Grand Views and Wildlife: Service in the Gros Ventre Wilderness, Wyoming

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14290A, Service/ Volunteer


  • Look for moose, elk, mule deer and bighorn sheep in the wilderness' forests and meadows
  • Enjoy the Gros Ventre's 20 peaks that top over 10,000 feet in elevation
  • Participate in rewarding trail work in the company of good people from around the country


  • All meals and snacks
  • Pack support to our base camp
  • Tools and guidance for the work project


DatesAug 10–16, 2014
StaffSteven Veit

Trip Overview

The Sharon Churchwell Fund is offering youth 18-25 years old a discount on this trip. Visit the Sharon Churchwell Fund page for more details.

The Trip

The 300,000-acre Gros Ventre Wilderness is located in the Bridger-Teton National Forest in western Wyoming. In most areas, the elevation ranges from 7,000 to 10,000 feet, with the highest peak at 11,720 feet. There are craggy peaks, glacial valleys, and rolling foothills with abundant wildflowers in July and August.

Though close to the bustling Grand Teton National Park and the town of Jackson, the Gros Ventre can be enjoyed in comparative solitude. This area is known for its wildlife and we may see moose, elk, deer, bighorn sheep, and black bear, as well as smaller mammals and birds. The Gros Ventre Wilderness is home to the calving grounds for the National Elk Refuge located in Jackson Hole, the valley between the Gros Ventre Range and the Tetons. In addition to the beautiful landscape of the Gros Ventre, many rave about the vistas of the Teton Range.

In the evenings, we'll relax with hot drinks around a campfire and enjoy conversation, stories, games, or just the sounds of the wilderness.

The Project

We will be camping and working in the Gros Ventre Wilderness near Grizzly Lake. The trail is set in a mixture of large open hillsides and patches of pine and aspen forest and crosses several small creeks. Our focus will be to reroute a high trail to address safety concerns -- strenuous, but satisfying work.

With the help of USFS personnel, we will learn how to properly construct and restore trail while at the same time gain insight on the hard work and passion that drives the Forest Service trail crews. We'll also learn firsthand about the surrounding ecosystem that makes the Gros Ventre so special and vast.


Our trip officially begins the morning of Sunday at the Jackson Ranger Station in Jackson, Wyoming. Folks who are in Jackson on Saturday evening are welcome to camp out in the meadow alongside the ranger station and may well opt to gather for dinner to get acquainted before heading into the wilderness the following morning.

We will be shuttled by Forest Service personnel and vehicles to the trailhead. All of our food and kitchen camp provisions will be carried in by a mule team, while we each carry in our own personal gear. Once to our base camp our week will consist of four trail work days and one free day for hiking, fishing, swimming, or relaxing. Near our camp are beautiful hiking trails that wander through meadows of sagebrush and wildflowers, with aspen stands and pine forest. Please plan on hiking in groups of at least three for safety.

Please note: If you are thinking of fishing, a license for fishing is required. We are likely to find some prime fly-fishing spots on the river.

There are many nearby attractions you can enjoy before or after the trip, including the Wind River Mountains, the National Elk Refuge, Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Targhee ski area, and the bustling town of Jackson, with its many fine art galleries, Western stores, restaurants, and guided raft trips. If a cultural event -- the Scottish Highland Days, Shakespeare in the Park, the Teton Symphony Orchestra, or the Targhee Blues Festival -- is more to your liking, be sure to check the Jackson event calendar.



Getting There

The closest airports to our meeting place in Jackson, WY, are Jackson Hole (JAC), Idaho Falls, ID (IDA), and Salt Lake City, UT (SLC). There are rental cars and shuttle services available from Salt Lake City and Idaho Falls. Cheyenne is also an airport to possibly use, but the drive from there is about eight hours to Jackson.

Do keep in mind that the Sierra Club does not provide transportation for you to or from the airport. It's a great idea to communicate with other trip members to discuss carpooling to save energy and travel costs.

Accommodations and Food

Meals will begin with breakfast on Sunday, August 10, and finish with lunch on Saturday, August 16. We will be in bear country and will take precautions to store food and other attractants in bear-proof containers.

Come with the attitude that food is part of our adventure. Many participants say our meals are a highlight of the week -- pleasing the palate, satisfying appetites, and serving as social gatherings amidst the day's work or play in the wilderness. The menu will be healthy, nutritious, high-energy backcountry cuisine. Meals will be largely vegetarian, with some opportunities for meat during the week, and often include dairy products.

Our meals require special planning, as food weight and quantity must be carefully calculated and all waste carried out at the end of the trip. We will have a group commissary with everyone taking turns in meal preparation and cleanup afterwards. Before applying for the trip, folks with food allergies and/or strong preferences are encouraged to contact the leader and cook to see if reasonable accommodations are possible within our limitations in the backcountry.

