Bridger National Forest
Managed by U.S. Forest Service, Intermountain Region
1,744,705 acres (1,736,115 federal/ 8,590 other)
The peaks of the Wind River Range not only represent the Continental Divide, but also a division between Bridger-Teton National Forest and Shoshone National Forest which happen to be in two different U.S. Forest Service Regions. These mountains are our favorite place to go backpacking in the entire world with jagged peaks that rival the Teton Range for picturesqueness and a fraction of the visitors (except at overcrowded Titcomb Basin and the Cirque of the Towers). Read more about our 120-mile trip on the Highline Trail in our newspaper article.
Fremont Lake, Kendall Warm Springs, Green River Lakes, Wind River Range, Titcomb Basin, Periodic Spring geyser, Lake Alice, Wyoming Range National Recreation Trail, Highline Trail, Continental Divide National Scenic Trail
From Pinedale, Wyoming, a 50-mile partially-paved drive leads to the campground at Green River Lakes, which opens up into a beautiful valley that frames photogenic Squaretop Mountain. Hiking around the northerly of the two lakes makes a great couple-hour jaunt, but if you are looking for a unique destination add the two-mile spur to fascinating Clear Creek Natural Bridge. Here the water pours through and continues to widen a four-foot tall gap in the limestone. Starting from the campground, the Highline Trail is a 72-mile one-way trek popular with backpackers. The first ten miles are very flat following the river to Beaver Meadows, which offers 360° mountain views.
Further south in the Wind River Range than stunning Squaretop Mountain, it is only eight miles from Big Sandy Trailhead to the Cirque of the Towers, which is famous among rock climbers and actually in neighboring Shoshone National Forest. Even though there were a lot of campers back there, we found a secluded spot between Big Sandy Lake and Clear Lake in Bridger National Forest. When we finally made it over 10,800-foot Jackass Pass to the cirque, it was full of fog and hail was dropping from the sky. Although we have been back on a sunny day, that was the more memorable experience, which is why we selected a photo from that morning for the cover of our new guidebook Out in the Woods (see bottom of this post).
On the way to Green River Lakes outside Pinedale, Wyoming, make time for a quick stop at Kendall Warm Springs where the water is a constant 85°F but is protected from human bathing. The main attraction is a fish less than 2-inches long, the endangered Kendall Warm Springs dace. During spawning (which occurs frequently throughout the year due to the warm water), the males turn purple and the females light green. U.S. Forest Service biologists keep careful track of the population and if you’re lucky, you’ll meet them when they are out there conducting a survey. On the trails and roads, keep an eye out for moose, elk, mule deer, pronghorns, both black and grizzly bears, and badgers (even in the middle of the day). Trout fishing is also a major attraction to this area’s many lakes and streams.
This incredible view of Squaretop Mountain and Green River Lakes is at the end of a long drive down a washboard dirt road; maybe that is why it is on the Wyoming license plate.
The long dirt roads back to the trailheads at Big Sandy and Green River Lakes are well maintained, and we have never had a problem accessing them in a passenger vehicle. Limited parking when you get there is the bigger problem.
The campground at Green River Lakes has an incredible view of Squaretop Mountain (which is on the Wyoming license plate). There are more dispersed campsites on the road to Big Sandy Trailhead than Green River Lakes.
Shoshone National Forest (Wyoming)
Fossil Butte National Monument (Wyoming)
Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming-Montana-Idaho)
Nearest National Park
Grand Teton (Wyoming)
Conifer Tree Species
Engelmann spruce, subalpine fir, Douglas-fir, lodgepole pine, ponderosa pine, limber pine, whitebark pine
Flowering Tree Species
quaking aspen, Rocky Mountain maple, bog birch, Booth’s willow, red osier dogwood, sagebrush
Explore More – What is the entire length of the stream that is the only place where the endangered Kendall Warm Springs dace lives (before it pours into the chilly Green River, home to a genetically distinct dace population)?
Learn more about Bridger and the 154 other National Forests in our new guidebook Out in the Woods
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