routes. Quite a few require mountaineering/glacier experience and gear, but there are number that can be followed by non-mountaineering types like me who do have considerable off-trail navigation experience. There are some others where the most difficult sections can be bypassed on trail. Google the title to find out how to purchase the book. Do get the optional CD which has excellent maps and many full-color photos to drool over!
Other planning guides for the Winds are the Earthwalk Press maps (great for planning but not for detailed navigation or even identifying the peaks where you are–you'll need topo maps for that) and the 15-year-old guidebooks by Ray Adkison and Joe Kelsey. Old, but still pretty accurate. Don't expect logs across streams described 15 years ago to be there, and count on most of the lodgepole pine being dead (as it is in most of the Rockies).Dec 4, 2010 at 11:50 am #1670805
Ryan, you read my mind! After I posted here yesterday I took another look at the map and thought why not link the Absarokas and the Winds? I was going to post that as a question, but today I find that you recommend it and, what's more, you have offered to give us a ride to the start! You are very kind! That sounds great if it will work for you. I really appreciate your adevice and your offer. Thank you.
Mary, thank you too for continuing to think on my question and for your help. Good point about navigation. Yes, we are experienced mountaineers and good navigators; we have to be in Ireland…no trails and the mist is down on the hills most days. Did you ever have the pleasure of navigating thru featureless territory in freezing fog! Fun! I will check out the book; thanks for the recommendation. I am beginning to get excited about returning to the West (it's been too many years!) for a backpacking adventure in the wilderness. Again, thanks.
MikeDec 4, 2010 at 4:07 pm #1670847
@davecLocale: Crown of the Continent
It'd also be easy to link a traverse of the Tetons (S-N) with some hiking in Yellowstone and/or the Teton Wilderness. You could fly into and out of Jackson, start the trip from Teton Pass, and finish a loop into the Thorofare (which is amazing) at Togwotee or nearby. The shuttles might be $$$, but you could do a two week trip and cross one paved road (and one dirt road) the entire time.
Two weeks would also be a good length of time to traverse the Bob and a good part of Glacier NP. Give me advance notice and I'll pick you up from the Glacier Int Airport (7 minutes from my house) and drop you off 90 minutes south at Holland Lake on the west side of the Bob for the cost of gas. Hike down and along the South Fork of the Flathead, up over White River Pass, pick up the CDT along the Chinese Wall and take it or a modified route up into Glacier and come out on Going-to-the-Sun road. Take the park shuttle down to West Glacier.
If you've not been to any of theses areas, I'd choose option one over option two. Yellowstone and the Tetons are a combo that can't be beat.Dec 5, 2010 at 2:27 pm #1671126
A few things to remember that might be different in the Wyoming and Montana Rockies (at least compared to Ireland!):
Altitude–plan to take it really easy the first few days until your body adjusts a bit. If you can start in a place where you ascend gradually, or "climb high sleep low" for a few days, so much the better. Know the symptoms of altitude sickness so you can descend if they hit. Everyone is different in how they adjust to high altitude, and fitness seems to have little to do with it. Having grown up in Wyoming, I never paid any attention to altitude. After many years of living at or close to sea level, though, I found the hard way that I do need some acclimatization time. I don't get sick but I can only do about half my normal mileage the first couple of days.
Snow is possible in the Rockies any month of the year–two years ago it snowed in the Winds Aug. 8 and 15. If my dog hadn't gotten sick, I'd have been camped at close to 11,000 feet for the second one. It's a good idea to have a weather contingency day or two in your schedule. If you don't need it, you can always hole up for a day for rest, exploration, fishing, whatever in an extra scenic spot! Nights at high altitude even in midsummer are often frosty. Be prepared!
Almost daily thunderstorms. This basically means you need to get up really early so most of your hiking is done, or at least you're off exposed areas, by about 1-2 pm. The storms may last 30 minutes (often less) and there is usually an hour or two break between, but you don't want to be up on a high plateau or pass when lightning is going on. The climate has changed since I grew up there, when the thunderstorms pretty much went away by early August. Now they last until or into September!
Some possibly dicey stream fords, especially if you come early ("early" being June and early July while the snow is still melting). Glacial streams, usually higher on warm summer afternoons, are best forded in the morning when water is lower.
Glaciers themselves you probably want to stay clear of, unless you have lots of experience judging glacier conditions and have the proper gear and training. This is especially true during the warm months when they are melting and moulins (drain holes) are a hazard. If your trip is mostly on trail, not an issue.
