Apr 5, 2011 at 11:14 am #1271739
Planning a trip to the Winds first week of July, anybody been there that time of year? Saving up for Tenkara rod to take with me after reading posts on here about how great and light they are.
Not looking for secrets but, any advice/locations not to be missed would be appreciated.
Details: 5 days, 8-12 miles per day, coming up from Denver.Apr 5, 2011 at 11:21 am #1720335
Michael SchwartzBPL Member
@greenwalkLocale: PA & Ireland
Have you seen the Tenkara rods on sale now in the shop? The non-BPL model is a good deal. MikeApr 5, 2011 at 1:45 pm #1720445
You probably won't know for at least another couple of months what the snow conditions will be like. So far the snowpack is above average, but anything can happen the next 3 months. Right now, it's still the dead of winter up there. It's not much different from the Northern Colorado Rockies, so you'll know before you go.
In early July, the streams will be high and there will probably still be significant snow in some places. If snow melt is late, you might get there before the bugs. If the melt is earlier, though, be prepared! You may find many of the higher lakes still frozen. It all depends on the rate of snow melt! In some years, most of the melt is done by early July, but it's beginning to look as though this may not be one of those years.
A Plan B for somewhat lower elevations would be a good idea in case there's still too much snow up in the really high spots when you get there.
There are a zillion lakes in the Winds, and all but the most crowded (i.e. close to trailheads) are great fishing! I'm hoping to be there with my Tenkara rod in August. Practice a lot with it in the back yard and close to home!Apr 5, 2011 at 1:55 pm #1720452
As an added bonus you may be in for a great show of wildflowers depending on how the melt goes. Have you figured out where you will be going in at?Apr 5, 2011 at 2:05 pm #1720464
i went up last year in early july. the mosquitoes were absolutely awful at lower elevations, but were bearable above treeline. there was no snow or frozen lakes/ponds till i hit the boulder field at the end of the glaicer trail and at the start of the gannett peak route.
I just got a tenkara from the sale they are doing now, and i really wanted to try it out another trip to the winds this year. im thinking i will try to hit the southern section this time, maybe the deep creek lakes or the slough creek lakes.
oh, the map from beartooth publishing is great for traveling withApr 5, 2011 at 3:13 pm #1720511
I haven't decided where to go yet but I did order Wind River Trail by Finis Mitchel as recommended by R. Jordan. Some friends that have been there, not backpackers so they only fished the 'popular' spots said that it sucked up there… maybe time to get new friends but, want to check it out for myself. I've heard only great stories from the people on here.
I love these types of areas, last time I was in the Flat Tops, the fishing was unbelieveable.
Any great loops I should look into? Entry points?Apr 5, 2011 at 3:34 pm #1720524
Over the past 35 years or so I have spent many months in the Winds and interestingly enough the only place I got off track and a bit lost on a CDT hike. They are my favorite place to go with Patagonia a close second. Due to the fact that I am just 3-4 hours from them is a big plus.
I don't fish so I can't make any recommendations on that but certainly can on loops and in and outs with a loop.
If you are more about high alpine terrain and less about fishing, that sets the stage for one option. If you are about fishing first and wanting to minimize trail time, that's another option. Finally,I have run into a number of folks that just fish as they hike, preferring to hike along rivers and streams.Apr 5, 2011 at 5:12 pm #1720589
Are you planning mostly on or off trail travel? Are you interested mostly in fishing or is it incidental to scenery?
The Finis Mitchell book is delightful reading but please note that most of the info therein dates from the 1970's.
For strictly on-trail, there's Adkison's "Hiking Wyoming's Wind River Range." He does describe what fish are in most of the lakes, but note that this book is over 15 years old. Not all the existing trails are in there. I have no idea why he omitted the Deep Lakes/Ice Lakes trail (Popo Agie Wilderness), for instance–it's on my wish list, but not this year.
