Lake Hopping in the Wind River Range, Wyoming

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14153A, Backpack


  • Enjoy beautiful scenery and explore lakes, spires, and crags of the Wind River Range
  • Hike a portion of the Continental Divide Trail
  • Hike with people who share your passion for the outdoors


  • Delicious meals and group cooking equipment
  • Discussions about our nation’s beautiful public lands and wilderness protection
  • One layover day for exploring without backpacks 


DatesJul 26–Aug 2, 2014
Difficulty4 (out of 5)
StaffMichael Jensen

Trip Overview

The Trip

"I think the best inspired painter that ever drew would fail in attempting to describe these mighty mountains. He may convey correctly enough an impression of their shape, their vast extent and sublime beauty. But there is something always left out which escapes all his colours and all his skill. Their aspects shift and vary continually. Their very shapes seem to undergo a perpetual transformation like the clouds above them. There is a mystery like the mystery of the sea -- a silence not of death but of eternity." - James Chisholm

The Wind River Range extends for more than 100 miles with the crest forming part of the Continental Divide. Granite peaks -- 40 of them over 13,000 feet high -- dominate the landscape. Glaciers have left their mark in the form of U-shaped valleys, serrated peaks and ridges, and alpine cirques. In fact, seven of the 10 largest glaciers in the Lower 48 are in the range. More than 1,000 lakes are sprinkled across the land, providing some of the finest backcountry fishing in the country. In the early to mid 1800s, mountain men such as Jim Bridger, Kit Carson, Tom “Broken Hand” Fitzpatrick, and others trapped beaver and other fur-bearing animals for trade there; the famous Green River Rendezvous was held nearby. The Bridger and Fitzpatrick wilderness areas cover much of Winds.

This adventure begins at the New Fork Lakes trailhead. The route passes from one wonderful scene to the next, winding its way through rock-strewn, glacier-carved meadows surrounded by snow-capped peaks. The trail has one dazzling lake after another, high tundra meadows, and magnificent mountain views.  We will follow a loop, camping at various lakes for most nights, including several days on the Continental Divide Trail.


Day 1: We meet early morning in Pinedale for a ride to the New Fork Lakes Trailhead at 7,800 feet. Climbing through meadows and trees up to near New Fork Park, we'll hike about seven miles and camp along a river at 8,900 feet.

About the New Fork Trail, Adkinson writes “This trail surveys the spectrum of Bridger Wilderness landscapes, passing low-elevation glacial lakes, aspen groves, sagebrush-clad slopes, towering granite walls, timberline lakes, and alpine meadows and offering grand vistas of the range’s highest, glacier-draped peaks.”

Day 2: The New Fork Trail continues for about five miles to our camp at the Lozier Lakes, located at 10,700 feet.

Day 3: We'll follow the New Fork Trail until we junction with the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). It'll be a challenging but rewarding climb over Green River Pass to reach a small lake/stream at 10,400 feet, before Summit Lake. The total distance for the day will be about seven miles.

Day 4: Continuing on the CDT, we’ll hike about five miles to beautiful Elbow Lake at 10,900 feet. This will be our camp for two nights.

Day 5: Our layover day will allow you to relax in camp or to explore the surroundings on a day hike.

Day 6: Backtracking along the CDT to the Double Top Mountain Trail, we’ll hike about eight miles to the Cutthroat Lakes, where we will stay the night (10,700 feet).

Day 7: We will stay on Double Top Mountain Trail, until we reach Martin Park, just below Rainbow Lake at 10,100 feet. 

Day 8: On our last day, we continue on until we junction with the Lowline Trail, and then the New Fork Trail, which we will follow back to our cars. The distance today will be about five miles. 

Wilderness travel can go as planned or unforeseen conditions or circumstances can necessitate a change in plans, so please bring a flexible attitude with you on the trip.



Getting There

You will need to arrive in Pinedale, Wyoming by 5 p.m. on Friday, July 25, the day before the start of the trip. Pinedale is at 7,000 feet elevation, our beginning trailhead is at 7,800 feet, and our first camp is at 8,900 feet. Arriving a day or two before the trip will help you acclimatize. The nearest airport is Jackson, Wyoming, about 75 miles and a 90-minute drive from Pinedale. Salt Lake City, Utah, with more flights at lower cost, is about 235 miles and a 4.5-hour drive. In either case, a rental car is necessary. Ride sharing is strongly encouraged and a roster of trip members -- with their travel plans, driving directions, and a list of local accommodations -- will be sent well enough ahead of time to facilitate this.

