The highest summits of the Wind River Range form a well-defined crest, straight overall though curving round many cirques and basins, similar to the Uintas
of northeast Utah. US 191 runs close to the west side of the range, the nearest major town being Pinedale
, while US 26 and 287 follow a little further away on the east side, passing through Dubois
towards the north end and Lander
further south. The most spectacular section of the crest extends about 60 miles, from a little way beyond Gannett Peak in the north to Sweetwater Gap in the south. All of the mountains on the west side of the crest are within Bridger-Teton National Forest
, while most of the east side is part of Shoshone National Forest
, the exception being the central section which falls within the Wind River Indian Reservation
, though is still open for exploration. The entire range is contained within the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, and is home to all the varied wildlife of this huge area, including wolves and (in the northern quarter), grizzly bears.
The highest, most glaciated and most remote section of the Wind River Range is in the north and center; peaks towards the south, while still very dramatic, are 1,000 feet or more lower in elevation, and require shorter hikes to reach. Major (paved or good quality gravel) roads into the mountains include (in the west) 352 and then FR10091 to the Green River Lakes, Fremont Lake Road to Elkhart Park (start point for hikes to Titcomb Basin
), and Scab Creek Road, and in the east, Sinks Canyon Road/Louis Lake Road, Trout Creek Road to Moccasin Lake and Big Ridge Lane to Saint Lawrence Basin. The most popular trailhead, however, is probably Big Sandy
, reached by a drive of at least 35 miles over unpaved tracks which become rather rough at the upper end, as from here a very scenic area known as Cirque of the Towers
is within reach of a long day hike, 8.5 miles away and 1,700 feet up. This is the closest section of the mountain crest to a trailhead.
Map of the Wind River Range, showing the major trailheads.