Monday, September 9, 2019

Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers

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Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
The Dinwoody Lakes area is located in the Wind River Range, and is a popular area for backpackers. The route follows the popular "Glacier Trail", which is the trailhead for three areas - Bomber Basin, Whiskey Mountain and Ross Lake, and the Eastern approach for Gannet Peak. Gannet Peak is the Wyoming high point, and the Glacier Trail serves as the major starting point for backpackers to reach the base of the peak. Gannet Peak is roughly 25 miles one way, so Dinwoody Lakes is a great spot for a first night camp since it's about halfway in at 11 miles from the main trailhead. 


Our route changed mid-trip, so we ended up base camping for 3 nights at one of the Dinwoody Lakes - Double Lake. Dinwoody Lakes is comprised of several lakes - Double, Lower Phillips, Upper Phillips, Florence, Golden, and a few unnamed lakes. It's a great area to base camp at, then day hike to other lakes, fish, and enjoy the surrounding peaks. Double Lake sits at 9,900 ft, so for the Wind Rivers, it is on the lower elevation side and typically warmer than other areas.

The Glacier Trail actually has two routes - the "New Glacier Trail" and the "Old Glacier Trail". The New trail was put in around 2005, and added a new, sturdy bridge high above Torrey Creek, easier/more gradual access to reach Arrow Mountain and the pass, and follows the creek longer for more water access. The Old Glacier Trail is used primarily for equestrian access, however, hikers are allowed to hike on it. Keep reading below for a list of pros and cons for each trail.

Be advised that although this is a popular area, wildlife exists and bear food storage and protection are advised. 


Take I-80 East all the way to Rock Springs, WY. Head North on HWY 191 towards Farson, WY. In Farson, turn right on HWY 28. Near Lander, WY this will turn into HWY 287. About 3 miles before Dubois, WY turn left on Trail Lake Road (you will see a brown sign). Follow this road until you reach the end of the road, which is 9 miles of a well-graded dirt road.

Here's a driving map.

Distance: 20 miles RT
Elevation gain: Roughly 3,000 ft
Time: 2 nights minimum
Dog friendly? Yes, off leash
Kid friendly? No
Fees/Permits? None

When is the best time to visit?
Typically the best months to visit are late July, August, and early September, but it all depends on snowpack. Some years when snowpack is high, you may not be able to access the trails until August. In low snow seasons, you can access the trails as early as June. Call the Shoshone National Forest Service to check on snowpack levels and fire alerts when planning your trip. Thunderstorms and afternoon showers are common during summer months in the Wind Rivers. There is also a year round possibility of snow at this elevation, so pay close attention to weather and be prepared for any change in conditions.

How difficult is it to backpack in the Wind Rivers? Is this good for kids?
This depends on your experience, fitness level, pack weight and weather. There are no technical areas of the Wind Rivers, but climbing over passes are required, depending on your route. You should have a few backpacking trips under your belt, and be comfortable carrying up to 30-40 lbs for hours on end. As always, the lighter your pack, the easier your hike will be. 
More weight = harder hike. 

Can I bring my dog?
Yes, dogs are allowed off leash. It is a good idea to always have a leash handy, in case you come near wildlife. Dogs should be able to hike for long distances and over rocky terrain. Dog poop is not required to be packed out. Note that this is designated grizzly bear habitat and food storage regulations apply for backcountry users, including dog food. Learn how to Get Your Dog Ready for their First Backpacking trip and make sure they have their own Doggie first aid kit.

What's the elevation gain like?
It depends on your route and how many miles per day you backpack. The low point is at the Glacier TH, which is at 7,800ft, and our high point was roughly at 10,700 ft.
  Elevation sickness is a real possibility, so know and understand the symptoms.

What are the regulations for backpacking here?
Group of 15 or less
No camping within 200 ft of any water source or trail
No biking
No motor vehicles
No fireworks
Food Storage is required
No permit is required to backpack

Are there requirements for food storage?
Yes, as of 2017 the Bridger-Teton National Forest has a Bear Safety and Food Storage Order in place. You must either hang your food properly or use a bear canister. It is also wise to carry Bear Spray with you at all times.

