Adventure Highlights in Wind River Country
Headed south from Yellowstone toward I-80? It’s too far to go without stretching your legs, so you might as well stop at places that will stretch your Yellowstone vacation out. Go beyond Yellowstone and take highway 287 to Hwy 28 for an invigorating route in the Rockies to Tetons region of Wyoming. You’ll find plenty of adventure here.
Day One: Togwotee Pass to Dubois
Togwotee Pass, Wyoming Centennial Scenic Byway
The full length of Togwotee Pass delivers magnificent mountain vistas, the peak of the Continental Divide, exceptional opportunities for wildlife viewing, and stunning stops along the way for short hikes. This stretch of highway is one of two scenic byways in Wyoming’s Wind River Country and will introduce you to this special part of the state.
Brooks Waterfall, located at the Falls Campground, an impressive clean mountain stream crashing through a rocky gorge, is another 16 miles down Highway 26. Turn right left off the highway at the Shoshone National Forest Service sign, find a parking spot and take a short walk to a breathtaking view of the Brooks waterfall.
Dubois Overlook (Moran Junction—south exit from Yellowstone—to Dubois: 1 hour)
The views from this overlook will make you forget you’ve arrived in the heart of town. As you enter Dubois, look for a wooden sign marking the town overlook on the left. Take your camera in addition to your running shoes or mountain bike, because whatever your form of recreation on these trails, you’ll want to snap some photos of the three forms of geologic mountain formation you can see and the 360-degree views of mountains, badlands, and Wyoming landscapes.
Now that you’ve worked up an appetite on several hikes and/or a bike ride, you’ll need to go to the Cowboy Café for lunch. Fill up on a main course, but don’t forget the slice of homemade pie—you’ve earned it, and you’ve only just started!
Casually stretch out the tired muscles by strolling down the wooden sidewalks that characterize Dubois (after all, we pronounce it so it’s closer to rhyming to “cowboys” than “blah”). Stop in at Wind River Gear and Scarecrow Bike n’ Key for all your adventure supplies. If you’re here on a Tuesday night in the summer, jump in and join the weekly square dancing.
Overnight in Dubois in glamping, camping, or hotel style, then rise early for a feast at Coyote Blue for a breakfast big enough to fuel your second day of adventure in Wind River Country.
Day Two: More Dubois & Riverton
Torrey Creek Trailhead
Approximately four miles southeast of Dubois on Hwy 26, take a drive on National Forest Road 411 past Torrey, Ring, and Trail Lakes. All the lakes have fishing, camping, and picnicking, and you’ll get the chance to check out ancient Native American petroglyphs and maybe even spot a herd of bighorn sheep on the way. The road dead ends at the Forest Service’s Trail Lake Trailhead, where you’ll be able to hike as deep into the mountains as you want. Be prepared with a map, water, snacks, and bear spray.
Bull Lake, Wind River Indian Reservation
Thirty miles down Hwy 287/26 from where you turned onto Forest Road 411, turn right onto Sand Draw Rd. to Bull Lake. This recreation destination lies in a glaciated valley that formerly held a smaller natural lake. The earthen Bull Lake Dam turned this natural lake into 152,000 cubic feet of fishing, boating, and birdwatching joy. Just remember to pick up a tribal fishing license (even if you don’t have plans to fish), for permission to play on Reservation lands. You can get one in Dubois or at the Crowheart Store on your way.
Between the hike and the fishing/paddling/second hike that started your day off, you’re probably ready for some food, so make the one-hour drive from Bull lake to the town of Riverton in the heart of Wind River Country. If you’re craving local beef, stop by Trailhead. If you couldn’t get enough of the Cowboy Café in Dubois, there is a second one in Riverton. If you need to caffeinate, don’t miss the coffee and mac and cheese at the Roasted Bean & Cuisine.
Overnight in Riverton.
Day Three: Riverton & Boysen Reservoir
Boysen State Park, Shoshoni
Boysen State Park and Reservoir, just a 20-minute drive from Riverton, juxtapose high-plains desert with hundreds of acres of deep blue water and 76 miles of shoreline. You’ll find a surreal landscape for fishing, hiking, camping, or boating.
Spend a day here to make the most of it, and stop in the town of Shoshoni for supplies, meals, and information.
Overnight in one of the many excellent campsites
Day Four: Lander
Lander, 45 minutes from Boysen Reservoir or 30 minutes from Riverton, is the gateway to the Wind River Mountains and an internationally recognized climbing destination. You’ll get there via the town of Hudson, where you should stop at either Kai’s Espresso & Gifts or English Muffin Bakery & Espresso for breakfast, coffee, and unique gifts.
Sinks Canyon State Park visitor center, Lander
Start by learning about Sinks Canyon at the state park visitors center. Soak up the interactive exhibits about ecology, wildlife, and history. Take a self-guided walk to check out the cave into which the Popo Agie River disappears and the pool in which it reemerges a half mile down the stunning canyon. Now you’re ready to choose your adventure!
“The climbing community in Fremont County is seriously one of the best in the country. The tight knit community can be mostly attributed to Todd Skinner who started developing Wild Iris in the early ‘90s. Ever since then, there has been a small group of people developing traditional climbs in the Winds, sport climbs on the limestone cliffs, and boulders around the county,” says Lander climber Charlie Manganiello.
Whether you’re climbing dolomite in the winter, limestone in the summer, bouldering, or trekking deep into the backcountry for epic trad route, you’ll find what you seek if you start in Lander. If you need beta, stop in at Wild Iris Mountain Sports for maps, gear, or even a climbing guide.
Granite spires, dramatic peaks, and several of the tallest peaks in Wyoming await in the Wind River Mountains. These mountains are where Paul Petzoldt decided to found NOLS and where the tallest peak in the state reaches to the sky. These wild areas remain uncrowded, so don’t tell anyone just how breathtaking the views are on the hike(s) you take. Enjoy a mellow hike on the nature trail in Sinks Canyon State Park, get more aggressive and hike two miles to the Popo Agie Falls, or go beyond with a backpack. Stock up on supplies and trail snacks at the NOLS Gulch, Wind River Outdoor Company, or The Good Place.
If you mountain or road bike, you’ll love it here. We have single-track and off-road trails worthy of the most adventurous. The terrain ranges from easy to extreme surrounded by mountains, deep in alpine meadows, high desert, and red cliffs. Motorists are respectful on the smooth Wyoming highways, and the network of mountain biking trails is ever-growing. Stop in at Gannett Peak Sports or The Bike Mill for trail condition reports, gear, and tune-ups.
Refuel in Lander
When you’re wiped out and need an enormous salad, juicy burger, or local beer, come to the Lander Bar/Gannett Grill to share stories, toast to successes and falls, and load up on well-earned beef and carbs.
Spend as much time here as you need to fill your adrenaline needs, then head on home with a list of goals for your next visit!