Read up about behavior around bears and how to secure your food. It's pretty simple. Just don't panic about it.
It sounds as though you're getting a great trip lined up! I'm excited for you!Dec 5, 2010 at 7:37 pm #1671226
I'll second David's suggestions, with only two caveats. The Thorofare (which is truly amazing) can be boggy and very buggy until mid-August. Otherwise a great itinerary, as is his option 2 in the Bob.
I again suggest a July trip in Northern Yellowstone (say Slough Creek or the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone) followed by the Absaroka (Three Passes).
Rather like a sultan who's just inherited his brother's harem – whatever you select you can't go too far wrong.
RichardDec 5, 2010 at 9:32 pm #1671255
@simauliusLocale: Bohemian Alps
Ground transportation will be a challange. I was living/working in YNP without my own car. Hitchhiking inside the park always went well, getting anywhere outside the park was tough due to high milage and low traffic count. A friend flew into West Yellowstone from Salt Lake City (there is a single flight daily) and thumbed his way up to stay with me for a few weeks. The trails that we hiked, the sights, the fishing and the camping will be some of my best memories, but we stayed in the park.
Amtrak is an option, Greyhound bus, or you may be able to work out a ride or two on this site or on a Global Gossip rides board (they are the internet provider in YNP… those park employees DO get around!!). Start planning now. Where ever you may end up in MT/WY, you'll be in some of the best of the lower 48.Dec 7, 2010 at 9:30 am #1671770
David, Mary, Richard and Steve, thanks so much for all your tips and recommendations. You are very helpful. And David, thank you very much for the kind offer of a lift. Mary, your points are well taken. I will take necessary precautions to avoid problems including alt sickness which I experienced once on a solo trip in Rocky Mtn Nat'l Park. I'm meeting with my hiking partner soon to sit down and weigh up everything and to consult maps. I am really blown away by everyone's help and generosity. Will keep you posted. Cheers! MikeDec 7, 2010 at 9:42 am #1671771
@gabe_joyesLocale: Lander, WY
I live in Lander, WY, go to the Winds or the Absarokas, you won't be disappointed. The Tetons are too darn crowded in the summer, makes me nutty. Montana's Absaroka-Beartooth wilderness is also wonderful, a nice mixture of terrain, but I prefer the local Wyoming mountains. If you need some shuttling in the area maybe we can work something out. Send me an email if you need anything: firstname.lastname@example.orgDec 8, 2010 at 1:15 am #1672110
Hey Gabe, thanks for your recommendation. Will consider carfelly your point of view. I was wondering about crowds in the Teton. And a BIG thanks for the offer to help shuttle if it works out. I really appreciate your help. MikeDec 8, 2010 at 4:48 am #1672131
@ryanLocale: Northern Rockies
Mike, I love these questions. The answers are really easy:
1. "You can't go wrong if you go…" That's mostly true. All the ideas above are really good.
2. "Transportation can be tricky…" But it's half the fun too. That's why I like walking into towns and just figuring it out from there. It always seems to work itself out.
– Start up North, over by Cody. Fishhawk Creek is a good jumping off point, so is Deer Creek up the S Fork Shoshone River drainage out of Cody. Go south and stay in the mountains. The Northern Absarokas are a stunning walk, especially if you want to go off trail. Lots of good options for hiking the high tundra benches around the rugged peaks.
– Don't mess with resupplying, spend your time hiking. Send your resupply parcel to the Togwotee Pass Mountain Lodge. Spend the night there in the middle and have a good meal.
– Continue South through the Winds and end somewhere near Lander so Ryan can pick you up, take you to NOLS, show you off to the next batch of NOLS students getting ready to leave for their 6 mile a day trek with their 70 pound packs, then tell them you learned how to be a real man at BPL :D
– Eat at the Cowfish in Lander.Dec 8, 2010 at 8:34 am #1672191
@gabe_joyesLocale: Lander, WY
Ryan you read my mind! I am planning almost that same trip for next summer! I'm looking at starting in Sinks Canyon and heading north through the Winds, resupply at Togwotee, then making my way to Cooke City and finishing in the Boulder Valley (I used to work at a camp there). I would prefer to stay in the more user friendly North Absaroka Wilderness, but I'm open to going through Yellowstone. I just can't seem to figure out a good route through all of those deep valleys in the North Absaroka. Have any suggestions for a good, partially off-trail, high-route through the North Absaroka to get to Cooke City? I would love to hear your insight!
