23.6 miles/37.9km (one way)
6 days (round trip)
Trail Lake Trailhead (near Dubois, Wyoming)
Type of Trail
Out and Back
Best time to Go
July, August, September
About the Glacier Trail
The Glacier Trail is a backpacking route that traverses some of the most stunning terrain in Wyoming’s Wind River Range. Often used as the main approach to Gannet Peak - the tallest mountain in the state - the Glacier Trail also offers an excellent wilderness experience for well-seasoned hikers.
Due to snow conditions, hiking the Glacier Trail is usually best done between the end of June and the end of August. However, in years with particularly high snowpack, the trail can be covered with snow until mid- to late-July.
But, the Glacier Trail is a fantastic option for experienced hikers that want to experience the beauty of the Wind River Range first hand. It also offers excellent opportunities for access to some of the range’s other amazing peaks, passes, basins, and meadows.
What to Expect When Hiking the Glacier Trail
The Glacier Trail is considered the standard approach to Gannett Peak, which is the tallest mountain in Wyoming at 13,804ft (4207m). While you can also approach Gannet via Titcomb Basin to the west, the Glacier Trail provides a slightly shorter summit day for mountaineers.
For backpackers, though, the Glacier Trail offers a chance to see some of Wyoming’s last remaining glaciers and some truly spectacular scenery. At 23.6 miles/37.9km (one-way), most experienced hikers can complete the Glacier Trail in just four to six days.
But, the trail offers a plethora of different camping areas, so you can easily turn it into a longer backpacking adventure if you aren’t interested in 9-mile (14.5km) days.
This is particularly true if you like to fly fish, as the Glacier Trail’s many lakes, rivers, and streams offer excellent access to the region’s stocks of brook, cutthroat, and rainbow trout.
So, we’ll provide you with a day-by-day guide of my six-day hike on the Glacier Trail. However, since this is an out-and-back trail, we’ll only give you information for the first three days. From there, you can choose to return via the same route or head out on a bit of a backcountry adventure.
Additionally, we’ll point out some good places to stop and rest along the way if you’re interested in shorter hiking days. There are good campsites nearly every few miles, so you have plenty of options along the Glacier Trail.
The final thing to note about the Glacier Trail is that, like all trails in the Wind River Range, it tends to disappear. In the Winds, you can be walking down a huge, well-trodden trail only to have it completely disappear in a meadow.
Therefore, I highly recommend that anyone that’s planning to hike the Glacier Trail be very competent in off-trail navigation. Hiking the Glacier Trail involves a lot of off-trail travel, plenty of river crossings, and traversing some snow-covered slopes.
Anyone venturing into the backcountry of the Winds should be fully self-sufficient and confident in their backcountry skills,
How to Hike the Glacier Trail
Day 1 - Trail Lake Trailhead to Burro Flat
- Total Distance: 9.02 mi (14.52km)
- Total Elevation Gain: 3,579 feet (1,090m)
- Total Elevation Loss: 681 feet (207m)
The Glacier Trail starts at the end of Whiskey Basin/Trail Lake Road, just past the Trail Lake Ranch parking area. At the trailhead, there is a composting toilet, parking lot, and some well-used campsites. So, if you’re driving in from far away, you can comfortably camp at the trailhead and set off the next morning.
Once you get to the trailhead, you’ll start heading down the Glacier Trail. After about 0.5 miles (0.8km), the Whiskey Mountain Trail splits off to the right, and the Glacier Trail continues onward. You’ll then immediately start gaining elevation and will soon cross a large bridge that spans the gorge over Torrey Creek.
Soon, you’ll pass by an open area near Torrey Creek, which makes for a good campsite if you’re looking for a short first day. If you choose to continue onward, you’ll then climb up a series of about 30 switchbacks.
At the top of the switchbacks, you’ll find yourself in a large open plateau to the west of Arrow Mountain. Once on the plateau, you get a small break from the steep switchbacks as you walk through a lovely alpine meadow. But, you’ll slowly gain elevation as you make your way to Arrow Pass at 10,895 feet (3,320m).
Although the traverse of this plateau isn’t particularly long or arduous, since it is relatively flat without many landmarks, it can feel quite mentally draining. This is especially true if you’re not used to hiking in the Winds or at higher elevations.
Once on the top of Arrow Pass, it’s worth taking a short break to enjoy your first major climb of the trail. After you recuperate, you’ll descend downward toward Burro Flat.
This area is quite buggy (like everywhere else in the Winds), but it’s a nice, flat area to set up camp for the night. There are some good campsites on both sides of the creek, but if you camp on the west side of the trail, you’ll be closer to water for the night.
Day 2 - Burro Flat to Dinwoody Camp
- Total Distance: 8.93mi (14.37km)
- Total Elevation Gain: 1,534 feet (467m)
- Total Elevation Loss: 2,432 feet (741m)
If you camped at Burro Flat for the night, you’ll spend the first part of the morning walking downhill. From Burrow Flat, you’ll hike just over 2 miles (3.2km) to Double Lake, where there are also some good campsites and some decent fishing opportunities.
Once you pass Double Lake, you’ll experience some rolling terrain as you walk past Star Lake. After leaving Star Lake, you’ll make your way downhill again as you walk past the stunning Honeymoon Lake. The trail doesn’t take you past the shores of Honeymoon Lake. Still, it’s not too far away if you’re interested in some afternoon swimming opportunities.
The trail continues descending until you reach the confluence of Honeymoon Creek and Downs Fork Creek. Here, there’s technically a trail junction, but you’ll likely lose the path as you walk over some large slabs of rock.
