Wind River Intro to Cross-Country, Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14158A, Backpacking


  • Hike a spectacular off-trail route
  • Camp next to high mountain lakes most nights
  • Develop wilderness navigation skills


  • Experienced instruction on map, compass, and terrain recognition
  • Superb backcountry cuisine
  • Group equipment, including cooking gear and bear canisters


DatesAug 8–15, 2014
Difficulty3 (out of 5)
StaffAndrew Quinn

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Trip Overview

The Trip

Have a blast with a fun group of energetic, conservation-minded people in one of the most spectacular ranges of North America! The Wind River Range is a 100-mile chain of road-less, glacier-carved mountain peaks along the Continental Divide in western Wyoming. The remoteness of the Winds lends itself to an allure and mystique that is unparalleled in North American mountains. 

The Winds feature more than 45 jagged peaks over 13,000 feet. Seven of the 10 largest glaciers in the Lower 48 are in the Winds. Dramatic glacial bowls and cirques are interspersed with more than 1,300 alpine lakes. Some of the rock in the range is billions of years old and the range is relatively new to exploration.

This trip seeks the route less traveled by backpacking into the central portion of this alpine wonderland and experiencing its charms in relative solitude. True solitude in the wilderness is best found off-trail, so this trip features an extended, dramatic, cross-country segment west of the Continental Divide.

This trip seeks to develop your wilderness navigation skills, improving self-reliance and confidence. We will learn the basics of map reading, compass use, and terrain recognition. We will put this knowledge to use to guide us -- first on-trail, then cross-country -- through the spectacular alpine landscape.

Our route visits a gorgeous area that is less visited than areas at the north and south end of the Winds. We will experience the full range of Wind River life zones, from thick lodgepole forests, through expansive meadows, up to the sharp granite of the alpine zone above tree line.

We’ll camp by a number of high glacier-carved mountain lakes, reflecting the blues, whites, and reds of the always active Wind Rivers sky. Some of these lakes offer fantastic fishing for golden, brook, rainbow, and cutthroat trout.

Some exertion and stamina will be required to successfully complete this trip. The trip is exploratory in nature, as the leaders have not completed many sections of the route. Participants who are willing to share the exploratory spirit, positively overcome unforeseen challenges, learn new skills, and foster group cohesiveness will reap the greatest rewards from this experience.


Pre-trip: At 7 p.m. on Thursday August 7, we will meet at the Rivera Lodge in Pinedale for introductions, instructions, and distribution of food. Afterward participants will be free to return to their local lodging and dinner at a Pinedale restaurant. Lodging and dinner are not included in the trip price.

Day 1: At 8 a.m. on Friday, August 8, participants will caravan to Scab Creek Trailhead. There we will complete final preparations. Our tentative plans are to set out on the Lowline Trail and make camp near a beautiful subalpine lake.

Day 2: We’ll keep hiking on-trail in an eastward direction, crossing some expansive meadows and skirting a number of lakes, eventually reaching our camp at a timberline lake nestled against the higher alpine terrain adjacent to the Continental Divide.

Days 3-6: We will use a combination of established trails and pure off-trail hiking to navigate southeasterly immediately west of the sharp granite peaks of the Continental Divide. We’ll combine more difficult cross-country passes with less difficult walking across alpine lake basins to explore primarily above timberline. Depending on conditions and the strength and desires of the group, we hope to layover next to a stellar alpine lake, affording opportunities for more exploring free of the backpack, fishing, or just relaxing.

Days 7-8: We’ll leave the remote alpine zone and employ the developed trail system to return to the Scab Creek Trailhead. We’ll make camp at yet another subalpine lake for our last night in the wilderness. We hope to be at the Scab Creek Trailhead before noon on Friday, August 15.



Getting There

The Scab Creek Trailhead is about 23 miles southeast of Pinedale, Wyoming. Fourteen miles of this route is along paved roads, while the final nine miles is along good quality gravel roads, suitable for two-wheel drive vehicles.

Pinedale is about 85 miles southeast of the nearest airport in Jackson, Wyoming. Pinedale is 285 miles northeast of Salt Lake City (about a five-hour drive). To assist with ride and cost sharing, the leader will provide a trip roster with contact information during the months preceding the trip and also upon request. Please note that trip participants are solely responsible for their travel arrangements to and from the initial rendezvous point near Pinedale as well as the trailhead. 

Accommodations and Food

All meals, snacks, and drinks are included from lunch on day one through breakfast on day eight. Participants are responsible for lodging and dinner on August 7 and breakfast on August 8.

