K and I spent a few days in the Wind River Range area exploring some of the areas. We did two backpacking trips:
- Cirque of the Towers loop (2 days, ~25 miles, day 1, day 2)
- Titcomb Basin and Island Lake (3 days, ~35 miles, day 1, day 2, day 3)
(Caveat with the Strava links: Strava tries to “course correct” (straighten), so don’t believe the GPS tracks entirely)
Cirque of the Towers
Let me start by saying I do *NOT* recommend you do this in 2 days unless you are in uber good shape. And also please don’t do this unless you are comfortable with off trail / cross country navigation. Please bring a map and/or GPS and know how to use it. I recommend this map.
We did this by starting at Big Sandy Trailhead, and hiking to Shadow Lake the first day (~11.5 miles, 1900ft gain). This day was easy peasy, with pretty views of the cirque by the lake. I much enjoyed the views from our campsite.
Now next day was brutal, we decided to go over both Texas Pass, Jackass Pass, and back to the trail head (~14 miles, 2400ft gain) on the same day. The stats don’t sound that bad, but given the trail conditions this was way harder than expected.
The navigation from Shadow Lake to Texas Pass was not a problem (it was a bit difficult finding the trail towards Texas Pass); but after Texas Pass we had to consult a map and bushwhack a bit. We were never lost since it was obvious where the next stop (Lonesome Lake) was going to be, it was just slow going given there was no “official” trail and everyone made up there own shit and there were cairns everywhere. Oh, do not believe the cairns, they are sometimes for climbers and just overall more confusing than helpful in this segment.
After getting to Lonesome Lake, the climb to Jackass Pass wasn’t that bad, there is definitely a false summit so don’t get your hopes up too much once you get to the “top”. I assume this is why they call it Jackass. I agree with the name.
Now the downhill part (Jackass Pass to Big Sandy Lake) was the painful part, the trail skirts both Arrowhead and North Lake, which means scrambling up and down the lake shore. After North Lake before the crossing of North Creek, it would be hard to call this a “trail”. It’s more rock scrambling trying to find the next cairn (which may or may not be “lying”) and slowly picking your way down the unmarked “trail”. This took us way more time than we expected.
Once you cross North Creek, the trail becomes normal again. Big Sandy Lake seemed like a fine place to camp (albeit crowded). We were glad that the remaining trail was smooth and easy, especially since we still had another 6 miles to go and we were a bit tired from all the navigation and scrambling.
Exhaustion aside (which is our fault since we could have read the trail descriptions better), I highly recommend this for great views and varied terrain.
Titcomb Basin and Island Lake
This trail was SUPER beautiful. The first day we hiked in via the Elkhart trailhead to Island Lake (~12.5 miles, ~24ooft). The trail definitely rolled, but besides that the trail was easy going. Lots and lots of pretty views along the way. We were lucky that it was wildflower season and everything was blooming.
Island Lake itself was stunning to look at.
We stayed here two nights and did a day hike out towards Titcomb Basin and a short hike towards Indian Basin (only to the first few lakes). The whole Titcomb Basin was a delight. Indian Basin reminded me of parts of the Sierras in California, more barren. I like to call this sort of terrain “like Mars”, not that I have any idea what the surface of Mars looks like.
The Wind River Range was way prettier than I expected. I only learned about this area last winter when I randomly picked up a book from the library. No regrets! Would love to go back again and explore more of the area.