Sweetwater Gap signboard-(just where Finis said it would be)
Little Sandy Tr=orange Sweetwater Gap Tr=red
This remote, seldom used trailhead provides access to the extreme southern reaches of the Wind River Range, north of South Pass. Two trails lead into two different wilderness areas from the TH- the Little Sandy Trail leads to Little Sandy Lake in the Bridger Wilderness and the Sweetwater Gap Trail leads to the Sweetwater Gap and the Popo Agie Wilderness.
Some information available at the time of this writing indicates that the Little Sandy Trail is little used and hard to follow due to deadfall from the fires of 1988. Other sources state that the trail is hard to follow in places, but serviceable. See the comments section of this page for detail on the Little Sandy Trail issues.
I would suggest contacting Bridger-Teton National Forest
for current conditions on both the Little Sandy and Sweetwater Gaps trails.
The Sweetwater Gap trail also passes through portions of the 1988 burn areas. The trail does show evidence of maintenance to clear deadfall, though it would appear that at least as of August 9th, 2008, those efforts have fallen behind. For the most part it’s a nuisance, but in a few spots it’s a bit tricky and time consuming to get through. The good news is that, after about 3 miles, you’ll leave the burn area behind and find a good trail to the Gap.
There are no
facilities or water at the TH.
Burn area along the Sweetwater Gap Trail
Looking north from the Sweetwater Gap
TH access road map
These directions may sound complicated, but if you follow the signs, it’s pretty easy to get to the TH. One thing to keep in mind when using this southernmost entrance to the Wind River Range-It’s a long way from anywhere. That means bring water and whatever else you might need. It’s also a good idea to have a full tank of gas before you venture to this remote TH as it’s about 68 miles to Lander and 53 miles to Boulder.
From Wyo Hwy 28, turn north onto the Sweetwater Road, which is approx. 43 miles from Lander or 33.5 miles from Farson. The turnoff is well signed for the Sweetwater Gap Ranch and the Big Sandy Entrance. See the comments section for a different perspective on directions.
Drive north for approx. 15 miles to a signed intersection that is signed for the White Acorn Ranch, Sweetwater Ranch, Sweetwater Campground and the Sweetwater Guard Station. Turn right. Continue straight at a junction after another 3.3 miles to a signed junction for SW Gap Ranch, SW Guard Station and Sweetwater CG, go left. After another 2.5 miles the road T’s, right goes to the Guard Station & campground, left goes to the TH. The quality of the road to the TH deteriorates as it makes it’s way for approx. 2 miles to the end of the line. It’s not too bad but high clearance is required and 4WD would be preferable.
Little Sandy Lake and Creek, from the north. Looking north toward the Sweetwater Gap from Hwy 28 (the Lander Cut-Off)
Via the Little Sandy Trail:
Little Sandy Lake-4.1 miles
Via the Sweetwater Gap Trail:
Sweetwater Gap-6.3 miles
Tayo Park-8.1 miles
Poison Lake-9.8 miles
Deep Creek Jct.-13.1 miles
Pinto Park Trail-14.7 miles
Tayo Lake-11.8 miles
Wind River Peak
There are some undeveloped camping areas along the last couple miles to the TH in addition to the small Sweetwater Campground. There is no
water available at the campground.
Tayo Park Tayo Lake,with Wind River Peak, upper right
Select Peaks of Greater Yellowstone
by Thomas Turiano (2003) Indomitus Books, Jackson, WY. SummitPost Gear Review
Climbing and Hiking in the Wind River Mountains
by Joe Kelsey Chockstone Press SummitPost Gear Review
Wyoming's Wind River Range
by Joe Kelsey American Geographic Publishing
an overview of the range with many great photos
Hiking Wyoming's Wind River Range
by Ron Adkison Falcon Press
a fairly detailed trail guide with a smattering of climbing and fishing info
Walking the Winds
by Rebecca Woods White Willow Publishing
a hiking guide with some fishing info
Wind River Trails
by Finis Mitchell (1975) Wasatch Publishers,INC.
an old school trails/climbing/fishing guide by Mr. Wind River himself
Wind River Hiking Map and Guide* Earth Walk Press SummitPost Gear Review
*The Earth Walk map of the Southern Winds does not quite reach as far south as this TH.
The only permits required at this time are for organized groups and campers with pack or saddle stock.
Bridger Wilderness Regulations
Popo Agie Wilderness Regulations
Larsen Creek Bridge MF Popo Agie crossing at Tayo Park, August 8th, 2008
While bridges are few and far between in the Winds, the SW Gap trail starts off with one that spans Larsen Creek. Stream crossings are less of a concern in this extreme southern end of the Winds than they are in the central and northern portions, but they are still something you’ll have to deal with. Early in the season, the MF of the Popo will be much deeper and faster flowing, than it appears in this photo taken at the Tayo Park ford.
Glacier travel is also less of an issue in the southern reaches of the Winds. Still, if your route includes it, plan on carrying the proper equipment and know how to use it.
Due to the remoteness of this TH, emergency assistance will take longer to reach those in need of it. Solo travel carries additional risk as this article from Backpacker Magazine illustrates: The Mike Turner Story
Links for Weather and other related infoWeatherunderground-Conditions at Pinedale/ Forecast for Eastern Wind River Mountains
Wyoming Road Conditions/Hwy Web Cams