Service in the Heart of the Wind River Range, Popo Agie Wilderness, Wyoming

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 13287A, Service/ Volunteer


  • Work on trails amid the wildflower meadows and granite peaks of the legendary Wind River Range
  • Hike to local glaciers and explore alpine valleys, lakes, and rivers
  • Camp beneath towering 12,000-foot peaks


  • All meals and snacks, prepared by a staff cook
  • Instruction in trail maintenance and conservation skills
  • Pack support for all food and kitchen equipment


DatesAug 18–24, 2013
Difficulty3 (out of 5)
StaffJann Brown

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Trip Overview

The Trip

The dramatic Wind River Range spans the Continental Divide and is home to 25 of Wyoming's 38 named glaciers. One of three designated wilderness areas in the range, the Popo Agie (puh-PO-zha and rhymes with ambrosia) Wilderness is part of the Shoshone National Forest.  Popo Agie means “beginning of the waters” in the Crow Indian language. The forest covers more than 100,000 acres of streams, lakes, glaciers, mountain peaks, and steep valleys. Wind River Peak, at 13,192 feet, is the highest point in the Popo Agie, and is often still snow-capped in August.

This rugged wilderness is located just north of historic South Pass. The pass is known as the "Gateway to the West" for the famous Oregon Trail, where the wheel ruts of covered wagons can still be seen. Wildlife sightings may include eagles, deer, moose, elk, black bear, bighorn sheep, marmots, and picas. Fishing is excellent in these remote rivers and lakes, and on previous trips skilled -- or lucky? -- anglers were able to provide delicious meals for the group! (Note: a Wyoming fishing license is required.)

The Project

The severe winters in Popo Agie are especially hard on trails. After the early July snow melt and river runoff, the U.S. Forest Service staff determines the trail priorities for the upcoming season's work. So we can't know until next July precisely where we'll be located or what the work project will be, but our activities will very likely involve erosion control. Typical erosion-related tasks include trail rerouting and repair, as well as building water bars, check dams, and rock walls. For variety, we've also been asked to "limb" trails, and close down illegal campsites that encroach on lakes and rivers. Also, for the past three years our project work has also included replacing small foot bridges, called "puncheons."


We'll work four days, and enjoy one free day where we can fish, hike, climb, or just relax. The last meal we provide is the hike-out lunch on Saturday. Please don't plan to fly home on that last day of the trip -- we can't be certain just when we'll arrive back in Lander. But do plan to attend a Dutch-treat goodbye dinner in Lander that evening. About three weeks before the trip, the leader will send trip members a newsletter with all the last-minute details.



Getting There

The trip departs from Lander, Wyoming. Please arrive there on Saturday, so that you can check in at the U.S. Forest Service Washakie Ranger Station. This is located on the southeast corner of US-287 & WY-789 in Lander; the street address is 333 East Main. A sign-in sheet will be on the outside bulletin board for after-hour use. Plan to arrive in time to attend a 5:30 p.m. light supper (provided by the trip leader) and important trip briefing, to be held at the City Park shelters in Lander. The next day, Sunday, you must be at the City Park shelters by 6:30 a.m., packed and ready to go. We will caravan to the trailhead, which is about 25 miles away, at 9,500 feet. Participants will need to arrange their own transportation to Lander, and of course carpooling with other participants is definitely encouraged. The trip leader will help to facilitate pre-trip communication between participants. The road to the trailhead is suitable for most passenger cars, but vehicles with high ground clearance are recommended. The Forest Service will transport all our food and cooking equipment to the camp by horse.

The closest commercial airports are at Riverton, WY (24 miles northeast, about a 30-minute drive); Denver, CO (300 miles southeast); and Salt Lake City, UT (275 miles southwest). There is shuttle van service available from Riverton and Salt Lake.

