Backpack the Pole Creek Trail, Wind River Range

18 miles 2687 ft gain  - Out-and-Back Trail

Added by Jackson Smith

The Pole Creek Trail is an amazing backpacking trail for those starting out on their first long distance backpacking trip. A 4-day trek that includes breath taking alpine lakes, amazing fly fishing, and night stars second to none.

Backpacking in the Wind River Range Requires a permit, so make sure you go through the process of getting that before you set out on this adventure.

Getting to the trailhead from the town of Pinedale, WY, you drive to the east side of town and turn left onto Fremont Lake Rd. Then keep left along Skyline Dr and follow this road until you reach the Elkhart parking lot (right side of the road just before Trails End Campground.) The Elkhart parking lot is a large parking lot where you can park for free for multiple days. 

The Pole Creek Trail starts at the northeast corner of the parking lot. This is the start of your Wind River journey.

Day 1: 

It's about 6 miles from the trailhead to Mary's Lake. Begin hiking from the Elkhart parking lot with Mary's Lake as your destination. Follow the trail signs that lead you to Eklund Lake; and once you arrive at Eklund Lake, keep right and head east towards Mary's Lake. Once you arrive at Mary's Lake, wander around the lake and find a camping spot that is at least 200 feet from the trail and 200 feet from any water source. 

Day 2: 

From Mary's Lake to Pole Creek Lake is about 3 miles. This trip is mostly all downhill so it's a very easy hike coming in. You will reach a fork in the trail just before you reach Pole Creek that takes you either up to Cook Lakes or down to Chain Lake; take the Chain Lake trail and you'll soon reach Pole Creek. Here you can actually cross Pole Creek and camp on the other side, but the creek can be high depending on the spring runoff and may not be crossable and you will have to camp on that side of the creek.

Pole Creek also offers amazing fly fishing. I definitely recommend buying a Wyoming Fishing License and bringing along the rod. Pole Creek Lake also has some huge Lake Trout in it.

Day 3: 

You have some options on the return journey, you can either take the exact same trail back the way you came and find other places to camp, or you can branch down into the Sweeney Lakes and explore some more of the range. Getting a Wind River Range Map is highly recommended, and with this you can find your way around the trails and find some other trails you can take day hikes on or other places you can backpack to. 

Day 4:

You are now on the return journey home! Make sure that you take the right trails back and don't get lost or take a wrong turn.  

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Correction to directions

Once on Fremont Lake Rd, drive straight on through. The road name changes to Skyline Drive when you cross over the border of the Bridger Teton National Forest. :). Same road , 2 names. Enjoy!!

Backpacking the WRR

I backpacked this trail (or close to it) in 2016 and it was amazing. A year or two before my trip there had been a forest fire in the area, so a solid part of my trip was wandering through the destructive beauty that the fire had created. But, besides that the Wind River Range is full of dense bush that lead into small, lush fields, providing a little bit of everything for your adventuring heart. All in all, it was an amazing experience and I highly recommend it for intermediate backpackers. Note: I say intermediate because the trail was hard to follow at some points, and I ended up having to bush-wack for a day or two to find the trail again LOL.

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