Backpacking the Wind River Range (~29M RT), Wyoming
Elevation Range: 9381'-10,626' .............. Up/Dn: 3121'
July 15-22, 2020
Description: The Pole Creek Trail starts at the Elkhart Park Trailhead. The trail gently climbs through a nice forest of lodgepole pines with bright green huckleberry undergrowth. After a few miles, the forest opens with distant views of Fremont Peak, and interspersed meadows that may be filled with flowers depending on the season. At 4.5 miles, you'll reach Photographer's Point where most of the day-hikers will turn around. This is a nice place to take a break and snap a photo of some of the Wind Rivers' highest peaks.
After leaving the point, the trail descends slightly to the Eklund Lake where you'll take a left and follow the signs towards Seneca Lake. From the junction, the trail descends past Barbara Lake and then rises up to Hobbs Lake. Hobbs Lake is a popular camping spot for many backpackers on their way in and out of Titcomb Basin and the surrounding areas. Good campsites can be found on the southwestern side of the lake, but not the only ones.
From Hobbs Lake, the trail descends considerably past small ponds and meadows before making a steep ascent up to Seneca Lake. Seneca Lake has great views of Fremont Peak and is a great place to stop and take a break or setup camp for the night. The camping around Seneca Lake is a little harder to come by since the lake is surrounded by sheer granite cliffs which drop steeply into the water. Even with this said, many people decide to camp here. Campsites can be found at the lake inlet or on the southwest corner of the lake.
Beyond Seneca Lake, a trail to the left leaves the main trail and heads to Lost Lake. Continue straight and you'll soon pass a couple of lakes, including Little Seneca Lake which is rumored to have camping on the eastern side. After Little Seneca Lake, another trail intersection presents itself. After rounding Little Seneca Lake, the trail turns left (northeast); continue northeast past the Highline Trail, following signs to Island Lake. The trail immediately climbs over a small pass where views begin to open up. After a short descent, the trail splits again. A trail to the left will take you to Jean Lakes and Fremont Crossing. Continue to the right towards Island Lake.
The rest of the trail to Island Lake passes through meadows which can be filled with Elephant's Head and other beautiful flowers, depending on the season. The views of the core Wind River peaks also start to open up. The final descent into Island Lakes presents a nice place to stop and take in the great views of Island Lake, the wall of peaks (Fremont, Sacagawea, and Helen) east of Titcomb Basin and other peaks to the north.
The trail to Titcomb Basin continues around the southeastern side of the lake. An unnamed trail ascends steeply at the inlet up to a lake above. Stay left and continue around Island Lake.
The trail gently ascends through beautiful meadows and passed many small lakes on the way to Titcomb Basin. At one mile from Island Lake, the trail splits. The right fork leads to Indian Basin and Indian Pass. This is also a popular trail for those aspiring to climb Fremont Peak. Many people stop short of Titcomb Basin and camp at one of the numerous campsites on the trail to Indian Basin. Stay left here following the sign to Titcomb Basin.
About a mile from the last trail junction, you cross a small saddle and enter the broad expanse of Titcomb Basin. The scenery is breathtaking - enjoy views of the glacially carved U-shaped valley, surrounded by some of the tallest peaks in Wyoming.
There are many opportunities to explore in the basin. The main trail continues along the eastern shore of the lower and upper Titcomb Lakes to the upper basin. You can continue to the upper basin where climbers make their base camp for climbing the peaks at the head of the basin. The route continues north in the upper basin to Dinwoody Pass or west to Knapsack Col; both may require snow travel and scrambling. You can also take the short jaunt up to Mistake Lake or just wander amongst the lakes in the basinthe views from the basin are spectacular. Many people also decide to scramble up Fremont Peak, the third tallest peak in Wyoming. The route up Fremont leaves from Indian Basin and ascends the peak on the southwest ridge.
The Wind Rivers are famous for fishing. Many of the lakes hold golden trout. Titcomb Lakes are not as productive as other lakes in the region. No fires. Camp 200' from water. Use Bear Cannisters - Griz.