Photograph by Eric Scott

  • where:

    Pinedale, Wyoming

  • what:

    Unspoiled nature, Beauty

  • why:

    Hiking, Nature, Contemplation

  • when:

    Year Round if you are prepared

  • warnings:

    Check snow conditions

  • Geotag Icon Show on map

The Bridger Wilderness Area in the Wind River mountain range is located just a few hours south of Yellowstone National Park. This 428,169 acre expanse of jutting majestic mountainous land, rises out of Wyoming’s terra firma to its highest point on the top of Gannet Peat at 13,804 feet above sea level. The mountains are interlaced with cold, crystal clear, high mountain lakes. Black and Brown bears and the occasional wolf pack roam the lower elevations. The knowledge of which, at least for a city boy like me, puts your psyche into an atavistic tension that makes you feel like you are part of the great Mana.

Unlike the nearby Yellow stone, there are no roads into area for the work-shy tourist, which cuts down the traffic. The nearest city to most of the access trails into the Bridger Wilderness area is Pinedale, Wyoming. I was with a friend from college. We decided to stop at the Pinedale Ranger Station to check out the trail conditions before we proceeded to the trailhead. My friend was looking over a map when a young couple entered whose car had broken down. The ranger suggested that Bellybutton Tom would be the man to call. Nobody could possibly disagree.

Our hike started at the Elkhart Park trailhead. We followed the Pole Creek trail east heading for our first stop, Island Lake. The first view you get of the true character of the area is at photographers point. The gradual sloping trail opens up to one of nature’s great cathedrals. Rock, trees, and water in every direction at such dramatic elevation differences that the mind can only register a general sense of structure, not like the simple, geometric, easy to grasp creations of man.

Photograph by Eric ScottWe were overly ambitious; we hadn’t counted on as much snow as there was in early July, so we decided to camp at Senaca Lake and dry our boots. We had seen a female moose earlier in the day, but for the rest of the trip the only wildlife we saw were the curious marmots. When there is less snow the area can get quite crowded, so the marmots being used to people, will come into your camp and get as close as a few feet from you looking for food.

Day two we made it to Island Lake and decided to camp there for a few nights. We thought we wouldn’t be able to do the loop we had originally planned because of lack of gators and snowshoes, but after seeing Island Lake, I was no longer disappointed. The lake was almost completely frozen over. At the shoreline you could see massive cracks separating the blocks of ice into wonderful shapes. The tree-bare mountains surrounding the lake were formidable and it seemed impossible that they should ever change.

Photograph by Eric ScottOn day three we left our base camp and set out for Titcomb Basin. We were a little reluctant because we were already at ten thousand feet and there was snow everywhere, but luckily it was a cloudy day so the snow was firm which allowed us to stay on top of the fragile crust that had developed overnight (for the most part anyway). I didn’t think anything could top Senaca Lake, but Titcomb Basin and its lakes were almost supernatural. There is a short elevated peak right in the middle of the basin between the two lakes where you have a 360-degree view of your surroundings. It was one of those places you just can’t describe. It’s a place where your mind functions based on a completely different language that the modern brain doesn’t understand. Unfortunately we couldn’t stay very long because a storm was moving in and we weren’t really prepared for anything severe.

Our hike out was just as great as the hike in. We spent a total of five days in the Bridger Wilderness area. If you decide to go check snow conditions and prepare accordingly. Although we didn’t get to do the original loop we planned, I was glad that the conditions allowed a little more solitude than you would find later in the summer.

Photograph by Eric Scott

Wind Rivers

Photograph by Eric Scott

Titcomb Basin, Bridger Wilderness Area, Wyoming

Photograph by Eric Scott

Titcomb Basin, Bridger Wilderness Area, Wyoming

Photograph by Eric Scott

Island Lake, Bridger Wilderness Area, Wyoming

Photograph by Eric Scott

Island Lake, Bridger Wilderness Area, Wyoming

Photograph by Eric Scott

Island Lake, Bridger Wilderness Area, Wyoming

Photograph by Eric Scott

Island Lake, Bridger Wilderness Area, Wyoming

Photograph by Eric Scott

Island Lake, Bridger Wilderness Area, Wyoming