Wyoming gets the most attention for its two national parks, Grand Teton and Yellowstone. Those parks are absolutely spectacular, but equally so is the Wind River Range. Composed of two wilderness areas and an expansive network of peaks, the range does not have national park status, and the area is less crowded and less regulated. There are pristine campsites around every corner. Fishing is phenomenal. Rock climbers travel the globe to climb the granite peaks of the Wind Rivers. Backpackers flock to its extensive trail network and expansive wilderness areas. Simply put, the Wind River Range is one of the premier mountain ranges in the United States.
The Big Sandy Trailhead is one of the most popular trailheads in the Wind Rivers because it is the primary access point to the Cirque of the Towers, a renowned climbing destination. Despite a crowded trailhead, the Clear Lake/Deep Lake area is generally not overcrowded. The Clear Lake/Deep Lake area is absolutely stunning, and it is worth a multi-day trip. Black Joe Lake is nearby to explore. Haystack Mountain and the Steeple are amazing rock climbing walls. East Temple Peak is one of the most stunning peaks in the western United States.
Large expanses of granite peaks make the Wind River Mountains unique. East Temple Peak appears to be a vertical granite wall, but the south-facing side is a mellow ramp of rock that leads to the summit. To climb East Temple, camp at either Deep Lake or Clear Lake. Clear Lake is more protected, while Deep Lake is above tree line but absolutely stunning.
From either lake, ascend the trail to Temple Pass. The actual trail up the pass is very steep and loose, so negotiate the best route as well as you can. The views from the pass are breathtaking. Temple Peak, which can be seen during most of the hike, is absolutely massive, a looming presence over the beautiful Temple Lake.
From the pass, the route is obvious. Ascend the ridgeline to the summit of East Temple. Once on the summit, take in the absolutely stunning views. Wind River Peak looms to the east, which is a Wyoming 13er. Temple Peak to the west sits at 12,980 feet. Cirque of the Towers can be seen in the distance, and the incredible Diving Board is right at your feet. The Diving Board is a tooth-shaped piece of rock that juts out over a 1,500-foot drop. The classic photo from East Temple is usually of someone peering over the edge of the rock. Walk out if you feel up to it.
Retrace your steps to return to camp and take in the crazy views looking north into the heart of the Wind Rivers. Backpacking into the Wind Rivers can be one of the most fulfilling experiences. This is a big wilderness with big peaks and big objectives.
Be wary of bears and any other animals that live in high alpine terrain.