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The Jim Bridger Wilderness. US Forest Service photo, Bridger-Teton National Forest

Jim Bridger

Bridger-Teton National Forest

Gannett Peak. US Forest Service photo, Bridger-Teton National Forest

Left: Slide Lake
Above: Gannett Peak
USFS photos - Bridger-Teton National Forest

Wind River Mountains

Bridger Wilderness
Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wind River Mountain Range

Editor’s Note, July 15, 2021: After the strong wind storm in September 2020, many trails in the Wind River Mountains are still nearly impassable due to large blown down trees. Visitors are strongly advised to check with the Bridger-Teton National Forest Pinedale Ranger District (307-367-4326) for their route before venturing into the backcountry. The Great Outdoor Shop in Pinedale has a current condition blog on their website that also has additional information,


Bridger Wilderness At-a-Glance

Size: 428,169 acres
Location: Western half of Wind River Mountains and Continental Divide, Wyoming
Adjacent Wilderness: Fitzpatrick Wilderness, Popo Agie Wilderness and the Wind River Indian Reservation lie directly east of the Bridger Wilderness.
Designation: Primitive Area in 1931, Wilderness in 1964, Enlarged Wilderness 1984
Highlights: 48 summits higher than 12,500 feet, Gannett Peak-Wyoming's highest, 7 of the largest glaciers in the Rocky Mountains, 2,900 lakes and ponds, hundreds of miles of hiking trails, 14 trailhead access points
Managing Agency: U.S. Forest Service, Bridger-Teton National Forest, Pinedale Ranger District, Pinedale, Wyoming, 307-367-4326.

About the Bridger Wilderness
Wilderness and You
Required Registration & Permits
Wilderness Regulations
Wilderness Safety
Allowed Uses

About the Bridger Wilderness

The 428,169-acre Bridger Wilderness is located along the Continental Divide on the west slope of the Wind River Range in Wyoming. It was designated a Primitive Area under Department of Agriculture Regulations in 1931, and later made part of the National Wilderness Preservation System with passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964. In 1984, its original 392,169 acres were increased by 36,000 acres when the Wyoming Wilderness Act was signed into law. The Bridger Wilderness is administered by the Pinedale Ranger District of the Bridger-Teton National Forest.

Motorized vehicles and mechanized equipment, including snowmobiles, bicycles, hang gliders and chainsaws, are prohibited within the Bridger Wilderness.

Wilderness, as defined by the Wilderness Act of 1964, is an area of undeveloped federally owned land, designated by Congress, that has the following characteristics:

  • It is affected primarily by the forces of nature, where man is a visitor who does not remain. It may contain ecological, geological or other features of scientific, educational, scenic or historic value.
  • It possesses outstanding opportunities for solitude and a primitive or unconfined type of recreation.
  • It is an area large enough so that continued use will not change its unspoiled, natural condition.
  • It provides the opportunity for (and often requires) self-reliance and challenge.

The intricately faulted Wind River Range is dominated by an igneous and metamorphic core. Enormous compressional forces in the earth thrust the block of granite into the air. The glaciation and erosion that followed carved the range, leaving 13,804 foot Gannet Peak the highest mountain in the Wilderness and in Wyoming.

Glacial action left cirques, kettles, U-shaped valleys, hanging troughs, 1,300 lakes, and left "erratics", boulders strewn about the lowlands. The sedimentary rocks that once overlay the granitic core of the range have been stripped from the mountains by erosion. Remnants of the sedimentary rocks remain near Green River Lakes.

The Wind River Mountain Range has seven of the ten largest glaciers remaining in the contiguous United States. The Green River originates in the Bridger Wilderness. The Green River joins the Colorado after 1,500 miles and empties into the Gulf of California. The Green River drains most of the west side of the Wind River Range. The Sweetwater River drains the southern end of the range and flows into the Platte River and ultimately the Gulf of Mexico.

US Highway 191, the major highway between Rock Springs and Jackson, Wyoming, lies west of the Wind River Range. Trailheads are reached via roads which are clearly signed at intersections with Highway 191. Both Jackson and Rock Springs have commercial air and bus lines. Pinedale has a paved, non-commercial public airstrip located about 6 miles south of town. Shuttle services between Jackson and Rock Springs, and trailheads, are available from local private businesses.

