Backpack: Big Sandy to Elkhart Park via Fremont and Highline

Distance: 53.8 miles (one way)

Bridger Wilderness, Bridger-Teton National Forest, near Big Sandy in Wyoming's Wind River Range

Bald Mountain Basin

Bald Mountain Basin

 

Panoramic views of the high peaks along the Continental Divide, lovely lake basins and varied terrain are the hallmarks of this terrific point-to-point backpack along the Fremont and Highline trails.

  • Distance: 53.8 miles
  • Elevation: 9,085-ft. at Trailhead
    9,925-ft. at Junction Fremont and Pyramid Lake Trail
    9,755-ft. at East Fork River Crossing
    10,565-ft. at Plateau High point
    9,970-ft. at South Fork Boulder Creek Crossing
    9,850-ft. at Junction Middle Fork Trail
    10,320-ft. at High Point above Howard Lake
    9,754-ft. at Junction at North Fork Lake
    10,848-ft. at Hat Pass
    10,225-ft. at Little Fall Creek Crossing
    10,860-ft. at Overlook above Bald Mountain Basin
    11,060-ft. at Lester Pass
    10,400-ft. at Junction Seneca Lake Trail
    10,346-ft. at Island Lake
    10,300-ft. at Junction Pole Creek Trail
    9,340-ft. at Elkhart Park Trailhead
  • Difficulty: strenuous
  • Basecamp: Big Sandy / Elkhart Park
  • Region: Wyoming's Wind River Range

 

Introduction

Panoramic views of the high peaks along the Continental Divide, lovely lake basins and varied terrain are the hallmarks of this terrific point-to-point backpack along the Fremont and Highline trails. Starting at the Big Sandy trailhead the trip parallels the west side of the Continental Divide, crossing high plateaus and passes with see-forever views, dipping in and out of beautiful lake basins and traveling through expansive meadows sprinkled with wildflowers. The trip ends with a visit to stunning Island Lake before exiting via the Seneca Lake and Pole Creek trails to the Elkhart Park trailhead.

Along the way side trails and routes branching from the Fremont and Highline offer plenty of opportunities to explore the high country along the Divide. Recommended side trips include the Bonneville Lakes, the Middle Fork Valley, Europe Canyon, Hay Pass and the Cook Lakes.

It is impossible to see everything in one trip. After getting a taste of the area you will return year after year, sampling new areas with each visit. Look at this backpack and its associated side trips as a roadmap to get your started on your explorations.

 

Backpack Segments

  • Introduction: Big Sandy to Elkhart Park via Fremont and Highline
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    Elevation Profile

    Elevation Profile - Big Sandy to Elkhart Park backpack

    Mileage and Elevation Detail

       Miles   Elevation   Destination
    0.09,085-ft.  Big Sandy Trailhead
    0.69,120-ft.  Junction Sedgewick Meadow / Big Sandy (bear left)
    1.39,320-ft.  Junction Diamond Lake
    1.59,355-ft.  Junction Fremont Trail
    5.59,741-ft.  Dad’s Lake
    6.89,878-ft.  Marms Lake
    7.49,925-ft.  Junction with Pyramid Lake Trail
    9.59,755-ft.  East Fork River Crossing
    11.010,565-ft.  High point on the Plateau southwest of Mt. Geikie
    12.310,165-ft.  Cross North Fork Silver Creek
    12.910,347-ft.  Junction with trail to Cross Lake
    13.810,238-ft.  Cross Sheep Creek
    15.410,047-ft.  Cross Raid Creek
    16.59,970-ft.  Cross South Fork Boulder Creek / Junction Bonneville Lakes Trail
    17.59,910-ft.  Junction Rainbow Lake Trail
    17.89,880-ft.  Cross Dream Creek
    18.09,880-ft.  Bob’s Lake
    19.09,846-ft.  Sandpoint Lake Beach
    19.59,850-ft.  Junction Middle Fork Trail
    21.09,800-ft.  Halls Creek Crossing
    22.210,320-ft.  High Point above Howard Lake
    23.810,210-ft.  Junction Valley Lake
    26.29,754-ft.  Junction at North Fork Lake
    28.610,848-ft.  Hat Pass
    30.610,225-ft.  Little Fall Creek Crossing
    31.610,470-ft.  Junction Bell Lakes Trail
    33.710,860-ft.  Overlook above Bald Mountain Basin
    34.310,540-ft.  Enter Bald Mountain Basin
    35.710,065-ft.  Junction Highline Trail
    38.411,060-ft.  Lester Pass
    40.310,400-ft.  Junction Seneca Lake Trail
    40.710,540-ft.  Junction Indian Pass Trail
    41.710,346-ft.  Island Lake
    43.110,400-ft.  Junction Seneca Lake Trail
    46.810,300-ft.  Junction Pole Creek Trail
    53.89,340-ft.  Elkhart Park Trailhead

