Backpacking Titcomb Basin—It Should Be On Your Bucket List
Dreaming of pitching your tent someplace life-list worthy before summer's over? With a view of a clear, high-alpine lake, surrounded by sheer rock faces? Maybe a carpet of wildflowers spreading from outside the tent door? If you’re up for a solid hike in, then put a trip to Titcomb Basin on your calendar.
Titcomb Basin lies in Wyoming’s Wind River Range, in between Jackson and the Wind River Researvation. The range is home to Wyoming’s tallest peak, Gannett, as well as a lifetime’s worth of sheer granite peaks. But you don’t need technical climbing experience to get into the Winds’ spectacular campsites—you just need a little time. The hike in to Titcomb Basin, depending on where you set up camp, is somewhere between 12 and 15 miles, with a solid 3,400 feet of elevation gain. So the views don’t come easy.
I could go on and on about the snow-patched peaks, the lakes, and the little creeks between them all, but I’d be happier if you took my word that this is one of the more wild-feeling places you can access via trail. Whether you like to scramble ridgelines, cast for high-altitude trout, or just take a leap into an alpine lake, Titcomb Basin is the place to go. July through September is the best time. Here’s the beta.
Go via Pinedale.
On our way in and out of the Winds, we stopped in at Pinedale, where we sorted our gear at Boyd Skinner Park, and enjoyed our back-to-civilization-celebration burgers at the Wind River Brewery. Also worth visiting: Mexican food at Patio Grill. If you’ve got a little time to kill, check out the Museum of the Mountain Man for exhibits about early European explorers—like Jim Bridger himself.
Head to the Elkhart Park Trailhead. From Pinedale, take Fremont Lake Road east, past the Pinedale Ranger District Office, about 16 miles. There is a campground along the way, in case you want to spend the night and get a bright-and-early start the next day.
Pack a map and know how to read it. The route to Titcomb is relatively straightforward, but if you have any sense of exploration, you’ll definitely want a map and compass or GPS. Taking a wrong turn along the way could have big consequences. And there are so many spots worth exploring along the way, you’ll want to make sure you know how to get back to where you came from.
Don’t forget the bears.
Pack your bear canister; you’re walking through the land of big bears who might be even more interested in your lunch than you are. And, if you’re inclined, it’s not a bad idea to pack spray, too. You’ll be camping above tree line, but proper food storage is required.
Be prepared for mosquitoes.
You might be one of the lucky ones who time your trip just right to miss the swarms. But the Winds are legendary for their itchy biting bugs. Don’t gamble—pack your DEET and/or your bug nets.
Keep in mind: if we don’t all practice Leave No Trace, Titcomb will not survive as we know it.
Titcomb Basin feels wild. The water rushing from the snow fields above are clear and painfully cold—and you might feel like you’re the first person to dip your toe in. Let’s keep it that way. The area is surprisingly highly trafficked, and it’s only through thoughtful use and following Leave No Trace Principles that the area has remained as untouched-feeling as it has. So, please, be sure to dispose of waste properly. Camp at least 200 feet away from any body of water—yes, I know, there’s lots of water up there!—but that’s the Forest Service rule. Do your best to set up camp on either an already developed spot or on rock, for the least amount of impact. And leave the campfires for the campground down low; they’re illegal up here.
Plan an extra day if you can.
You can backpack in and out via the Elkhart Trailhead and Pole Creek Trail in two days. It’s a pretty simple out-and-back. But … why would you do that if you don’t have to? If you’re making the effort to drive all the way here, you might as well ask for another day or two off work—you won’t regret it. So many peaks and lakes just beg to be explored up here. This is definitely a life-list backpacking trip.
OR Gear Picks For Backpacking Titcomb Basin