There are over 600 miles of trails in the Bridger Wilderness. Most well-used trails are cleared early in the season, but fallen trees may be encountered on secondary trails. Winter snows generally do not leave the high passes and highest trails until mid-July. Stream flows are high and swift during snowmelt runoff in June and July, and some stream crossings can be hazardous. Check at the Pinedale Ranger Station Office, or call them at 307-367-4326, before beginning your Wilderness trip. Books with detailed trail descriptions are available at local sporting good stores and bookstores.

The weather is usually warm and sunny during the day from June through September, with afternoon thunderstorms being common. Night temperatures may be as low as 25 degrees Fahrenheit. Sudden rain and occasional snow flurries may occur at ANY TIME. During lightning storms it is best to avoid open areas such as meadows, ridges, lone trees, and mountain tops. Find safer shelter in dense stands of trees or boulder fields.

Mosquitoes, deerflies and horseflies are plentiful most of the summer, making insect repellent a must.

The Bridger Wilderness contains a rich diversity of wildlife species, including large mammals such as moose, elk, bighorn sheep, mule deer, bears (black & grizzly-see Bears and You for more information), yellowbellied marmots and beaver. Birds that are common include the Canada ('gray') jay, Clark's Nutcracker and raven. These birds frequently show up around camp when there is food around. The high meadows are home to water pipits, rosy finches and mountain blackbirds. The dipper may be seen in fast-moving mountain streams standing on streamside rocks, bowing and bobbing, until it decades to plunge into the icy water for insects. Historically, the Bridger Wilderness had no fish in most of its lakes. Stocking programs during the 1920's and 1930's were successful, and today grayling, mountain whitefish and six trout species can be found.

Backpacking is the primary activity of people who visit the Bridger Wilderness, and many trails provide access to the area. There are also areas without trails for those who wish more solitude. Other activities include hiking, horseback riding and packing, mountain climbing, mountaineering, and wilderness camping. Please note: Motor vehicles, including snowmobiles, bicycles and hang gliders, are prohibited within the Bridger Wilderness.

The water in the Bridger Wilderness looks clean and pure, but take care. Waters throughout the country contain a variety of organisms, some of which can make you very sick. The parasite Giardia, an organism present as a cyst in the feces of infected animals and humans, is most commonly spread through water. Other microbes, including Campylobacter, may also be around, and can upset your stomach and intestinal tract.

Giardia: If you wish to treat your water for Giardia, boil it for one minute, or use a filter with a pore size less than one half micron.

Campylobacter: Requires boiling for five minutes or filtering.

Iodine water treatments may work if the directions are followed carefully. The effectiveness of iodine treatment is dependent on the type of iodine, freshness, exposure time, and temperature, purity and pH of the water being treated. Chlorine treatments are not recommended.

Another option for short trips: Bring your water with you.

Topographic maps, trail maps, Wilderness maps, campground and recreation facility maps, and other useful guides are available locally in Pinedale at sporting goods stores. Additional information is also available at the Pinedale Ranger District and BLM Offices.

Wilderness and You - Minimum Impact Camping

Select a campsite away from lakes, streams and other camps to preserve a feeling of privacy and solitude. Your campsite should be out of sight of trails and water bodies, or, where screening is not provided by vegetation or topography, a minimum of 200 feet from lakes or trails. Constant use of the same campsites leaves permanent scars. Soils become compacted and plant life is crushed and worn away. Campfire ashes accumulate and the area becomes visibly worn. If you use an existing campsite, leave it in better condition than you found it. Or, be a no-trace pioneer and select an unused campsite away from heavily used areas. Leave it natural! Select subdued colors for clothing and equipment. Browns and greens are best. Bright colors have a greater visual impact on the privacy and solitude of others.

Campfires are permitted in the Bridger Wilderness with the exception of seven "special management areas". Lightweight gas stoves are more efficient and faster for cooking than fires, and they leave no impact. Campfires destroy organic matter in the topsoil and may inhibit plant growth for many years. Blackened rocks, charred wood, and accumulated ash also alter the natural appearance of the site.

If a campfire is used, here are suggestions to minimize impact:

  • A ring of rocks is unnecessary. Instead, dig a firepit about six inches deep, keep the sod intact and pile it nearby.
  • On breaking camp, permit the fire to burn down to white ash and drown the coals thoroughly. If there is buildup of ash, remove it from the firepit and scatter it well away from camp, where people won't walk through it, and the rain and snow will wash it away.
  • Replace the sod and pour water on it.
  • Scatter any unused firewood in natural appearing locations.
  • Keep your fire small to reduce impact and the danger of forest fire.
  • Select a spot a safe distance from trees, brush, and down logs,
  • Leave no firerings.