The most recent guidebook to the Winds is Nancy Pallister's "Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains" (2010). It deals in large part with off-trail routes, some easy, some requiring extensive mountaineering experience. The routes are, of course, partly on-trail, and she gives on-trail alternatives to some of the more difficult off-trail routes. She also has a lot of recent data on access roads, communities and other resources. If you get it, be sure to get the optional CD which has more detailed maps (the ones in the book are black-and-white and not very clear) and a lot of magnificent photos which will leave you drooling.
BTW, last year was a relatively dry year on the west side of the Winds. 2009, though, the snow was really late melting.Apr 7, 2011 at 3:07 pm #1721604
My plan is to lake hop. I want to hike most of the day on/off trail and then spend the last 2-3 hrs of the day fishing. Ofcourse I might get distracted from time to time but, I want different lakes each day to be my desitnation; then do it all again the next day.
I get 5 days of this so it seems from my research that the options are endless.
Where's the best place to enter? Any loop ideas?
P.S- Got a Tenkara Iwana 12' series II for my Bday yesterday so now I'm set! :)Apr 7, 2011 at 9:06 pm #1721799
Petr, I haven't been in the central Winds since I was 9, but based on my research and just looking at the map (stupid Earthwalk Press, doesn't identify half the peaks), I'd suggest going in at Scab Creek (one of the lesser used trailheads on the west side, a little way south of Pinedale) and exploring the hundreds of lakes up there. There's the Fremont Trail (higher and closer to the Continental Divide) and the Highline Trail (close to but mostly just below timberline, in the region where campfires are allowed) and a bunch of connecting trails in between, which let you go back and forth and hopefully avoid major creek crossings, since the streams will be very high in early July. This section is on my wish list for next year. You'll be away from the really popular areas like Titcomb Basin and the Cirque of the Towers, and (IMHO), less popular = better fishing.
Another possibility would be the Deep Creek/Ice Lakes area in the Popo Agie Wilderness on the SE side of the Winds. You would access them from the Sinks Canyon-Louis Lake Road at Worthen Meadow Reservoir. The main problem in early July would be fording the Middle Fork Popo Agie (deep even in low water), but if you go in and out via Pinto Park, you'll avoid that issue. This trip is described only in Nancy Pallister's book, with a very brief writeup in FInis Mitchell's little book. I have no idea why it's omitted from Adkison's guide book. This is another trip on my future wish list. I'm hoping to take my grandkids there!
This year I hope to do three 8-10 day trips–two in popular areas and the third on the New Fork Plateau (which will still be frozen in early July). I suspect that by the end of the adventure, I won't want to look a trout in the face–or on my plate! There will be only a couple of nights that I won't be fishing.
The Earthwalk Press maps are sort of OK for planning, but you'll want more detailed topographic maps of the area you decide to go into. I haven't seen the Beartooth Press maps and can't find their Wind Rivers maps when searching online.Apr 7, 2011 at 11:34 pm #1721823
those maps are awesome. i have the original 1:100,000 scale, and its very useful. they now make a north/south version in a 1:50,000 scale that i haven't actually seen. their maps are beautifully done, and have won a couple awards. they also update them almost yearly to make sure they are acurate. i've only found one minor mistake on mine where they gave the wrong elevation of mount helen in wyoming, and its already fixed on their second edition.Apr 8, 2011 at 6:06 am #1721860
@ejcfreeLocale: off grid
Where ever you go you'll love it. I've done 10 trips 'tween 5 and 14 days there. I think my earliest arrival has been maybe the 12th and I had no issues with either excessive snow or high water crossings, thats not saying your route (whatever it may be) won't have these. Nor have I fished in the past (got myself a Tenkara now and really really looking forward to using it there!!!), but I've seen lots of lakes and once when relaxing along the shore of Grave Lake I was amazed to watch a 16in trout (I know water magnifies but I swear) meander lazily by about 2ft off shore.
