• Activities:

    Fishing, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking, Rock Climbing

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:


  • RT Distance:

    7 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    1400 Feet

Dog Friendly

Take in outstanding mountain scenery on this easy climb of East Temple Peak and an amazing view.

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 adventures in the Winds can be as long as a couple weeks, but this excursion takes you to brilliant Deep Lake, up the surprisingly accessible East Temple Peak (12,620’), and back in either two nights (relaxed pace), one night (reasonably doable), or a single day (trail warrior!). The hike from Big Sandy Opening to Deep Lake is 7 miles one-way with an elevation gain of 1400’.

Getting there:

The easiest route to Big Sandy Opening begins in Boulder, a small town about 12 miles south of Pinedale and 88 miles north of Rock Springs. Take WY 353 east from Boulder. The pavement ends after 18 miles, and after another 0.7 mi, bear left at an obvious junction. After another 2.9 mi, bear right at a smaller junction, and after another 5.8 mi, bear left where a sign to Big Sandy points the way. After another 7.5 miles, turn left onto Big Sandy Road, and continue another 10.5 miles to the trailhead. The road is passable even to 2WD, low-clearance passenger cars, though the washboards can rattle your teeth right out of your head. There also is a campground at the trailhead, making for a nice place to stay a night to get acclimated to the elevation of 9080’. Be aware, though, that Big Sandy Opening is one of the two most popular and busiest trailheads in the Wind River Range, so a camping spot may be hard to find, especially on summer weekends and around summer holidays.

Things to know:
  • No permits, fees, or reservations are required. Just park, pack, and go!
  • After a trail mile or so, you will enter the Bridger Wilderness. Please do all you can to minimize your impact on the wilderness for the sakes of those who come after you and the wildlife who call it home.
  • Dogs are allowed on the trails. I’ve taken mine with me on most of my trips to the Winds, and they have always had a great time.
  • Mosquitoes in the Wind River Range can turn your trip into a nightmare if you aren’t prepared. High-test bug juice and a headnet will keep them at bay.
  • This area has lots of different routes, so a good map is handy. For the non-GPS traditionalist, check out the South Wind River Range Hiking Guide and Map by Earthwalk Press.
  • Black bears are common, especially around Big Sandy Lake. The trees around Deep Lake are fairly short and not great for hanging food; consider taking a bear canister instead. While you aren’t likely to see a grizzly bear this far south in the Winds, it’s not impossible; consider carrying bear spray just in case.
  • Moose also can be seen frequently throughout this area.
The adventure:

The trail climbs steadily but with a gentle grade alongside the Big Sandy River for 5.2 miles to Big Sandy Lake (9690’). Soon after leaving the trailhead, stay to the right at a junction where the Diamond Lake Trail heads to the left. There’s plenty of spots to stop in the shade along the way in case it’s a warm, sunny day. Big Sandy Lake is a popular day-hiking and fishing destination, so you aren’t likely to find much solitude there. There are, though, lots of good camping spots to be found if you need to make your first day a bit shorter. Head around the near side of the lake to its north end and go past the signed junction for Jackass Pass, which leads to Cirque of the Towers. (You can find a description of that adventure on my profile page as well.) Cross two creeks (North and Black Joe), then keep to the right on the trail heading toward Clear Lake and Deep Lake; the left path goes instead to Black Joe Lake. The trail climbs more steeply for about a quarter mile before leveling near Clear Lake after another half mile. After walking along Clear Lake’s north shore and crossing its inlet, you’ll climb above treeline to the outlet of Deep Lake (10,502’). Decent campsites can be found on the northeast side of the lake. If it’s shelter you’re looking for, you won’t find it here; you’ll need to drop back to treeline, where there are great campsites near Deep Lake’s outlet stream. At Deep Lake, you’ll have awe-inspiring views of Temple Peak (12,972’), East Temple Peak (12,620’), and Haystack Mountain (11,978’). Temple, Haystack, and Lost Temple Spire all have multiple, well-known routes for the big-wall climber.

To reach the summit of East Temple Peak, continue along the west side of Deep Lake for about two miles to a high point overlooking Temple Lake. One route goes down to the lake and back up to Temple Pass, while another route stays high and traverses a boulder field before leading to the pass at about 11,500’. From the pass, head northeast and up the slope through Class 2 terrain to the ridge, and follow the ridge to the summit of East Temple, where the gradual slope you just climbed gives way to a sheer drop and utterly spectacular views especially to the northwest, where you can see the Cirque of the Towers. The views straight down are nothing short of breathtaking. After basking in the glory of reaching the summit, you can head back to Deep Lake the way you came, or take any number of good alternate routes. Once your stay at Deep Lake, whether two nights, two hours, or two minutes, comes to an end, head back to Big Sandy Opening the way you came. As you’re leaving Deep Lake, be sure to direct your gaze to the northwest, where you get great, distant views of the Cirque of the Towers. Plotting your next adventure, perhaps to the Cirque, makes the mileage out much better!

Once you reach Big Sandy Opening, head back to Pinedale to Wind River Brewing Company for a cold one (or three) and some good food that wasn’t freeze-dried.

Pack List

Day hiking:
  • Daypack
  • Water filter
  • Snacks
  • Rain jacket
  • Bug juice
  • Tent
  • Sleeping pad and bag
  • Water filter
  • Stove
  • Rain jacket
  • Bug juice/headnet
  • Bear spray
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