Campfires are allowed below timberline using only down materials. Do not cut firewood from standing or live trees.

Trees grow slowly at high altitude and fires consume wood which would otherwise decompose and replenish the soil with nutrients. Particularly in areas where trees are stunted and scarce, gathering firewood has a severe impact on vegetation. Burn dead and down wood and only that which is necessary. Standing dead and gnarled snags are components of the wilderness scenery and important habitat for cavity-nesting birds and many small mammals.

Bury human waste in a shallow hole at least 100 feet from any water supply, so that rain or snow runoff will not carry contaminants to lakes and streams. Studies have shown that decomposition of waste is best in holes dug 6-8 inches deep. Soap (even biodegradable brands) and food particles pollute lakes and streams. Please wash your dishes, clothes and yourself well away from shore. Carry out cans, bottles, plastics, aluminum foil and anything else that will not burn. Burying doesn't work. If frost action doesn't heave your buried garbage to the surface, animals will dig it up.

Please, if you pack it in, pack it out!

Pets occasionally bother other visitors, wildlife and grazing livestock. Please keep your pets under control at all times and away from other people.

Trail Etiquette
Wilderness trails are constructed and maintained to minimize impact of human use. Short-cutting switchbacks and cutting across meadows damage plant life and cause soil erosion. Please use trails where provided. Hikers meeting horse parties on the trail should move a considerable distance off the trail and remain quiet and motionless until the horses pass, unless advised otherwise by the riders. Bright-colored gear, bulky packs, and sudden noise or movement may cause a horse to spook, resulting in general chaos, and injury to horses, riders and hikers. Curious pets can also cause a problem. It is advisable that pets be held until the horses pass.

Please use the trails where provided.

Registration & Permits

Registration at the Ranger Station or Campgrounds is not necessary. Registration boxes are provided at all major trailheads, and visitors are asked to please register at these stations, and to add your comments and suggestions. Registers are used as a management tool by the Forest Service to provide essential information on visitor use and preference. This information helps Wilderness managers meet the needs of visitors and minimize impacts to the wild setting.

Permits are required for the following:

  1. Organized groups,
  2. All parties using pack and saddle stock overnight,
  3. Commercial uses (outfitters and guides).

Group Use
All organized groups (clubs, schools, church groups, scouts, etc.) are required to obtain a permit from the Pinedale Ranger District, PO Box 220, Pinedale, WY 82941, 307-367-4326. There is no charge for these permits as long as the groups are not commercial. You will need to provide the following information:

  • Dates of trip
  • Location of entrance, exit, and planned campsites
  • Number of people in group (15 is maximum)
  • Scout groups are also required to send a copy of the Scout Council Tour Permit, in advance of their planned Wilderness trip.

Stock Use
All overnight parties using horses within the Wilderness are required to obtain a permit from the Pinedale Ranger District Office. Permits are not required for day rides, unless commercial. The maximum permitted number of stock is 25 head per party.

Commercial Use
Commercial Outfitters operate under Special Use Permits for which a fee is paid. They are licensed by the State of Wyoming, and their operations are permitted by the Pinedale Ranger District. Contact the District Office for information about licensed Outfitters who operate in the Bridger Wilderness and the services they provide.

Wilderness Regulations

The purpose of these regulations is to assure protection and quality of the wilderness resources as well as the safety of the wilderness visitor. Violation of regulations is punishable by fine and/or imprisonment. The following acts ate PROHIBITED within the Bridger Wilderness:

  • Possessing or using a motor vehicle or motorized equipment such as a chainsaw.
  • Possessing or using a hang-glider or bicycle.
  • Use of aircraft without written permission.
  • Camping within 200 feet of a trail or lakeshore.
  • Open campfires within the seven special management areas.
  • Horse grazing within 200 feet of lakes.
  • Placing or maintaining a cache in the wilderness.
  • Cutting or otherwise damaging any live tree or other vegetation without a permit.
  • Staying in one campsite for more than 16 days. Visitors who vacate a campsite after 16 days may not return to the same site for at least 5 days.

Pack and saddle stock will be tied so as not to cause injury or damage to any tree, vegetation or soil.