So long as you keep walking south, you’ll eventually pick up the trail before potentially losing it again in Downs Fork Meadow. There are a whole lot of downed trees around Downs Fork Meadow. Additionally, in high snow years, you can easily lose the trail when the creek floods.
You’ll want to take care with your navigation here, being sure to carefully cross any creeks and head down the correct drainage. At the south end of the meadow, you’ll need to walk toward the east to pick up the trail along Dinwoody Creek to stay on the right track.
After you find Dinwoody Creek, you’ll continue along the trail until you arrive in the scenic Big Meadows, which has excellent views of Horse Ridge to the east. The trail disappears and meanders, but if you stay along the western edge of Big Meadow, it’s not too difficult to pick up again.
Soon enough, you’ll leave Big Meadow behind and come across a bridge that spans Dinwoody Creek. If you cross the bridge, you’ll come across a privately-owned hunting camp.
After crossing the bridge, you can walk south for a few hundred yards and find a nice spot to set up camp for the night. The owners of the hunting camp are generally quite friendly, though don’t be startled when they let their horses out to graze for the night!
Day 3 - Dinwoody Camp to Glacier Camp
- Total Distance: 5.65mi (9.01km)
- Total Elevation Gain: 1,618 feet (493m)
- Total Elevation Loss: 435 feet (132m)
After packing up camp on your third morning on the trail, you’ll head back across the bridge to meet up with the Glacier Trail. For the next few miles, the trail slowly gains elevation as you follow Dinwoody Creek to its source near Gannett Peak.
It’s easy to lose the trail on this section, particularly in high snowpack years, when the creek is quite full. You’ll need to ford quite a few sizable creeks, so be sure that you take the proper precautions and cross with care. The crossing of Gannet Creek can be particularly challenging, so don’t rush yourself.
Once you pass through Wilson Meadows, you’ll start the final climb of the trail. Again, the trail is easy to lose here, but so long as you head southward along the river, you’ll find your way. Eventually, the whitebark pine forest opens up to reveal a stunning alpine landscape dotted with boulders and the occasional feisty marmot.
The trail fades away as you hike, and by 11,000 feet (3,352m), it’s gone altogether. There are plenty of small campsites just off the trail to pitch your tent. So it’s just a matter of finding a flat enough rock-free spot to sleep for the night.
But, once you get to the end of the trail, you can look up and marvel at Gannett Peak and the many glaciers that cascade down its eastern slopes. If you’re lucky, you might also see some climbers making their ascent along the southern ridge of the mountain.
Highlights of the Glacier Trail
The Glacier Trail traverses one of the most beautiful sections of the Wind River Range. There are plenty of amazing things to see along the way, but some of the highlights include:
- Stunning mountain scenery
- Large alpine meadows
- Lots of wildflowers (particularly in July/August)
- Wildlife (including grizzly bears)
- Glistening alpine lakes
- Fly fishing opportunities
If you’re a keen birder, it’s also a good idea to bring along a pair of binoculars. There are some amazing bird species in the Winds that you can see on the trail.
In particular, you can look out for Clark’s nutcracker, whose symbiotic relationship with the whitebark pine is critical for the tree species’ survival.
Glacier Trail Alternative Hiking Options
At this point, you’ve made it to the end of the trail. Congrats!
If you’re only interested in the out-and-back hike, you’ll head back down the Glacier Trail to your car. Alternatively, if you’re looking for an adventure, you can head up and over Blaurock Pass - the highest pass in the Wind River Range at over 12,700 feet (3,870m).
There’s no trail leading over the pass, which is quite steep toward the top. But if you can manage to get to the top, you’ll get some excellent views of Gannet and the rest of the Winds. Additionally, the south side of the pass also has some tricky talus fields, so take care as you hike.
If you choose to travel further south into the Fitzpatrick Wilderness, you can traverse the Wind River Range and hike toward Angel Pass and the Continental Divide. The options are truly limitless in the Winds if you’re looking for a true expedition-style adventure.
What to Pack to Hike the Glacier Trail
Packing for a trip into the mountains can be tricky. To help you figure out what you might want to pack, check this list of gear we used for the Glacier Trail.
Packing List for the Glacier Trail
What We Used
Stove & Fuel
Clothes & Footwear
Patagonia R1 Hoody
Patagonia Nano Air Hoody
Fly Free Bamboo Weekender Hoody
Bug head net
Other Gear and Accessories
First aid kit
Note: The one “nonessential” item that we strongly suggest you pack is a mosquito bug net. The mosquitos of the Wind River Range are notorious, so don’t leave home without some bug spray and a head net.
To help choose the right gear, check out our other guides:
Difficulty Level of the Glacier Trail
As we’ve mentioned, the Glacier Trail is best for experienced hikers. The trail tends to disappear quite frequently, and it requires quite a few large river crossings.
Anyone looking to hike in the Wind River Range should be fully confident in their off-trail navigation skills.
Additionally, while the trail isn’t very long, it does involve quite a bit of elevation gain. Thus, a solid cardiovascular base is a must-have if you’re looking to complete the whole hike in 6 days or less.
The Glacier Trail is a truly fantastic way to experience the high alpine splendor of the Wind River Range. This expert-level hike is perfect for anyone looking to see some jagged peaks, beautiful wildflowers, and some of Wyoming’s last remaining glaciers.
Plus, the Glacier Trail is a great access point for some of the most remote sections of the Winds. When you hike the Glacier Trail, you can dive deeper into the backcountry of the Wind River Range for a true Rocky Mountain expedition experience.
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