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Sunlit Summit

Wind River Peak

Elevation: 13,200 ft.

Prominence: 2,571 ft.

Isolation: 35 miles

Technical Difficulty: Class 2

Wind River Peak Guidebook


Wind River Peak is the undisputed monarch of the southern Wind River Range, and carries its distinction well. A gentle giant in a land of technical towers, the summit is visited by many backpackers and hikers each year, but the abundance of steep rock on the north side offers rock climbers a paradise too. One could spend a lifetime exploring the southern Winds, and Wind River Peak makes a good starting or ending point for a longer trip, as the summit provides expansive overviews of the whole range, from the snowy northern summits to the Atlantic Peaks.

General Considerations

Wind River Peak is most frequently climbed by two categories of hikers: those who just want to tag the summit in a long day-hike or one-night trip, and those who use Wind River Peak as the southern terminus of a long traverse. Sadly, backpacking routes in the Winds have become over-standardized in recent years, leading to overuse in many areas, not to mention taking away from the spirit of adventure. The routes discussed below have emerged as the most common approaches to the peak, but the terrain is very flexible in this region and readers are encouraged to be creative and devise individualized routes through this area, and throughout all of the Wind River Range.

Route 1: Eastern Ramp – Class 2

From the Worthen Meadow Trailhead on the shores of Worthen Meadow Reservoir, follow the Sheep Bridge Trail to cross the Middle Fork of the Popo Agie on Sheep Bridge. Turn west and hike up the Middle Fork Trail to a trail junction just short of Three Forks Park, turning northwest and hiking up the steepening Pinto Park Trail. In a wet meadow above Pinto Park Lake, take the Deep Creek Cutoff, eventually reaching the spectacular Deep Creek Lakes about 11.5 miles from the trailhead.

From here, many routes are possible, but most people hike south around the outlet of the first Deep Creek Lake and leave the trail on the subtle pass around 10,600 ft. at the base of Wind River Peak’s massive east ramp. After passing a couple small tarns near treeline, a broad, grassy ramp is encountered which extends from 11,000 ft. to 12,500 ft., where the slope lessens near Chimney Rock. Bypass Chimney Rock and climb the final few hundred feet to the summit over increasingly large talus.

Route 2: South Slopes – Class 2

Many options exist to approach Wind River Peak from the south, with the common factor being that you will probably want to start your final ascent from the pleasant shores of Tayo Lake.

From the Worthen Meadow Trailhead, you can take the Stough Creek Lakes Trail past Roaring Fork Lake and over a small pass to connect with the Stough Creek Cutoff, thence from Tayo Park past Poison Lake and up to Tayo Lake.

From Sweetwater Gap and points south, you can connect via trails to Tayo Park or cut off-trail over a small pass directly above Poison Lake.

From the remote 4wd roads near Blucher Creek on the west side of the range, you can follow a dirt road past Block and Tackle Hill, ultimately connecting with a poorly maintained trail to Little Sandy Lake; after following Little Sandy Creek above the lake, some climbers have climbed talus slopes up the side of the valley to reach Coon Lake, from which Tayo Lake is a short cross-country jaunt.

However you reach it, Tayo Lake makes a good resting place before the final ascent. The route itself is impossible to miss: just go up! A mix of grass and scree down low gives way to formidable boulders near the summit.

Route 3: North Gullies – Class 2+, Moderate Snow

This is a rather unpleasant route but is nevertheless the shortest way to the summit of Wind River Peak from the north. More elegant options exist for northbound backpackers on a multi-day traverse, but working out the best option for your group is left as an exercise in route planning.

A trail reaches Black Joe Lake from the Big Sandy Trailhead or points to the north. Several miles of scenic but rough off-trail travel up the Black Joe Valley delivers you Lake 11185 below the imposing north face of Wind River Peak. The main peak is separated from a 12er called Little El Capitan by a notch known as Surveyors Gap.

From a snowfield at the head of the cirque, a steep and loose rubble gully cuts through the cliffs, reaching the shoulder of Wind River Peak near Point 12545. From here, the summit is a short hike away. Another gully a bit farther east also breaks through the cliffs and has been used to gain the ridge closer to the summit.

Wind River Peak Map

Click title to show track
Eastern Ramp Route
South Slopes Route
North Gully Route

Wind River Peak Panorama

Wind River Peak Photos

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