East Temple Peak via Southwest Ridge and Big Sandy

Page Type
Wyoming, United States, North America
Route Type:
Hiking, Mountaineering, Scrambling
Summer, Fall
Time Required:
A few days
Class 2-3

Route Quality: 1 Votes

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East Temple Peak via Southwest Ridge and Big Sandy
Created On: Jan 26, 2014
Last Edited On: Jan 26, 2014


This is the easiest route on the mountain. The route is either class 2 or class 3 depending on the route variation you take, but with careful route finding you can definitely keep the route under class 3.

Temple Pass can be reached from the Big Sandy or Little Sandy Trailheads. The pass is 10.5 to 11 miles from either trailhead. From the pass the route simply follows the ridge to the summit. There are few real obstacles and the views from the summit are fantastic.

Since the Big Sandy access is the most popular and the one I’ve done, that is the one that will be described.

Most people will want three days (or more if you want to climb other peaks or do side trips), but a fast climber could do this route in two long days.

Climbing the Southwest RidgeClimbing the Southwest Ridge of East Temple Peak. Temple Peak is in the background.

Getting There

There are several ways to reach the Big Sandy Trailhead. All driving routes include much travel on gravel roads, but the gravel roads are generally in good condition and are passable by all cars in the summer season.

From the South

Option A

Thjs may be the easiest route to follow, but I don’t know the exact mileage of the turnoff off highway 28. From Farson (~40 miles north of Rock Springs), leave US 191 and turn east on WY State 28.

Drive to just after South Pass and turn north on a road clearly marked for “Big Sandy Entrance”. If you reach the rest area along the highway, you have gone 0.6 miles too far.

Follow this good mag and gravel road north for 19.8 miles and turn right at the junction. Drive 5.5 miles along the signed road to a junction signed for the Big Sandy Campground.

*All options for the Big Sandy Trailhead share the route from here on. The road is also rougher from here on. Drive along this dirt and gravel road which becomes FS 850. Drive the main road 11 miles to the trailhead, ignoring the side roads to the summer homes and lodge.

Option B

This route is a bit harder to follow (take a good map), but is shorter and slightly rougher. From Farson, leave US 191 and turn east on WY State 28. Ager 4.6 miles turn left on a good road and keep straight for the first two junctions. After about 20 miles, there is a junction with a sign saying you can turn right to reach Big Sandy Entrance. Despite the sign, it is actually better to stay straight and at mile 33 from Highway 28, and turn right and drive another 7.1 miles to the junction signed for Big Sandy Entrance. Refer the paragraph with the asterisk for the rest of the route.

As mentioned, make sure to have a good map for this driving route.

From the East

This route shares the same access road as Option A above. From Lander, drive about 46 miles on Wyoming State 28 to a junction. This is 0.6 miles past the rest area and just before South Pass. From here, turn north n a road clearly marked for “Big Sandy Entrance”. The rest of the route is the same as the one described above for Option A.

From the North

From the north, drive about 12 miles south of Pinedale on US 191 and then turn east on Wyoming SH 353. Follow this highway for 18 miles to where the pavement ends and continue another 0.7 miles to a junction. Turn left then and stay right at the junction at 2.8 miles. Continue for 4.7 miles to another junction and turn left for another 7.1 miles to another junction. Refer the paragraph with the asterisk for the rest of the route.

TrailThis is the trail near Big Sandy Lake.

Approach Route to Temple Pass

From Big Sandy Entrance, the trail is followed to Big Sandy Lake (5.2 miles on the main trail). This trail is heavily used all the way to Temple Lake.

From the trailhead, follow the heavily used trail north. It stays fairly close to the river most of the way. After 0.6 miles from the trailhead, there is a junction. The main trail stays right and follows the river and is the shortest route. If you want some solitude for a while, you can turn left and follow a trail past V Lake and past Diamond Lake before joining the main trail. This option is 0.6 miles longer than the main trail.

Big Sandy LakeBig Sandy Lake. Left to Right, the big peaks are Haystack Mountain, East Temple Peak, and Temple Peak.

Once at Big Sandy Lake (black bears can be a problem for campers here), follow the trail to the junction on the north side of the lake. Turn right here and follow the trail to Clear Lake (ignoring another side trail to Black Joe Lake). At Big Sandy Lake, there are a few stream crossings that can be problematic early season (June to early or mid-July). By late August, you can probably cross without getting your feet wet.


If you want a less used alternative to Temple Lake, there is a less used and mostly abandoned trail along Rapid Creek. There is a cairn marking the trail, so it does exist. This is the route we used back in 1989, but it is said to be abandoned.

Continuing along the main trail from Big Sandy Lake to Clear Lake, the trail ascends to Clear Lake. There are some campsites here, but they are usually full on busy weekends.

From Clear Lake, follow the trail to Deep Lake. There are several nooks that you can find campsites in this area. The trail is faded in many places and there are actually multiple routes, but it isn’t that hard to make your way along the polished rock up to Deep Lake.

Deep Lake and East Temple PeakDeep Lake and East Temple Peak.

Once at Deep Lake, follow the trail along the west side of the lake to a minor pass and an overlook of Temple Lake. This is where the good trail ends. Note that this is 9.0 miles from the Big Sandy Trailhead.

There is more than one trail to Temple Pass from here. One trail drops down to Temple Lake and stays close to the lake shore before climbing up to Temple Pass. The other trail, and the one that requires less effort stays high above Temple Lake and then traverses over to the drainage below Temple Pass before climbing to Temple Pass. This is the easier route, but close to the drainage the trail completely fades away in a boulderfield and you must cross the boulderfield to reach the trail on the other side. Make sure to pay close attention to the route on the return trip unless you want to drop all the way down to Temple Lake.

ApproachApproach to Temple Pass from Temple Lake. Temple Peak is in the background.

Once on Temple Pass at around 11,500 feet there are no more trails. Temple Pass is 10.5 miles from the trailhead.

Southwest Ridge

From the pass, your first objective is above you to the northeast. Climb the steep, but fairly easy slopes to the top of the ridge. From here the ridge is more or less followed to the summit and there are many variations possible.

If you want to climb the mountain via the easiest route possible, you can keep the difficulty under class 3 by sticking to the left of the ridge crest. Stay not too far from the edge of the gigantic yawning drop and follow the slopes below the ridge until you are west of the summit. With careful routefinding, you can keep the difficulty under class 3. The views from the summit are incredible!

Near the summitNear the summit of East Temple Peak.

If you want a class 3 route, you can stay closer to the ridge crest. There are several class 3 boulder and minor cliff band sections. None are very difficult for experienced scramblers and climbers.

RidgePart of the ridge route to East Temple Peak.

Once on the summit, reverse the same route. It is less than a mile from the pass to the summit of East Temple.

Essential Gear

A good pair of boots is needed. Make sure to bring a good map as well.