Public Land & National Parks
If there is one thing that can sum up Wind River Country’s greatest attraction, it’s public land. Living in Wind River Country, I have a backyard of more than 5 million acres of public land at my disposal. Only 14 percent of the land in the county is privately owned, leaving the other 86 percent for exploring. This land ranges from alpine forests to desert landscapes. There are trails for riding and hiking, lakes for fishing and rock faces for climbing.
U.S. Forest Service-Shoshone National Forest
Washakie District Ranger’s Office, Lander, 307-332-5460
Wind River District Ranger’s Office, Dubois. 307-455-2466
Bureau of Land Management
Lander Resource Area, 307-332-8400
Game & Fish Department
Shoshone & Arapaho Fish & Game Department
Wind River Experience
If there is one thing that can sum up Wind River Country’s greatest attraction, it’s public land. Living in Wind River Country, I have a backyard of more than 5 million acres of public land at my disposal. Only 14 percent of the land in the county is privately owned, leaving the other 86 percent for exploring. This land ranges from alpine forests to desert landscapes. There are trails for riding and hiking, lakes for fishing and rock faces for climbing. I can ski on it in the winter and bike on it in the summer. And many trails are designated for ATV use.
In addition to Wyoming’s several state parks and historical sites in our county, our public land is made up of Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management land, Wyoming state game lands and school sections, and the Wind River Indian Reservation. If you are headed to recreate on the Wind River Reservation you will need a special permit you can buy at outdoor stores. And if you are planning large group trip with livestock, you’ll need a permit- check with the Forest Service.
The Shoshone National Forest is the nation’s first National Forest and nicknamed “the recreation forest.” And for good reason. The words “world class” are often used to describe the climbing, backpacking and horse packing the forest provides. Oh and the best part – exploring these lands are free.
There’s also a little bit of Teton National Forest in Wind River Country, accessible over Union Pass near Dubois.
A well-developed trail system can take you into the high country of the Wind River and Absaroka mountains. This is the wild and ruggedly beautiful territory you see in pictures. You’ll pass – and sometimes cross – gurgling mountain streams. You’ll discover alpine lakes shining and full of fish. You can summit granite peaks. The higher you get the more impressive the views. Above tree line look out across a world of rock and trees, dotted with lakes like small gemstones.
I conjure images of these wild places in my mind when I think of Wind River Country.
You can spend days fully exploring the forest, or you can taste it in smaller bits, like a three mile hike to the Popo Agie Falls.
Next door to the wooded terrain of the Shoshone National Forest is the badlands of Dubois, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, where you can explore for hours, taking in the undulating landscape, exploring the draws and scrambling the scree slopes. It’s like stumbling into a completely different world. There’s a great Badlands Interpretive Trail, with a printed hiking trail guide that you can pick up in Dubois.
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, scattered across the county, provides a unique chance to lose yourself in the landscape, minus trails. (Be careful and prepared so you don’t actually get lost). Wander the salmon-colored Nugget Sandstone cliffs or past Limestone Mountain near South Pass to catch early summer wild flowers. South Pass’ remoteness can give the sense you have ventured to the edge of the world.
Some of this land is accessible by car, some with a 4-wheel drive vehicle or ATV, and some is only accessible by human or animals on foot. But there’s something to do on public land for every season. In the winter you can snowmobile or ski – or even try dog sledding. In the summer there are mountain bike trails to ride, lakes to fish and peaks to climb. If you are seeking quiet and solitude, there are several designated Wilderness areas in Wind River Country. You can travel only by foot or horse in these areas – there are no motorized vehicles or bikes. Wilderness areas are marked on maps and with signs on the trails.
Most people think of wide open spaces, interrupted only by ragged mountains, when they think of Wyoming. In Wind River Country that vision comes to life.
It’s a pretty fantastic backyard and I’m even willing to share it.