morning at Grave Lake
I'm going to suggest a specific loop that I have enjoyed (more than once). I'm not sure when you say 5 days if you mean 5 or 4 nights. This was my first visit to The Winds and my first solo. For those reasons I chose a popular trailhead and one of the Sights (Cirque of the Towers). Here it is in skeleton form – Big Sandy trailhead- Marms Lake-Haily Pass (any pass that is shown on a map with "not suitable for livestock" is for me)-Grave Lake-Valentine Lake (lakes to south for less traveled fishing)-Lizard Head plateau-Bear Lakes-Cirque o' Towers-Jackass Pass-Bid Sandy trailhead. Camp at 1) Marms Lake 2) Grave Lake 3) Valentine Lake 4) Bear Lakes. If you've got 5 nights stay two at Grave Lake and day hike to numerous and gorgeous lakes to the north, you can also easily top Pilot Knob (Grave Lake Dome) from the backside on the way back to camp. Why do I recommend and like this route? It gives a good taste of what this area has to offer, lakes both low and high, high open terrain (Lizard Head Plateau), sheltered camping (or not as you choose), iconic world class scenery, and a taste of the remote (Grave Lake area) without a huge commitment in time or heavy duty untrailed travel
. headed north from Big Sandy
Cirque o' Towers from Lizard Head Plateau
I'll say it again. Where ever you go you'll love it. I get so exited just thinking about it I'm carried away. No one around here has any interest in hiking let alone talking about it, and I'm feeling the lack. I love these mountains. Enjoy yourself and good luck.
Take Care, EricApr 8, 2011 at 9:32 am #1721945
@fluffinreach-comLocale: no. california
you are near the cirque, and you want to camp.. but … you can;t. because of the regs. one is/was forced when in the cirque, to be at least 200' from the water, which rules out most of the places. this due to the use of the area, it's perhaps not such a bad rule, but it can be a bother. it does not help that there are legends of gov't turds MEASURING if peoples tents are 197', or the vastly less impactive 201' from the creek. for the combative amongst us, it may be safest for all concerned to avoid the entire issue …
ahhh… enter v., steward of the environment, world's nicest man, and his curious interpretations of laws/regulations/and policy annoyances.
if you go to the top of the southmost pass, texas, jackass, i can't recall, and hump just a bit over the top, you will now be on watershed draining OUT of the cirque. thusly, one is no longer IN the cirque. camp wherever ya want.
you can set up a few yards away, a bit over a small rise and out of sight of the trail, and there is drinking water from a nice seep on the rock wall bordering the trail. views to die for. un-impacted. decent combo of rock and sandy stuff. durable as turf's going to get. in all .. not a bad site.
so there. you are legal out of the cirque, and ya got the view, and ya gots privacy, and ya got it to yerself.
v.Apr 8, 2011 at 10:40 am #1721984
I've camped there before and it's great. As a general rule, I try to limit my time in the Cirque as beautiful as it is, because of the people and rangers. In all my time in the Winds I have only run into rangers there, Valentine Lake area and the Elk Park area. Every time they measured, and at Valentine Lake insisted that we move since we where 195' from the lake.
Most of the time though, I only see people at the trail head and within a few miles and a couple hours of the trail head. Quite often I see no one the whole time. My favorite areas are off the trail and up high so I know that makes a big difference.Apr 8, 2011 at 2:08 pm #1722119
Eric, that's one of the trips I have planned for this summer, and I greatly appreciate the photo preview! I plan to take side trips to the south end of Baptiste Lake (south of the reservation boundary) and to South Fork Lakes. I'm told that both are outstanding fishing spots. I also plan to hike from Lizard Head Meadows over Jackass Pass to Clear Lake to avoid having to camp with the mobs in the Cirque. I've already seen the "back side" of the Cirque (Shadow Lake) so my interest is in going over the Lizard Plateau and then just getting out afterwards.
My concern is that Petr is going the first week of July, when that area, especially the passes, will be quite snowy, especially considering this year's above-average snowpack. If conditions are anything like 2009, which folks who live in the area are beginning to think it will be, the high lakes will still be frozen, too.
