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700 Miles Around Wyoming's
Wildest Range
by David Howard

"A savage sublimity of naked rock" was how explorer John C. Frémont friskily described Wyoming's Wind River Range in 1842. Apt, but incomplete: Beneath the toothy peaks of the Winds are vast tundra flats, tiny turquoise lakes, and dozens of glaciers. Early July is prime time for an action-rich, range-circling road trip: You'll arrive after the last snowstorms, before the August busy season, and just in time to see the wildflowers bloom.

Day One
The closest airport is in Riverton, but fares to Cody are generally cheaper. Run any last-minute gear errands at Sierra Trading Post (307-578-5802; www.sierratradingpost.com) in Cody, then drive south to Sinks Canyon State Park. With hundreds of routes up limestone, sandstone, and granite, the park draws world-class climbers such as Todd Skinner; novices can enlist help from Jackson Hole Mountain Guides ($90; 800-239-7642; www.jhmg.com). Lander's Bunk House Bed and Breakfast has views of the Popo Agie River ($85; 800-582-5262).

Day Two
Scanning for antelope in the high plains, drive clockwise around the Winds (via Farson and Pinedale), then north into their heart on State Road 352. From Green River Lakes Campground, trace a favorite route of local hiking guru and guidebook author Ron Adkison: the six miles past a pair of waterfalls to translucent-blue Slide Lake, hemmed in by the walls of Flat Top Mountain and Lost Eagle Peak. "It's easy to reach and rarely crowded," Adkison says. Camping is free.

Day Three
Drive up and over the Continental Divide on gravelly Union Pass Road, then rejoin the blacktop near Dubois. As you cruise southeast, look right to see Frémont's "gigantic disorder of enormous masses," including glacier-draped Gannett Peak.

In Thermopolis, the waters of Hot Springs State Park fill the Plaza Hotel's outdoor pool ($99; 888-919-9009; www.bestofwyoming.com).

Day Four
Just south of Thermopolis, a seldom paddled, sometimes turbulent stretch of the Wind River squeezes through an ancient, 2,000-foot (607 meter) deep canyon. The only outfitter working it is Shoshone Indian-run Wind River Canyon Whitewater (888-246-9343; www.windrivercanyonraft.com). An all-day trip ($75) includes Class III and IV rapids and a ten-foot drop down Washakie Falls, but there's plenty of quiet water, too, and a midday barbecue. Not savage—but approaching sublime.

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Map: Wind River Range, Wyoming
Map by Steve Turner
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June/July 2003



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