What about water?
There is plenty of water along the New Glacier Trail, from lakes and streams. You will need to carry a water filter such as the Sawyer Mini or Platypus Gravity Filter. If you choose the Old Glacier Trail, there is no water for 8 miles.

How bad are the mosquitoes?
Mosquitoes will be the worst until Mid-August; after that, they tend to die out, but it all depends on water level each year. Be prepared to carry 100% deet. I also recommend using Permethrin by Sawyer on your clothing as an extra precaution from getting bites. Permethrin should not be applied while wearing the clothing - apply outside, while clothes are hanging. I applied two coats - let each coat dry before the next application.

What guidebook or map do you recommend?
We used "Wind Rivers Topographic Map - Northern Half", which is a great, detailed map.
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
Driving by Torrey Lake. Very well-graded dirt road. 
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
Last stretch of the road to the Glacier Trail TH! 
Gorgeous!
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
We actually didn't look at the TH signs until after our trip...keep reading why this was a mistake!
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
We camped near the TH the night before, and were ready to go by 9am! My pack was gigantic...close to 45 lbs for 6 nights. Ouch.
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
Make sure to turn left! Going right takes your over Whiskey Mountain to Ross Lake.
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
Left again.
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
Entering the Fitzpatrick Wilderness/Shoshone National Forest at mile 0.6!
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
Cross Torrey Creek on the bridge.
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
Wow, what a cool view of the creek!
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
Now the views really open up.
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
The trail is very easy to follow since this is a popular route to reach Gannet Peak.
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
Beautiful meadows.
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
For our initial route, we would turn right towards Bomber Basin. However, for the main trail we would end up coming back and turning left. This split is at mile 3.3.
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
So here's why you should always read the TH signs before you start hiking.

Our initial plan was to get to Bomber Lake, then hike cross country around to the North, then come back via Ross Lake. Well, we hiked in 6 miles to where the "marshes" begin and there's a water crossing. From there you leave the trail and are left on your own to explore this basin. We thought it would be an amazing adventure. But, right as we reached that water crossing, we saw smoke. We both looked up and said, "ohhh, sh!t". This wasn't good. We sat there for about an hour, filtered water, hoping that maybe what we saw was a fluke. But ultimately we decided to turn around. Such a bummer! This is what we had been waiting to see for months! We only had two miles to go, only to turn around. 

So we hiked back, and just assumed it would be a 12 mile day with our 45 lb packs on. But as we got back to the main trail split for the Glacier Trail, we decided to at least camp for 1 night at the 3 mile mark, which offered a very nice, shaded campsite, right on the creek. We ran into a couple who said that there were signs posted at the TH about the Bomber Basin Fire. "Oh. We didn't see it." We said, but then realized neither of us ever went over there! Dumb mistake on our part, but lesson learned.

Looking at the map, we talked a few options, but I suggested that we just backpack over to the Dinwoody Lakes and base camp there for a few days instead. We could still do a day hike, still get the pack rafts out, and take a rest day. 

Part of me felt so annoyed that we would be going halfway to Gannet Peak (something that's been on my to-do list for awhile), but on the other hand I was happy to scout out the area for whenever that trip would happen. We ended up hiking a total of 9 miles with our packs on, only to camp 3 miles into the trail, right before the main trail split. I didn't get a photo of our campsite, but it worked out well.

