2019 Wind River Trip Report

Obligatory trip report for my 2019 backpacking trip to the Wind Rivers. My other trip reports are found here:


**** Key Stats ****

Dates Traveled: Friday 8/16/19 – Monday 8/19/19

Route: We originally planned on taking the same 42 mile “figure 8” route as last year but ended up calling an audible to make it easier. Apparently not everyone finds it enjoyable to subject their bodies to extremely demanding >10 mile/day torturous hiking. Who would have thought?

The original “figure 8” (red) as well as the abbreviated route, which we nicknamed “the lazy P” (blue) are found here link.

“Lazy P” in blue. “Figure 8” turns the “P” into a proper figure 8.


Elevation Profile:

The “Lazy P” route we did this year.

The “figure 8” route we did last year. Considerably harder due to the Cirque of the Towers (including Texas and Jackass Passes) detour.


Mileage: 39 miles over 4 days.

Weather: Colder than last year. Probably in the 60s most of the trip. It was much windier than last year. Sustained winds of 40-50mph on passes. At lower elevations, there was sustained wind of around 15mph unless sheltered by trees. Also, we hit by heavy smoke from a fire hundreds of miles away on day 2 which obstructed our views. Luckily the smoke went away the next day.

Bugs: Not too bad. Only came out at night.

Grizzly encounters: None.

Difficulty: The passes were tough. The flat parts were pretty easy.

Fishing: Not as good as last year. Not sure why. Dad’s lake at dusk was pretty good.

Cost: A few bucks of trail mix & Mountain House and a $400 round-trip plane ticket to Utah.

What to bring: Usual backpacking gear + bear spray + fishing pole.

Crowds: Parking lot was packed, but Winds are so vast that crowds were not a problem.

Photo Credits: My buddy took pretty much every photo shown in the post, which is why they look so good. The panorama was taken by another friend.


Day 1. Friday 8/16/19. 12 miles. Big Sandy Trailhead to just past May’s Lake.

Left SLC at 6am to arrive at Big Sandy Trailhead (map) at noon. Hiked 12 miles and gained 1500 feet of elevation. Arrived to camp at 7pm or so. Camped past May’s lake at the stream on the way to Haley’s Pass.

blankBig Sandy trailhead. Parking lot was full so we parked 1/4 mile away.

blankLunch at Dad’s Lake.

Camp 1: 500ft above May’s Lake.

blankView from Camp 1. May’s lake is 500 feet below us.

blankAdmiring our food hanging job. After years of backpacking, I finally figured it out. To do it most efficiently you need 2 lines. First line goes over branch with biner. Drop biner to ground. Put midpoint of second line through biner. Raise biner up tree. Lock off first line. Then raise bags through second line. The advantage of the 2-line approach is that the friction of loaded bags on the biner is MUCH lower than the friction of loaded bags on tree branch. Using this method, all 4 bags easily went up on the same line.




Day 2. Saturday 8/17/19. 11.5 miles. Just past May’s Lake to Washakie Lake.

Started walking at 8:30am.  Easily got over Hailey’s pass (since we started so high). Took the obligatory detour to Baptiste Lake and fished there. Unfortunately no bites. Hiked to Grave Lake and did the obligatory swim at the sandy spot along the trail. Unfortunately we were then hit by heavy smoke. Not knowing where the smoke was coming from, we asked several parties of hikers if they new anything. After an hour or so of talking to other groups we learned that the smoke was from a fire hundreds of miles away. Arrived to Washakie Lake at 7:30pm.

blankTop of Haley pass.

blankSummiting Haley’s pass.

blankNorth side of Haley’s pass.

blankHaley’s pass still.

blankMt Hooker as seen on approach to Baptiste Lake.

blankBaptiste Lake panorama.

blankBaptiste Lake. I’m unsuccessfully fishing down there.

blankMt Hooker is extremely large. These guys rock climbed it around when we were there.

blankFamous swimming beach at Grave Lake. Water was cold. The smoke is obscuring the views here.

blankWashakie Lake, our second campsite.

Day 3. Sunday 8/18/19. 7.5 miles. Washakie Lake to Dad’s Lake.

Started walking at 8:30am. Up and over Washakie pass, which wasn’t too bad because we started so high at Washakie Lake. Spent a lazy afternoon making our way to Dad’s lake. Spent the afternoon cliff jumping (the East side of the lake has some nice cliffs) and fishing. Ended the day with a nice fire. At that point, the wind died down entirely for the rest of the trip. I didn’t complain.

blankView from Washakie Lake. Luckily, the smoke cleared up.

blankView from Washakie Pass towards Washakie Lake (the second lake above).

blankWe made it.

blankWalking West from Washakie Pass.


blankFishing at Dad’s lake.

blankView from Dad’s lake.


Day 4. Monday 8/19/19. 6 miles. Dad’s Lake to Big Sandy Trailhead.

Pretty easy walk back, though we took the wrong trail and ended up West of the parking lot, so we bushwhacked the last 0.5 miles there. We arrived to the car at 10:30am. Back to SLC by 5pm. Flight departed at 8:30pm, landed at midnight, arrived home at 1am.


Wrapping it up.

The trip was great. The windy conditions and obscured views on day 2 made conditions slightly less ideal than last year, but it was still an epic trip.

It’s hard to believe that 20 years have passed since we first met. It was a blast reminiscing on our college days. We spent a large portion of the hike swapping life hacks, which I found to be really enjoyable.


Notes to self:

Don’t leave your life-changing camp pillow in friend’s basement next time.

Bring more food. In an attempt to minimize my pack weight, I inadvertently brought too little food and almost turned this expedition into a remake of the Donner party. Luckily my buddies had a bit extra to spare. I also misplaced a bag of nuts which didn’t help my cause.

Bring a deck of cards next time.

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