The Cold Springs Trailhead offers the shortest access to Gannett Peak and the southern half of the Fitzpatrick Wilderness Area in the rugged and remote Wind River Range. The trailhead is accessible from the east side of the range through the small town of Crowheart, WY. However, access is controlled by the Wind River Indian Reservation tribal council and both a permit and Indian guide are required to cross their land. (See red tape below.)
Note that the Cold Springs trail splits after approx 1/2 mile. The Dry Creek trail heads southwest and is well defined, whereas the Ink Wells trail splits off and heads due west and is not very obvious. Be sure to watch for the split carefully if you are heading to Ink Wells because it is easy to miss.
The town of Crowheart is located 45 miles north of Lander, WY on Hwy 26, and 30 miles south of Dubois, WY. Map it
Crowheart is an extremely small town that consists mainly of an Exxon gas station and Crowheart Store (same building), with a couple of small homes behind it. Watch carefully for the billboards 2 miles on either side of town, because you can easily drive right past it and miss it completely.
A tribal permit is required to cross the Indian Reservation. A permit can be obtained at the Crowheart Store. As of July 2006, the cost was $22.50 per person each day that you step foot on Indian land. So if you are going in one day and coming out a different day, the cost is $45 PP total.
The store opens at 7:30am.
The road to the Cold Springs trailhead crosses Indian land and is private. The only way to access the trailhead is to contract with an Indian guide to have them drive you to and from the trailhead.
Contact Ramona O'Neal (Mone) at 307-486-2318 for transportation. She lives right next door to the Crowheart Store / gas station. The driveway to her home is 20 feet north of the store.
The standard meeting time is 8am at Mone's house, and 11am at the Cold Springs trailhead for the return ride. The ride to/from the trailhead is about 1.5 hours over a rough 4WD dirt road. You leave your car at Mone's house.
Cost for the transportation seems to vary, depending perhaps on whether or not there are any other pick-ups / drop-offs combined with yours. When I first called Mone, she quoted a cost of $600 round trip for 2 people. When I called back to reserve a date and told her there were 3 of us, the price was still $600 total. Then when I arrived and there were only 2 of us, the price dropped to $500. (I didn't question the discount.) It is best to call Mone and get a price. It should be in this general price range.
You'll probably need to camp near the trailhead on your way back considering the 11am pick-up schedule for the return ride to Crowheart. Access to drinking water will be an important factor when selecting a campsite. Note the following:
1) Water access is limited between the trailhead and the Ink Wells 5 miles away on the other side of the Scenic Pass and Dinwoody Peak.
2) Cold Springs does not flow year round. It dries up in the summer.
3) Don't forget, you need a permit for each day that you set foot on Indian land. (Cold Springs is located on Indian land.)
There is a decent place to camp near water on the USFS side of the fence that delineates the Indian Reservation boundary. The campsite is located approximately 1.5 miles from the Cold Springs trailhead near the stream that comes down from the Scenic Pass. Keep in mind there are cattle upstream. A good water filter is required to safely drink this water.
To reach the campsite, head south
and follow the low-use trail and cairns for approx 1/2 mile from the USFS sign
that marks the Dry Creek
trail. (This sign is located 1/2 mile south of the USFS sign that marks the Ink Wells
trail.) If you can't find the trail, just follow the boundary fence south through the cow meadow and short patch of forest as best you can until the ridge starts to drop off steeply. The campsite
is right there in a flat open area. You'll hear the stream 1/10th of a mile to the southwest. The cairns lead to the stream but pass right by the campsite.
The campsite offers nice views of the valley to the south and east and is surrounded by Sagebrush, Aspens, Lodgepole and White Bark Pine trees. It is sheltered somewhat from the cows grazing in the meadow.
As an alternative, you can purchase an additional permit/day from the Crowheart Store to camp on the Indian Reservation. The only advantage to this would be if the Cold Springs is flowing and you wanted a cleaner water source. (The fence keeps the cattle off of the reservation.)