Hike to the Wind River Range Base Camp at Island Lake and Titcomb Basin

Elkhart Park Trailhead, Pinedale, Wyoming, United States

+ Add Photos

See All Photos

Hike to the Wind River Range Base Camp at Island Lake and Titcomb Basin

Elkhart Park Trailhead, Pinedale, Wyoming, United States

  • Activities:

    Photography, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Summer

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    11.7 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    3000 Feet

Lake
Scenic

Backpack the most rugged wilderness in the continental U.S.The first day's 11.7-mile trek is the toughest, so remember to pack light. Set up base-camp at Island Lake to lighten your pack for more exploring for the next few days.

Wyoming’s Wind River Range is home to some of the most rugged wilderness in the lower 48 states. Hundreds of miles of hiking trails promise adventure for all ability levels, and opportunities abound for late-season skiing, climbing, photography, and relaxing far from the beaten path.

Backpacking to a base-camp location is a great way to explore lots of terrain without having to carry a heavy pack every day. Island Lake, 11.7 miles from the Elkhart Park trailhead, is a terrific place to set up a base camp for exploring nearby Titcomb Basin, one of the premier climbing areas of the Winds, and Indian Basin. A word of caution, though: While 11.7 miles is generally in the moderate to high range for distance in a day, most of those miles on this trip are at an elevation of just over 10,000’. Good fitness and relatively light backpacking gear will make this first day, by far the toughest day of the trip, less grueling.

The Elkhart Park trailhead is only 15 miles from Pinedale, Wyoming, where there are a number of inexpensive hotels and restaurants for the prelude to your trip. The trail begins at 9350’ and climbs steadily past a number of small lakes (Miller, Eklund, Barbara, Hobbs) before descending and ascending sharply near Seneca Lake about 8.5 miles in. At about 10.4 miles, our route takes the Highline Trail past Little Seneca Lake to Island Lake at about 10,350’, where there are good camping spots, including some among trees. Fremont Peak (13,754’) and Jackson Peak (13,517’) tower over the lake to the northeast, while a waterfall where Kit Carson once camped drops directly into the lake in front of you. The mosquitoes in the Wind River Range can be horrendous especially in camp, so be prepared with long sleeves and pants, bug juice, and a headnet. (Or go with someone like me, a magnet for every mosquito within a 20-mile radius.)

After the hard work of getting to Island Lake is done, refuel in camp with a tasty backpacking meal (after all, marginally good food at home tastes like heaven in camp after many miles at elevation) and a sip or two of your favorite whiskey. For the next couple of days, there are at least two outstanding day-hike destinations: Titcomb Basin and Indian Basin. From Island Lake, the trail to the head of Upper Titcomb Lake is only 4 miles (one-way) with a climb of about 250’, and along the way, you can see Wyoming’s highest point, Gannett Peak (13,809’). The Titcomb lakes are surrounded by spectacular walls, peaks, and spires, providing opportunities for mountaineering or just an incredible backdrop for a laid-back lunch. To get there, head north on the trail from Island Lake to a signed junction after about 1 mile, and take the left fork. The right fork leads in about another mile to Indian Basin (11,000’), an alpine basin above tree line dotted with a number of small lakes and directly beneath Fremont and Jackson Peaks. For added adventure and more outstanding views, continue along the trail to Indian Pass (12,120’), or make the climb to the summit of Fremont or Jackson. After returning to your Island Lake base camp, spend an evening relaxing and watching the sun rake across Fremont Peak before retracing the path the next day to Elkhart Park.

Afterward, head back to Pinedale for a tasty brew and some non-backcountry fare at Wind River Brewing Company.

Pack List

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Pack
  • Camera
  • Backcountry essentials
  • Mosquito repellent!
Read More

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

Community Photos

+ Add Photos

Reviews

Overall rating: 

Leave a Review

I did this trip Labor Day weekend and it was fantastic! It's definitely a long 11 miles to Island Lake, but it's definitely worth it. You can make your trip in/out shorter by camping at Seneca Lake, but Island Lake definitely has better camping if you can make it.

6 months ago
6 months ago

I've backpacked to Titcomb Basin twice in the last four years it is that amazing! I had to show more friends and see it again. Great day trip is to Summer Ice Lake far up Titcomb Basin. Really a very mystical place so remote. Felt other worldly both times. I always go to the Winds in mid to late September. No bugs and fewer people. Colder temps but love that too. Go here if you can!

7 months ago
7 months ago

Planning a trip in September. Does anyone know if campfires are permitted at Island Lake?

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Is this a hike someone could visit to and return in a day?

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

I didn't see a place to ask question so I'm trying this. Heading there in Sept and wanted to know if anyone has any great camping spots (gps) for Island lake and the Cooks Lakes.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

This area is such an incredible location with a rich diversity of photographic opportunities. I wish I had spent a week there instead of a few days so I could really stretch my legs and capture all the scenes I wanted. Tarns, Lakes, Waterfalls, Alpine Basins, etc. I will say it got pretty busy towards the end on a 4th of July Weekend but if you search you can still find plenty of solitude.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Just did this hike and it was stunning. And the high elevations did make the uphill hike take a bit longer than usual. Our group climbed Fremont, there's not much of a trail and it is very steep and again, with the high elevation, our ascent was very slow, plan on at least 4-5 hours to reach the peak if you're starting from Island lake.

over 2 years ago
over 2 years ago

This looks epic!

almost 3 years ago
almost 3 years ago

Are we missing something? Suggest an edit

Nearby Adventures

Hike the Sugar Bowl Loop in Kings Canyon NP

Tulare County, California

First and foremost, to get to this trailhead you need to drive down a 2-mile, one lane dirt road that is quite steep.

6 Saves

Hike to Ehukai Pillbox

59178 Ke Nui Road, Hawaii

This hike starts directly across from Banzai Pipeline, the famous barreling wave at Ehukai Beach.

7 Saves

Winter Hike to Calypso Cascades

1046 County Highway 115, Colorado

While most people go snowshoeing near the Bear Lake or Glacier Gorge area in RMNP, Wild Basin is a much less trafficked option.

5 Saves