     

    Trailhead Driving Directions

    Big Sandy Trailhead: This popular trailhead is located in the southern Wind River Range next to the Big Sandy River.

    Directions from Pinedale: From the intersection of Pine Street (US 191) and North Tyler Ave (the Pinedale Tourism office is located on the northeast corner) in Pinedale, WY, drive south on Highway 191 for 11.7 miles and then turn left (east) on WY-353. After 15.5 miles you will notice signs referring to the road as the Big Sandy-Elkhorn Road and after 18 miles the paved road will change to a good packed dirt/gravel surface.

    Shortly after the pavement ends go straight through a junction, and drive south crossing the Big Sandy River (Buckskin Crossing). Follow the road for a total of 27.3 miles. Shortly after crossing the Big Sandy River you will reach a junction with the Lander Cutoff Road (the next junction). Turn left on the Lander Cutoff Road. There is a wood sign at the intersection pointing toward the Big Sandy trailhead.

    Drive 7.0 miles on the Lander Cutoff Road and then turn left on the Big Sandy Opening Road. Here you will see a sign for the Big Sandy Campground and trailhead. The road now deteriorates and narrows. Blind corners and lush foliage along the road make it hard to see ahead. Drive carefully, following the rocky, rutted road for 9.8 miles to a "Y" intersection. Bear right at the intersection to continue along the Big Sandy Opening Road (Forest Service Road 850). (The road branching to the left leads to the Big Sandy Lodge and Mud Lake.) Follow the road for 0.8 miles to the trailhead parking area, equipped with an outhouse.

    Allow an hour and a half to reach the trailhead from Pinedale. The parking area is too small for the number of backpackers visiting the area during the height of the summer. If the parking area is full, find a safe place to park off the access road.

    I recommend a high clearance vehicle to reach the trailhead. Passenger cars can make it OK if driven carefully. Check at the Pinedale ranger station before starting your trip to learn about current road and trail conditions. The Ranger Station is located to the east of the Ridleys Grocery Store on US 191 (Pine Street in Pinedale). The entrance to the ranger station is on the Fremont Lake Road. (You can also reach the parking area for the ranger station by driving east through the Ridley’s parking lot.)

    This trailhead is remote, so be sure to have a full tank of gas. The dirt road become slippery when wet. The campground at the parking area is tiny, with only 4 sites. I would not plan on camping at the trailhead before starting your backpack.

    Elkhart Park Trailhead: From the intersection of Pine Street (US 191) and North Tyler Ave (the Pinedale Tourism office is located on the northeast corner) in Pinedale, WY, drive east on Highway 191 (East Pine Street) for 0.3 miles and bear left onto Fremont Lake Road. Follow this road for 14.3 miles and turn right into the large parking area for the Elkhart Park/Pole Creek Trailhead. After the first 3.0 miles the road will turn into Skyline Drive/Forest Service Road 370740. The trailhead is located at the northeast end of the parking lot between the outhouse and the trailhead kiosk. It should take about 25 minutes to drive the trailhead. The last section of the road has some holes and uneven spots.

     

    Trail Resources