I can testify as a local that the Cowfish is hands down the best restaurant in Lander. All should go there or be square.Dec 8, 2010 at 8:40 am #1672193
@sharaldsLocale: Gallatin Range
With Ryan H offering you a ride to a trailhead from Lander that's pretty hard to pass up! And although sometimes finding transportation "on the fly" can be fun it can also be a bear. Hitchiking has been hit-or-miss for me. Used it as my sole means of trailhead access when I lived in GNP with great success. Opposite side of the coin? Spent SIX HOURS thumbing for a ride over Beartooth Pass last fall.Dec 8, 2010 at 5:05 pm #1672361
@davecLocale: Crown of the Continent
Hitching can be hit or miss for sure. Your best bet in the west is to hope a European comes along soon, typically American tourists avoid eye contact with hitchhikers and drive right past. Of course, those nice folks from Alabama that picked me up at 8pm in the pouring rain on Going-to-the-Sun road last summer were the exception. Fortunately I just looked wet and pathetic, rather than scary.
Then there was the ride I got from Fishing Bridge all the way back to Missoula this spring with the Cuban-American guys from Miami. Mojitos and BBQ in the RV!Dec 8, 2010 at 6:24 pm #1672400
Actually, hitchhiking is illegal in Wyoming.Dec 17, 2010 at 3:32 pm #1675155
Hey Mary, David, Sam, Gabe and Ryan,
A big thanks for all your added tips and info.
Imagine this: My friend and I sat down here last night (here in Ireland) and had burgers and fries and cola in a replica American style diner while we looked at maps and al the posts in this thread and discussed the possibilities. We have decided on the Absarokas and the Winds. Not sure if we will travel south to north or north to south, and we still need to look into where we will fly in and out. But the plan is taking shape! So now I must buy some books and maps for more detailed planning.
I will buy Pallister's book, the Earth Walk maps and, if I can find it, probably the Adkinson and Kelsey book. Any other recommendations on guidebooks/maps???
All of you have been tremendously helpful.
MikeDec 17, 2010 at 5:50 pm #1675202
Michael, consider Bill Schneider's Hiking the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, from Falcon Press.
Do keep us posted.
RichardMay 27, 2011 at 10:14 am #1741827
Plans are going forward! Can anyone give me advice on what bear system to use in the Winds and Absarokas?? Would you recommend an Ursack with odorproof liner bag? Or are their official requirements for other systems? MikeMay 27, 2011 at 10:48 am #1741838
A BIG change has occurred since your earlier posts! Snow–tons of it! Mid-Julyish, there probably will be a LOT of snow still around. The whole western US (except for New Mexico, currently in severe drought) has had extraordinarily heavy snowpack, much of it since early March. Last I looked (Monday), the snowpack in the upper Green River Basin (west side of the Wind Rivers, where the Highline/Fremont trails go) was a whopping 238% of normal. With a cold wet spring, not much has melted–stream flows are below normal for this time of year. Once the snow starts melting, a lot of flooding is expected. The same is true out here in the Cascades, where it's still snowing above 5,000 feet. Be prepared for plenty of snow left and for some treacherous stream crossings! Here are a couple of sites to check:
Snowpack (note that these are inches of snow water equivalent, not snow depth–divide by 0.20 to 0.30 to get approximate snow depth):
In the northern half of the Wind Rivers, you are required either to hang your food or to use an approved bear canister. This is because grizzly bears are moving down from Yellowstone into the northern Winds, although you probably won't meet any south of Green River Lakes. The Shoshone National Forest (Absarokas and east side of the Winds) is under the same food storage order. I can't give you the URL on this because the USFS has recently changed their websites to include horrendously long URLs that make this post too wide to read. Google "Bridger-Teton National Forest" and then click on "Recreation" in the left column, then click on "Food Storage Requirements" in the right column.May 28, 2011 at 1:28 am #1742095
Wow! I wasn't expecting that news. We already have our maps, books and flights. I knew there would be snow but not so much. Now the question is do we wait and see and pray for a heat wave to melt the snow before we get there or should we change plans and backpack in another area altogether?? My friend is away backpacking this weekend, so I won't have a chance to discuss with him until Monday.
I'd appreciate anyone's opinions and suggested alternate destinations.
Mary, thanks so much for your speedy reply and for the heads up. –Mike
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