Accommodations and Food

In Lander, free camping is available at City Park, at the south end of Third Street. It's a small but beautiful park, with ample space for pitching a tent, plenty of shade trees, and public restrooms. You can walk to the ranger station, which is nine blocks north and six blocks east, in downtown. Lander (pop. 7,200) is home to the renowned National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), which offers dorm rooms and showers. Many motels and bed and breakfasts are also available -- the Best Western, located just across the street from the ranger station, is affordable and convenient. Also of local interest is the Sinks Canyon State Park, about 7 miles out of town, where the Middle Popo Agie River disappears underground to emerge a half-mile away at The Rise. It has campgrounds on the river and an excellent visitor center.  And there's a beautiful two-hour "warm-up" practice hike in Sinks Canyon, from Bruce's Bridge to Little Popo Agie Falls, both west on Rte 131.

Please come with the attitude that food is part of the adventure. Food weight and quantity have to be calculated carefully, with all waste being carried out at trip's end. Our meals will be nourishing and serve as a chance to gather after a hard day's work in the wilderness. The menu will be healthy, nutritious, high-energy, backcountry cuisine. Meals will be vegetarian-friendly, with a few limited opportunities for meat during the week. We'll have a group commissary with everyone taking turns in meal preparation. Before applying for the trip, folks with food allergies or strong preferences should contact the leader and cook to see if reasonable accommodations can be made within the constraints of backcountry cooking.

Trip Difficulty

The backpack trip from the trailhead to our base camp area will range from 6 to 11 moderate-to-strenuous miles, all at 9,500 to 11,000 feet. We will not know until July -- after the snow melts -- about the length and difficulty of our hike.  Please note that hikers must to be in good physical shape to fully enjoy this hike. To prepare for the trip, you should do aerobic exercise, such as bicycling, running or swimming. You should also include pre-trip hikes with your pack and a 35-pound load. This conditioning is especially important if you happen to live near sea level -- the air really is thinner in the mountains. On a related note, you may want to come a few days early to acclimate to Lander's 5,400 ft. elevation.

Equipment and Clothing

In addition to your own tent and regular backpacking gear, bring two pairs of leather work gloves, a good pair of hiking boots, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt to wear while working. We will provide food and the equipment for cooking, but you should come with your own personal eating utensils -- a bowl, cup, spoon, and leakproof container for packing lunches. You'll need a day pack to carry your lunch, water, gloves, rain gear and other personal items to the work site. As temperatures can range from nighttime lows in the 30s to daytime highs in the 80s, plan to bring warm, comfortable clothing. Before the trip begins, you'll receive a detailed list of recommended equipment.

Also, while we'll have a water purifying system for use in cooking, each participant is responsible for his or her own drinking water. It's recommended that you bring either a personal water filter or water treatment tablets to treat local sources of running water.



  • Adkison, Ron, Hiking Wyoming's Wind River Range. Globe Pequot Press.
  • Kelsey, Joe, Climbing and Hiking in the Wind River Mountains. Sierra Club Books.
  • Kelsey, Joe, Wyoming's Wind River Range (Wyoming Geographic Series). Farcountry Press.
  • Hebard, Grace Raymond, and Richard O. Clemmer-Smith, Washakie: Chief of the Shoshones. University of Nebraska Press.


  • The folding USFS forest map Shoshone National Forest, Southern Half will do for most purposes; the Wind River Range, Southern map from Earthwalk Press is also great and can be ordered online.
  • The ranger station and local outdoor stores in Lander stock most local maps.



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.

On this trip, we reduce soil erosion into streams by diverting trail runoff before it can reach them. We also improve the best trail path and block informal shortcuts that would increase erosion. We are strong adherents of the Leave No Trace philosophy. We will learn about other local conservation activities and initiatives from the Forest Service staff during the trip. Current USFS projects and plans can be found by following this link:



Jann Brown, who lives in Portland, Oregon, is an experienced camper and hiker and enjoys traveling and many outdoor activities. She has led or cooked on service trips in a variety of places in California, Oregon, and Nevada as well as Wyoming.


Elizabeth Taylor, also known as "ET," considers cooking for Service Trips the ideal blending of her two passions: being in the wilderness and making great things to eat. She has cooked on many service trips and, during the off-season, often cooks at the homeless shelter or for varsity sports teams in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where she lives. Meals will be mostly vegetarian with Asian and Mediterranean flavors, but expect a bit of Southern cooking and yummy desserts.


Carrie Myers

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