Party size is restricted to 15 people and 25 pack and saddle stock.

Non-burnable garbage will be packed out, not buried.

Bulk hay or straw is not permitted.

Camp structures such as hitch racks, tent frames, pegs and fire rings will be dismantled after use.


Wilderness has many potential dangers, which are part of the Wilderness experience. You must be prepared to take care of yourself. As a general precaution, it is wise to travel with another person and to tell a friend where you plan to be, and when you plan to return. Here are some other safety suggestions:

  • Know basic first aid and carry a first aid kit. Even simple items, like aspirin and Band-Aid, can be very valuable to an injured person in the wilderness.
  • Be aware of the weather. Even in mid-summer, it can change rapidly. It can snow any day of the year in the Bridger Wilderness area!
  • In case of serious injury, treat the injury to the extent of your abilities and send for help. Leave one person with the victim. Notify the Sublette County Sheriff or Pinedale District Ranger. They will take steps to activate the local Search & Rescue organization.

Allowed Uses

Livestock Grazing
Livestock grazing is permitted where such use was established before the wilderness was designated. Livestock grazing is administered under allotment management plans. Sheep graze the Bridger Wilderness from July to September. Herding practices are designed to minimize contact with recreationists. Brief encounters may occur in meadows from Cooks Lake south to the Sweetwater River. Cattle graze some of the western fringes of the Wilderness. Motorized use may be permitted in maintaining facilities or managing grazing allotments if no other reasonable alternative is available.

Mining operations on valid or patented claims are permitted indefinitely. Permitted mining operations in the Temple Creek/Schlestler Peak area, near Big Sandy Trailhead, involve occasional use of motor vehicles and equipment.

Hunting and Fishing
Hunting and fishing is allowed under state laws with a valid Wyoming hunting or fishing license. Licenses and regulations can be obtained from the Game and Fish Department, State of Wyoming, Cheyenne Wyoming 82002, or any appointed licensing agent throughout the state.

Commercial Service
Commercial services that facilitate enjoyment of the Wilderness are allowed. Commercial services are administered under special use permits. Outfitter camp permits may allow tent frames, hitch rails and corrals of natural materials at approved locations. These facilities may be left standing for brief periods between trips, but are normally dismantled at the end of the permitted season.

For more area information:
Pinedale Ranger District
Bridger-Teton National Forest
29 E Fremont Lake Road
PO Box 220
Pinedale, WY 82941
Phone: 307-367-4326

Titcomb Basin. US Forest Service photo, Bridger-Teton National Forest
Titcomb Basin

Green River Lakes wilderness trailhead. Photo by Pinedale Online.
Wilderness access trail at Green River Lakes

"Camps must be more than 200 feet from any lake or trail system and 100 feet from any stream in the Bridger Wilderness."

Fremont Peak and Island Lake. US Forest Service photo, Bridger-Teton National Forest.
Island Lake & Fremont Peak

East Temple Peak. US Forest Service photo, Bridger-Teton National Forest.
East Temple

Fremont Peak. US Forest Service photo, Bridger-Teton National Forest.
Fremont Peak

"Motorized vehicles are prohibited in the Bridger Wilderness, including bicycles, snowmobiles, carts and chainsaws."

Elkhart Trialhead sign. Pinedale Online photo.
Elkhart Trailhead

View from Photographer's Point. Pinedale Online photo.
View from Photographer's Point

"Organized groups such as Scouts, church groups, clubs, school groups must have a visitor permit, which is free."

Pond by Photographer's Point. Pinedale Online photo.
Pond near Photographer's Point

Pine Creek Canyon trail sign. Pinedale Online photo.
Pine Creek Canyon Trail sign

"Group size is limited to 15 people and 25 pack and saddle stock."

Green River Lakes and White Rock Mountain. Pinedale Online photo.
Green River Lake and White Rock Mountain

Big Sandy trailhead sign. Pinedale Online photo.
Meeks Lake Trail Sign near Big Sandy

"The maximum length of stay is 16 days in any one campsite."

Useful Local Links:

Outdoor & Sporting Goods
Outfitters & Guides

Bridger-Teton National Forest


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To contact Pinedale Online, call 307-360-7689, e-mail:, or stop by our office located in Office Outlet in Pinedale, 43 S. Sublette Ave. Copyright 2021, all rights reserved. Photos by the Pinedale Ranger District as credited. Other photos by Pinedale Online. May not be used without permission.