March 31, 2021
By Shelli Johnson/YourEpicLife.com
Hi. My name is Shelli Johnson, and I love to hike.
When I was just 3 years old, my parents moved us from Iowa to Lander, Wyoming. Nothing against Iowa, but I consider this one of the greatest gifts my parents have given me. Why, you ask? Visit, or enjoy even a single hike in Wind River Country and you’ll understand why it’s such a great gift to live here.
Hiking plays a part in just about everything I do. As a family, we spend most weekends in the summer and fall hiking the local trails. Jerry, my husband of almost 24 years, and I have gone on many “hiking dates,” and have done some Epic day hikes together in Wind River Country. Some of our favorite day hikes are: Stough Creek Basin, Smith, Middle and Cathedral Lakes, Island and Thumb lakes in Silas Canyon, Lake Louise, and anything on the Middle Fork Trail, which starts at Bruce’s Bridge at the end of Sinks Canyon, and takes us all the way to Wind River Peak.
In fact, my most epic day hike in the Wind River Range was on my birthday one year. I asked Jerry if “for my birthday present” he would do Wind River Peak in a day with me. That was an epic day, and and unforgettable birthday gift that was hard-earned to say the least. Almost to the top of the tall mountain, Jerry remarked he wished I would have asked for expensive jewelry instead. We started hiking at 3:30am, and hiked 16 miles to the top of Wind River Peak, the tallest peak in the southern Wind River Range, only to turn around and return. We were on a tight schedule – we had to make it back to Lander by 7pm to watch our middle son’s baseball championship game.)
But I digress. This article is about my favorite day hikes, not my favorite epic day hikes. That’s another story…
Following is a very short list of my personal favorite day hikes in Wind River Country:
LAKE LOUISE (5 miles roundtrip):
Trailhead: Glacier Trail. Approximately 4 miles south of Dubois, on Hwy 26/287. Take a left onto Fish Hatchery Road. The road immediately forks; stay left and follow this road to the end.
To Hike to Lake Louise: It’s about 2.5 miles to Lake Louise, 5 miles roundtrip.
STOUGH CREEK BASIN (13 miles roundtrip):
Trailhead: Worthen Meadows
To Roaring Fork Pass: 4.5 miles/9 miles round-trip
To first of the Stough Creek Basin lakes: 6.5 miles/13 miles round-trip.
SILAS CANYON (including Lower Silas Lake, Upper Silas Lake, Island Lake, and Thumb Lake)
Trailhead: Christina Lake Trailhead, just past Fiddler Lake, when approaching from Lander, WY. (It takes about 45 minutes to drive from Lander, WY, up the switchbacks and to the Christina Lake Trailhead.)
Lower Silas Lake: It’s about 2 miles to Lower Silas Lake, 4 miles roundtrip. Our three sons, from very young ages, have enjoyed this hike with us. It’s a pretty mountain lake that we always seem to have to ourselves. We’ve caught a lot of brook trout here, nothing big, but the catching is pretty good in our experience. I think most people pass right by this lake, enroute to Upper Silas Lake. From the main trail, you might not see Lower Silas Lake, unless you’re looking for it. The first mile is a nice forested trail with some small ups and downs before reaching a trail junction, where you can head left toward Christina Lake, or head right toward Upper Silas, Island and Thumb lakes. Stay right at the junction and continue. Another mile or mile and a half up the trail, you see a cairn and hear Silas Creek to your right. To go to Lower Silas Lake, stay left and continue straight and down the trail toward Lower Silas Lake, which you should be able to see.
UPPER SILAS LAKE: It’s about 3 miles from the trailhead to Upper Silas Lake, 6 miles roundtrip. If Upper Silas Lake is your destination, you go right, and cross Silas Creek, then stay right again. Hike through forest and up the rolling trail for about another mile before arriving at Upper Silas Lake. Upper Silas Lake offers great fishing. Last year on our Jerry’s and my anniversary, we took the boys on a hiking and fishing trip to Silas. Between the five of us we caught about 18 trout in an hour. We released them all, but it was quite a day. Upper Silas Lake is set beautifully amidst pine forest and a granite mountain.
ISLAND LAKE: It’s about 5 miles to Island Lake from the trailhead, 10 miles roundtrip. From Upper Silas
Lake, continue around the shore of Upper Silas Lake on a nice trail that winds up and through the forest for another 1.5 miles or so before reaching Island Lake. Island Lake is beautiful! We always see fish – and big fish at that – but we’re seldom able to trick them into biting our line. Island Lake is so named because there’s an small island with trees on it in the middle. This is a great destination because you can sit on granite slabs that slide into the lake in many places, and there are granite mountains all around you. It’s also a great camping destination. We’ve spent Labor Day weekend here with the kids on a couple of occasions.
THUMB LAKE: It’s about 6 miles to Thumb lake from the trailhead, 12 miles roundtrip. Thumb Lake is just a mile or so above Island Lake, and it’s worth the extra effort to see it. It is a beautiful lake! Anglers: There are golden trout in Thumb Lake. We caught our first on a day hike last summer. It was spectacular.
Shelli Johnson, owner of Epic Life, is an entrepreneur, life and leadership coach, leadership development facilitator, keynote presenter, writer, adventurer and guide. She is married to Jerry, and is the mother of three sons, Wolf, Hayden, and Fin. They live in Lander, WY, where they frequently hike in the foothills and mountains of the Wind River Range. #WindRiverCountry