Actually, the rule throughout both the Bridger and Popo Agie Wildernesses is that you must camp 200 feet from all lakes or from established trails. In the Bridger, it's 100 feet from streams; in the Popo Agie it's 200 from streams also. In the Cirque, it's 1/4 mile from Lonesome Lake, one of the earliest mountain lakes to get polluted. I have never met a ranger that actually measured except for one infamous character in the Naches Ranger District of Washington's Wenatchee NF. Do you suppose he has a twin?Apr 8, 2011 at 2:34 pm #1722131
Thanks for all the insight guys and the trip report and pictures are great.
I'm concerned as well with the high lakes still being frozen. From the recent data that has come out this week, the snow pack is above normal and should remain this way unless a heat wave comes through. I'm a backpacker first, then a fisherman, so I wouldn't mind seeing those high areas as well. I was planning on avoiding the cirque because of the high crowds and justified nazi rangers. I perfer the less explored areas of the places I go, so keep those ideas coming for those types of spots.
Appreciate everyones help!Apr 9, 2011 at 6:06 am #1722325
@ejcfreeLocale: off grid
Here's my take on places like the Cirque (Island Lake, Three Forks Park). Nice places to visit (so classic you kind of ought to) but I wouldn't spend much time. Expect to see people and heavily used campsites. These popular spots seem to attract lots of rookies and some folks who either just don't care or don't know any better (though I have to add that I can see yahoos camped right on lake shores and trailsides having fires anywhere). I don't camp in the Cirque. That's why I mentioned Bear Lakes, still well used (most likely neighbors) but not like Lonesome Lake. Lizard Head Meadows has plenty of established sites not all next to each other. That noted, I've passed through the Cirque three times, and twice I did not see a single soul until headed up the pass, some tents (1/4mi ?) thats it.
The conditions will be what they are. You won't really know till you're looking at that pass in front of you. I've turned around twice when I met spots beyond my comfort. I tend to make these overly ambitious routes or no route just a trailhead and 10 days food. One of the beauties of The Winds is that you can do whatever you choose, change your mind whenever you feel like it, go anywhere. Ah! freedom! and self reliance.
Middle Alpine Lake
Another nice trip nearby the Hailey Pass-Cirque route is to go south over Temple Pass-around Sweetwater Gap-summit Wind River Peak-out through the Cirque. There are so many options!
north over Little Sandy Lake
So Mary, what are your other plans? I recently bought Nancy Pallisters book (turned on to it by your mention here on BPL, thanks) and am enjoying it. I'd been thinking about a trip cruxed by Bloody Hell Pass and find her description valuable. I'm planning to be there mid July-August. I'll go to the Tetons as well. The Absarokas are also in my mind. It's all in my mind now. Are we there yet! Take Care, EricJun 11, 2011 at 2:14 pm #1747949
the snow pack this year is immense. Just an FYI
last year it was around 130% of normal, this year it is 325% of normal.
All of wyoming has some heavy snowpack!Jun 13, 2011 at 9:09 am #1748542
I too am considering a trip in the beginning of July. I have been checking the snow pack in the area and things aren't looking super positive.
has anyone done a trip in the wind river range in the beginning of July on an above average snow pack year? I don't mind crossing some snowy passes and hiking in a bit of snow but I don't want to have to trudge through the snow all day.
Its my guess that we may not need to worry about crowds if there is still a large amount of snow.
I have not picked a route yet because of the snow issue. But I have six days to hike.Jun 14, 2011 at 10:08 am #1749062
i wouldn't think crowds will be an issue either way. if you're more than a mile or two into the back country, you'll have more wilderness to yourself than you'll know what to do with.
I will be doing a short backpacking trip July 5-8th in the southern part if the loop road is open by then (its still closed apparently). I will be bringing some strap-on crampons with me just because, and i will be bringing my ice axe to the trail head in case the snowpack is still substantial.Jun 14, 2011 at 10:31 am #1749070
I have been checking on the conditions because of my trip and it is not looking good. The rangers don't have a lot of positive things to say about the snowpack and options available because of it. I don't want to trudge around in the snow either or be limited to the lower elevations. The fishing isn't great either because of the run off as well.
