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Wind River High Route

Wind River Range

One of the most epic thru-hikes in the Lower 48.

Hiking Severe

128 km
4.9 km
4.5 km
1 day +
Low Point
2.4 km
High Point
3.7 km
Wind River High Route Map

The Wind River High Route is one of the most coveted backcountry adventures in the west, and for good reason. This blog published by ultimatedirection.com suggests the Winds are "..the most wild and remote range in the Lower 48," with the High Route running along the spine of the mountains. Stunning glacial lakes, alpine tundra, granite spires, and high mountain peaks are just a few things that make this route spectacular - oh, and the views are nothing short of epic. This adventure is not for the faint of heart.


While the Continental Divide Trail is often revered as one of the top thru-hikes in the west, this segment through the Winds "follows a relatively lackluster route on the west side of the crest," according to this post written by Andrew Skurka. He continues with the following: "Be aware, however, that the High Route is several notches more intense than the CDT: you are not guaranteed of success; the uncertainty and the necessary mental engagement will work you over; and your daily mileage will be chopped in half, plus/minus."

There isn't a preferred direction to complete the High Route, though some sources suggest south to north is easier to shuttle. Mapped here in the north to south direction, this route begins at Lower Green River Lake, a popular recreation area along a stunning glacial lake. Pinedale is the closest town, and you should top off on food, supplies, and fuel before departing. There is a large trailhead and campground at the lake and drinking water is available. There is no electricity or cell reception, however.

If you are looking for a short trek to dial in your gear before heading into the Winds, the Lower Green River Lake Loop is an easy 6-mile hike that begins at the same trailhead.

The best time to hike the High Route is during the peak of summer, specifically July and August. While some sections are on blazed and maintained trails such as the CDT, much of this route is off-trail and "travel across snow and/or glacial ice is also guaranteed," according to this article. Most documented hikes range from 5 - 10 days dependent on conditions and your abilities as a hiker, and there is no shortage of camping opportunities.

With countless intersecting trails, bail-outs, and alternate routes, there is no clear consensus on an "official" route. That said, this track of one of the most common versions of the High Route. One common variation is to begin/end in Sinks Canyon near Lander rather than the Big Sandy Trailhead. If hiking North to South, the choice would be made at the Cirque of the Towers - a decision dependent on whether you want to end in Pinedale or Lander.

Worth noting, nearly every source suggests contacting a local outfitter to discuss current trail conditions prior to departing. A printed trail guide is also a wise choice due to the remote and rugged nature of the Winds. Cell reception is non-existent for most—if not all—of this hike.

Sources: https://andrewskurka.com/adventures/wind-river-high-route/trail-route-comparisons/ http://blog.ultimatedirection.com/wind-river-high-route/ GPS: https://caltopo.com/m/7C6N



Hiking challenging trails where simple scrambling, with the occasional use of the hands, is a distinct possibility. The trails are often filled with all manner of obstacles both small and large, and the hills are very steep. Obstacles and challenges are often unexpected and can be unpredictable.

Extreme Exposure

4 out of 4

Some trail sections are extremely exposed where falling will almost certainly result in serious injury or death.


4 out of 4

In the high mountains or remote conditions, all individuals must be completely autonomous in every situation.

Best time to visit

between June and September


  • Alpine
  • Wildlife
  • Picturesque
  • Summit Hike
  • Dog friendly
  • Wild flowers
  • Water features
  • Forestry or heavy vegetation

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area