To provide the best level of protection for the local wildlife, we will be using bear canisters for food transport and storage. The menu consists of low-bulk, lightweight foods that are simple to prepare and use a minimum of commissary gear. Meals will be largely vegetarian. Generally we’ll have hot or cold cereal for breakfast, and dinners will usually be one-pot affairs with a soup. Restrictive diets are very difficult to accommodate on a trip of this nature. Contact the leader prior to sign-up to determine if we can accommodate your specific needs without impacting the group. We will have filters and tablets available for participants to use for treating water.

Trip Difficulty

This trip is rated 4 under the new Sierra Club rating system. This is in the middle of the range from less difficult to most difficult. Factors such as mileage, elevation gains and losses, terrain, and altitude determine this rating.

Cross-country terrain in the Winds is highly variable. While we’ll certainly traverse some less difficult grassy, rolling, and hummocky terrain, we will also encounter talus (piles of jagged boulders), scree, steep slabs, and perhaps snow. The plan is to cross two passes, which can be steep and loose. On trail, we will have ascents and descents approaching 2,000 feet. On a typical moving day, we will start hiking prior to 9 a.m. and continue hiking to approximately 3 p.m.

You must be in good physical condition in order to enjoy this trip safely and not impact the group's success. Cross-country hiking is more difficult than trail hiking, not only requiring strong aerobic conditioning, but superior balance and agility as well, especially while carrying a heavy pack at high altitudes. Successful participants will follow a robust fitness program that includes aerobic and strength training. In addition, we highly recommend supplementing your routine with hikes up and down hills (or staircases) using a loaded pack and wearing your boots for at least a month prior to the trip.

This is a group trip whose success relies upon the cheerful, active contribution of all participants. In the words of one long-time Sierra Club leader, cross-country travel requires "good humor." You’ll assist with cooking, cleaning, sanitation, camp set-up and break-down, food storage, etc. We’ll be following a Leave No Trace ethic in all aspects of our operations.

While the weather can be quite pleasant in the Winds in August, with highs in the 70s and lows in the 30s, be prepared for extremes. Extended rain or even snow can occur at any time of year. Overnight lows can easily reach into the 20s. Thunderstorms -- with sudden cloudbursts of wind, rain, and hail -- are common, and can be followed by a spectacular sunset. The leader will update participants on conditions as the trip approaches.

Equipment and Clothing

The leader will send detailed equipment recommendations to participants well in advance of the trip.

We will use bear canisters for food storage. You will be issued one loaded bear can, which, when combined with your share of the other group items, should bring your total share of the commissary to about 12 pounds at the start of the trip.

Try to limit your personal gear to no more than 25-30 pounds. This is important not just for increasing your stamina but also for safety. Your backpack should have a capacity of at least 4,000 cubic inches (60 liters) in order to accommodate commissary and personal gear efficiently.

Cross-country travel requires sturdy, durable, well-fitting backpacking boots that are able to withstand prolonged abrasion from sharp granite and soaking from streams, mud, and snow.

In order to gain the most from the instruction on wilderness navigation, all participants should bring a compass that has a rotating housing with index lines.



  • Hiking Map and Guide: Sorthern Wind River Range, Earthwalk Press.
  • USGS 7.5-minute topo maps: "Scab Creek," "Raid Lake," "Mt. Bonneville," "Roberts Mountain," and "Halls Mountain."


  • Hannibel, Mary Helen. The Spine of the Continent. Lyons Press.
  • Kelsey, Joe: Climbing and Hiking Wind River Mountains. Falcon Publishing.
  • Pallister, Nancy. Beyond Trails in the Wind River Mountains. Gray Dog Press. Spokane Washington.



We will discuss the Sierra Club’s Resilient Habitat campaign and specifically its goals within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, which includes the Wind River Range. We’ll discuss issues surrounding the protection of native species such as the gray wolf, grizzly ear, lynx, and sage grouse. We will likely also witness firsthand the impact of livestock grazing in the wilderness and have an opportunity to discuss the Forest Service's "multiple use" policy.

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.



Andy Quinn is the Outings Chair for Ancient Islands Sierra Group in Central Florida, where he is also involved in other conservation efforts. Andy leads kayaking, backpacking, and camping trips. Andy has significant backpacking experience in the U.S. and the Canadian Rockies. Andy has through hiked the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail and the Continental Divide Scenic Trail. Andy grew up in Louisiana, exploring rivers with the Boy Scouts, water-skiing and fishing with his family. He is a former U.S. Marine Captain, having trained at the Jungle Warfare School in Okinawa, and Mountain Warfare School in the Sierra Nevada. Andy has also trained with Richard Cleveland, a former lead instructor of Tom Brown, at The Earth School in Tyron, NC. Andy is a Wilderness First Responder.

Assistant Leader:

Tim Trohimovich

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