I can't decide what to do or what my alernative would even be since I've been so committed to this trip. Theirs always Utah! :)Jun 14, 2011 at 12:49 pm #1749144
What I'm watching re the snow melt:
http://www.nohrsc.noaa.gov/nsa/ Click first on the region ("Central Rockies" for the Winds; then on the second map ("Snow Depth") and click to enlarge. You can check out any place in the US! Note that the whole western US, except New Mexico and Arizona, is having the same problem. The one encouraging thing is that there's less purple (over 98 inches) than there was 2 weeks ago. Peter, in comparison with June 1, it looks as though the mountains of southern Colorado are melting out faster than the rest. At least you won't have to shell out for a nonresident license, which in Wyoming is quite pricey.
The snotel sites are no longer very useful this late–they're showing an abnormally high percentage (like 300+% of average) simply because of the late melt. The snotels in the Winds also are at or lower than the trailheads–the later it gets, the less they reflect what's going on higher up.
http://www.nohrsc.noaa.gov/nsa/ The streamflow data lets you know if the snow is (finally) melting. While the Green River is finally above average, I'm a bit unhappy that Fremont Creek at the inlet to Fremont Lake is below normal, meaning it's not melting up there yet. The Pinedale area is expecting big floods when the snow does melt.
Of course you can call the appropriate USFS ranger station and hope you talk to someone who has been out from behind the desk lately!
I'm beginning to wonder if my early August date won't be too early! My main concern is stream fords. I'm short, with short legs, and the USFS in the Winds builds bridges only if the stream isn't safe for horses to ford in low water. My dog, despite being mostly Labrador, refuses to swim–a traitor to his genetics! He has major separation anxiety when I leave him behind, though, so hopefully that neurosis will win the day! If the big streams (especially Pole Creek) are too high, I'll have to do major backtracking. Nancy Pallister (who wrote the latest guidebook to the Winds) tells me that Pole Creek and Middle Fork Boulder Creek are the most dangerous fords in high water.Jun 16, 2011 at 11:30 am #1750007
After talking with some local guides I decided to reschedule my trip to the Wind's. We are going to go some time in the end of August. Kind of a bummer but it's better than being restricted to lower elevations.Jun 21, 2011 at 11:28 am #1751691
I was on the fence for my trip so I emailed the guys at NOLS since they have the Winds in their back door and here was their response:
You most likely will still encounter snow above treeline during the 4th of July week but it will be melting rapidly. I would only recommend crampons and ice axes if you plan on traveling on any steep snow slopes for mountaineering/climbing pursuits. If your objectives revolve more around hiking, and not climbing, I think you will be fine WITHOUT these specific pieces of gear. Expect, however, maybe to "posthole" through some of the remaining, and rotting, snowpack while hiking up high, and even through the trees at lower elevations. The Winds received a lot of snow this winter, some of which will try to linger into July…
This was posted on CDTL by two CDT hikers:
CDTA Mapping crew just completed the Basin. The route is dry with a few inconsequential patches of snow from where it exits the Medicine Bow NF to about 12 miles north of Hwy 28. That’s about 190 miles total of trail between big snow areas or 174 if you stop at 28. You’d have to get a ride down SH 71 from Rawlins but a lot of locals are fishing down there and they seemed like nice people who might give a ride. We met two CDT hikers (Heavy and Arno?) north of Hwy 28 that tried but were unable to reach Little Sandy due to deep, rotten snow. They were roadwalking to Pinedale and said they would post on CDT 2011 when they get there. The road to Big Sandy is still closed. Snow depth near the Colorado border is at 74” so I doubt that Zirkel will be passable soon. Winds are still pretty much solid white. Scattered drifts from 7,000- 8,000 feet and continuous snow above 9,000.
With this info, I am going somewhere else for my trip this year. Call me what you will, but, I was hoping to fish and limit the amount of suffering this year. I'm looking into the CT or even heading out to Utah since I love it so much.
Maybe next year!Jun 21, 2011 at 12:06 pm #1751716
@gabe_joyesLocale: Lander, WY
Big Sandy TH is melted out and should be open. But, it is pretty darn snowy anywhere above that. Its supposed to be warm here this week so you never know. Good luck.
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