Trip Difficulty

The backpack to our base camp is a two- to three-mile hike and will be moderately strenuous due to high altitude. Keep in mind, too, that you will be carrying your tent and camping gear for the week, so it's very important to pack light and be in good physical condition for the journey. There may be a stream crossing or two along the way.

Trail work involves easily teachable skills and the most difficult work is always done in teams. The work will be supervised, and everyone will receive clear instruction on tool safety. Since we're in wilderness, we will not be using any power tools. You will need to be in good physical condition for the backpack to our base camp, the work required for our project, and the hikes we might enjoy to nearby sites.

Your enjoyment of this trip depends in large part on your preparation. Be sure to include both cardiovascular and strength workouts in your training. Participants in good shape are less likely to have accidents and will enjoy the trip more.

Equipment and Clothing

The leader will send an equipment list to registered participants. It's important to be well equipped; one person's lack of adequate warmth or protection can put the whole group at risk. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask the leader.

Summer temperatures could range from the upper 80s during the day to freezing or below at night. Expect occasional thunderstorms and cold, rainy weather. Snow is possible. Be prepared to hike, work, play, eat and sleep in heat, rain, and cold.

You are welcome to bring a musical instrument that you'd like to pack with you, such as a guitar or flute -- or any other comforts or amusements that you're up for carrying. ("Backpacker-style" guitars are very much encouraged given the difficulty of hiking with a full-sized instrument!)



  • Jenkins, Matt, A People's History of Wilderness. This book is for those interested in learning more about wilderness protection, including the area where we will be.
  • Stone, Irving, Men to Match My Mountains. Set in "Jaskson Hole," the novel covers a short, romantic period in the history of the American West.
  • Van Tilburg Clark, Walter, The Ox-Bow Incident.



We will be in an area covered by USGS 7.5-minute series maps. If desired, the Ouzel Falls and Tosi Peak quads are the most appropriate maps to obtain from the U.S. Geological Survey.


Since its founding in 1892, The Sierra Club has worked to preserve and restore the natural environment we all share on this planet. Thousands of grassroots-level volunteers spearhead our efforts to conserve and sustain resources, both in our own backyards and on a global scale. Through direct experience in the outdoors, Sierra Club outings enable participants to better understand, advocate, and participate in the environmental conservation goals of the Club.

The Bridger-Teton National Forest (BTNF) has recently approved oil and gas development in the Wyoming Range. Additionally, the use of forest products is one of the goals of the BTNF. The Forest Service is responsible for managing multiple uses, including grazing, mining, recreation, and logging. They are often confused with the Park Service, whose overall goal is preservation of resources. These will continue to be contentious issues as the energy and resource demands of our country expand and the need for additional energy sources and other resources grows.

Tourism is a major industry in Wyoming, and wildlife viewing and hunting are some of the major attractions. Wyoming Game and Fish (G&F) is charged with overseeing the management of this valuable resource. Currently, G&F is considering alternatives to the existing 23 elk feeding rounds with the goal of spreading these animals back our on native ranges and returning them to their native feeding areas. This would have the desirable effect of dispersing the population to reduce the spread of any disease in the herd that results when the herd is congregated in small areas.

Additionally, the G&F is looking at issues that will be facing the Wyoming wolf population when the wolf is taken off the protected list and the responsibility is passed from federal to state jurisdiction. Currently, issues concerning the wolf are under federal control through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS). USFWS manages endangered species through the federal Endangered Species Act.

Another big issue affecting this wilderness area and surrounding region is the spread of the Pine Bark Beetle. It is easy to see the devastation that the spread of these beetles have caused as they have damaged over 3.6 million acres of forest in this part of the country. There is much debate over what has actually caused the beetles to flourish, whether it be the warmer winters or the management of wild forest fires that's allowing the larvae to sustain through winter.

In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.
While the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.



Steven Veit lives in California's Napa Valley, and in addition to hiking, climbing and skiing in the nearby Sierras, has extensive backcountry experience in other mountain ranges of the world, including the Rockies (US and Canada), Cascades, Alaska Range, Alps, and Himalayas. He believes that service trips are a great way to get to know a natural area while doing something useful to preserve and maintain it.


Didi Toaspern is excited to be cooking this trip in an area that has long captured her imagination. She has been staffing service trips since 1986. The majority of her trips have been in the Klamath Mountain region of Northern California, but she has also led or cooked on trips in other parts of California, and in Idaho, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Wyoming. For her, service trips are a magical combination of challenge, friendship, exertion, and fun, as well as a chance to fly fish in amazing places.


Rachel Samaniego

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