The Darby Canyon Wind Caves are located near Alta, WY, within the Jedediah Smith Wilderness (“the backside” of the Tetons). This is a very popular trail, so don’t expect to have any solitude – you’ll constantly be pulling over to let others pass, even horses, and the parking lot is full by 10am on weekends. But don’t let that stop you from visiting at least once! The Wind Caves are a really cool, local geological feature called the “Darby Formation” – a thick layer of 350 year old dolomite. Don’t forget that this is still bear territory – even though this is a heavily used trail, always carry bear spray. The best time to visit is when the snow is gone so you can actually hike up into the cave, typically late June through September. Dogs are also allowed off leash, and older kids will enjoy this gradual trail.
From Victor, ID head North on HWY 33 for about 5.3 miles, and then turn right at the brown sign for Darby Canyon. Drive 3.2 miles to the “T”, and turn right again. Drive another 4.3 miles following the signs, until you reach the giant parking lot. The driving is slow along the dirt road – driving time from Victor to the TH was about 30 minutes. Here’s a driving map.
Distance: 6 miles RT
Elevation gain: 1,900 ft
Time: 3-5 hours
Dog friendly? Yes, off leash
Kid friendly? Yes, all ages
Ready to go! My friends Julie, Denise and her 14 year old son, Lucas, plus their pups joined me on this hike.
Within 10 minutes of hiking cross the bridge. We let the dogs take a dip before continuing on.
Beware that horses regularly use this trail.
Wow, what a beautiful day! Signs of Fall were starting to appear, and the temperatures were in the 60s.
As you continue higher you’ll pass several open meadows. Roughly halfway you can actually see the Wind Caves from a distance.
At 2.5 miles the trail turns tightly to the right, and you will walk through well-shaded trees. Such a nice relief from the sun.
Pass this old stone structure, keep right. The last 1/3 mile turns into steep switchbacks starting here.
But first, a waterfall! You can barely see it flowing here, but it was nice to have another cool spot for the dogs to drink from.
Turn left, and you’ll now hike up even steeper terrain, this time with rock stairs.
Wow, Fall is on the way! I can’t wait to explore more of this area….Fossil Mountain in the distance sure looks inviting!
Ah ha! Wind Caves here we come.
Wow so cool! Charlie hiked up to get inside the wind cave. You can keep going further until you reach a 3 foot hole that you have to crawl through. I wasn’t up for that lol! Surprisingly the wind cave was very cold and, of course, windy! I tried to eat my lunch in here but my hands froze!
For perspective, I look pretty small here! I would guess that the height of the entrance is roughly 100 ft! When water levels are low its very easy and safe to hike up into the cave. However, with strong spring run off I would avoid it earlier in summer.
What a great hike! Everyone really enjoyed this hike, and we had great weather with little smoke/haze.