  From the Glacier Trail split, reset your GPS for mileage to match my stats.
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
So the next day we started to make our way to the Dinwoody Lakes. But first, we would have to hike up close to 40 switchbacks!
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
It was sooo tiring. I was exhausted from our first big day with packs on and haven't really backpacked that much this year to train for this, so my hips were screaming in pain from carrying that much weight. Let's just say I hiked a pretty slow pace and my partner was always ahead of me.
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
At mile 2.7 leave the forested switchbacks and you'll now be below Arrow Mountain.
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
You will now be hiking directly South, up and over the pass for the next 5 miles.
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
If you get the trail map I suggest, their mileage is off by 1.3 miles. It says that in between the Glacier Trail split to this intersection with the "Old Glacier Trail #801.1" is only 2.5 miles but I tracked 3.8 miles!
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
Looking back to where we hiked up from! It's a very gradual uphill for that whole 5 miles.
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
And exactly at 5 miles past the Glacier Trail Split, you'll reach the pass at 10,700 ft. It's only marked by a large cairn and stick, but no signs. 
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
Next, you'll drop down to Burro Flat. 
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
At 6.4 miles you'll reach the Dinwoody Trail split on your left, which is again marked only by a large cairn and stick, no signs. This trail would take you all the way down to the main Dinwoody Creek and Lake, roughly 15 miles away. This could be another approach to reach the same area we were going to. Keep going straight. 
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
Cross a bridge, then you'll hike downhill through a burned area (the ugliest part of the hike, and hence, no photos).
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
At 7.2 miles (10.2 miles from the parking lot) from the trail split, we reached Phillips Lake. Even though I was in pain and wanted badly to stop, the views weren't the best here due to the fire so we kept pushing further. The only area for campsites were on the East side as well.
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
And finally at 8.0 miles exactly, we came upon Double Lake, and would call this home for 3 nights.
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
We set up camp and Charlie zonked out on his new backpacking bed, the K9 Sport Sack. The L/XL weighs 13.7 oz, and is about the size of a smaller Nalgene bottle. It's pretty light & compact for a dog bed, he can carry it himself in his pack, and gives him a soft place to sleep for his aging joints. The other nice thing was that we could use our same command at home for his bed as this bed, and he would go right to it. The only thing I think they should improve is the air port. It was a little difficult to remove all air when deflating it. But overall I definitely give this 4 out of 5 stars!
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
We quickly hung one of the packs with all of our food in in to keep bears away. Neither of us have ever liked using bear canisters - they  just take up too much space in a pack, so we prefer hanging food. 
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers
Great spot for a base camp.
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
We set up the pack rafts and did a quick tour of the lake. 
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
I also tested out my new Nomad 7 Plus solar charger. If you live in the SLC area, I highly recommend going to the Goal Zero outlet in Draper, where you can pick up one of these used, but brand new panels for half price! Otherwise you can get on one Amazon. It worked really well and weighs 16.2 oz. Great for long trips!
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
One of the days we paddled across the lake then hiked around the other side. Charlie loves rafting with us, and sits right between my legs. We don't let him jump in and out, he has learned to stay put.
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
I really wanted to day hike up to one of the lakes in the upper basin, so after paddling across we found our way with no trail. Nice view of Double Lake below!
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
After only 1.2 miles of hiking we found ourselves at Florence Lake. Gorgeous! We simply followed the creek up the whole way and it was pretty easy, just boulders to hike over.
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
Paddling back across to our camp. 

It was a great lake to base camp at - we had plenty of rest time, fit in a day hike, did plenty of fishing, and just hung out. It was perfect!
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
On the way back to the car we decided to take the "Old Glacier Trail" to switch things up and see something different. 
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
From this point, you can actually see the parking lot and dirt road below.

There were a few pros/cons to this Old route:
PROS - amazing views, 1.5 miles shorter, feels more direct, and less chance of running into a bear
CONS - no water, shade, or campsites for 7 miles, and is typically only for equestrian and outfitter use, except during late summer and early Autumn months while the creek crossing is safe (so basically don't use this route June, July, and early August).

I would only do this route going back down to the car, not up, which is what we did. 
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
Finally, 7 miles after leaving Double Lake, we reached out first switchback down. Great views of Whiskey Mountain to the right!
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
We hiked through about two small sections of forested area, but overall this route is very exposed.
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
Finally, we reached Torrey Creek. 
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
In early September the water was knee deep. I could see how earlier in the year it would probably be closer to hip deep and dangerous, which is why it's advised to not use this route during or after spring melt, and even into Mid-summer. But it sure felt super refreshing to end our hike in water!
Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers
Whew, what a long haul out! We parked in the main TH parking lot, so we just had to walk another 0.2 miles to the car. So tired and ready to be done!



Our route for this trip



Backpacking to the Cirque of the Towers, Wind Rivers


Backpacking to Ttitcomb Basin, Wind Rivers

Mt.Hooker Wind Rivers
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Backpacking to the Dinwoody Lakes, Wind Rivers, Backpacking the Glacier Trail Wind Rivers