We will meet at 5 p.m. the day before the official start of the trip to have an orientation and to arrange tent sharing, review packing suggestions, and eat dinner at a local restaurant. The outing begins at 8 a.m. on day one (Saturday, July 26) after breakfast in Pinedale (location to be specified later). We will drive from there to the trailhead at New Fork Lakes. We finish the trip on Saturday, August 2; participants should not book return flights until the day following the end of the trip (Sunday, August 3).

Accommodations and Food

The trip price includes all meals from lunch on day one through lunch on day eight, as well as use of group camping gear. We will prepare simple, lightweight, easy-to-prepare, good-tasting meals from dried and freeze-dried ingredients, using recipes tested on previous Sierra Club trips. Vegetarian options are possible. Any food allergies or limitations must be indicated to the leader as far in advance of the trip as possible. Participants will share cooking and clean-up activities with guidance as necessary from the trip staff.

Accommodations in Pinedale are not included in the trip. Pinedale has numerous motels; the leaders will provide information and recommendations.

Trip Difficulty

This trip is rated 4 in difficulty. Expect daily hiking distances of 5-8 miles with up to 2,000 feet of elevation gain. Most of our route will be above 10,000 feet, with our highest camp around 10,700 feet. Backpacking at elevation will also seem more tiring until you are acclimatized, so arriving a couple of days early to get in some hikes before our trip begins will be especially helpful. In addition, afternoon thunderstorms, all-day rain, and even snow can occur anytime in the Winds so good-quality raingear is essential. There are few bridges over streams, and high elevation tundra and meadows tend to be soggy bogs, so expect to have wet boots. You will need to sustain a program of physical conditioning to carry a 40-pound pack under these conditions and the leader will provide suggestions for this. You will need to be in good physical condition to carry 25 pounds of your own gear plus up to about 15 pounds of group food and commissary. Proper preparation will not only enhance your wilderness experience, but show consideration to your fellow hikers.

Expect daytime highs in the 70s and nighttime lows down to freezing. Hiking poles are strongly recommended for difficult stream crossings and rough, steep, boulder-strewn terrain. 

Equipment and Clothing

A detailed equipment list will be sent to all registered trip members in a future bulletin. Participants are expected to furnish their own backpack and camping gear, as well as good raingear (including backpack cover), layers of clothing to keep you comfortable between 30-75 degrees, broken-in medium-weight waterproof boots, and other personal gear, eating utensils, toiletries, etc. Your personal backpack gear should come to no more than 25 pounds, since we will give you up to about 15 pounds of commissary gear. You may also find hiking poles helpful for stream crossings, steep downhills, and difficult terrain.



  • Earthwalk Press: Hiking Map and Guide; Northern Wind River Range, WY
  • USGS 7.5-Minute Topographic Maps: New Fork Lakes; Squaretop Mountain; and Gannett Peak. Available at

The leaders will be carrying maps so these maps would not be necessary except for your own interest and curiosity.


  • Adkison, Ron, Hiking Wyoming's Wind River Range.
  • Davis, Lora, Wyoming's Continental Divide Trail.



While our trip will be in an area "permanently" protected by Congress, most of the wildlands in the West have no such legal protection. As a result, they are threatened by logging, oil and gas drilling, and off-road-vehicle use. We will have several evening discussions about public lands and the wilderness to provide you with some background on the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act.

The Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act will give wilderness protection to 18 million acres of wildland, from the Yellowstone area up through Montana and Idaho. The bill's primary objective is to protect this land from fragmentation and thereby allow plants and wildlife to migrate between the area's five ecosystems in patterns essential to maintain biodiversity.

We will do our part to preserve wilderness by learning and practicing Leave No Trace principles.

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.

Sierra Club National Outings is an equal-opportunity provider and will operate under a permit from the Bridger-Teton National Forest, Pinedale Ranger District.



Michael Jensen has been hooked on backpacking since his first backpack trip in the Wind River Range in 1980. He has backpacked on Sierra Club and personal trips in twelve states and Canada. Sharing glorious vistas with interesting new people makes these trips a wonderful experience. While his job at a university keeps him indoors too much, in his spare time his outdoor activities with family and friends include day hikes, backpacking, telemark skiing, and an occasional canoe trip. Michael also enjoys reading, writing fiction, and photography.


Becky Wong is from British Columbia, Canada. She is also a marathon pacing coach and runner. Becky has led trips with the Sierra Club on the Rainbow Plateau in Arizona and the Sierra Nevada. She also has many years of backpacking on the West Coast of Vancouver Island as well as in the Canadian Rockies. She believes in spending as much time as possible outdoors. "Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit" - Edward Abbey. Becky is a Certified Wilderness First Responder.

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