Wyoming's Wind River Range offers the same alpine splendor as the nearby Tetons with a fraction of the crowds. Since there are no major roads that offer easy access to its bounty of jagged peaks, crystalline lakes, and lush forests, this remote beauty is a backpacker's dream that challenges day hikers who want a taste of the Winds without logging serious mileage. Fortunately, the Torrey Creek Trailhead near Dubois, Wyoming, offers a very manageable and spectacular day hike to Lake Louise that captures the essence of what makes the Winds so special.
The trail commences with a series of switchbacks that take you from the floor of the desert-like valley into the shade of the Rocky Mountain junipers and Douglas firs above. After about 0.7 mile, hikers reach a junction with the Glacier Trail and should bear right toward Lake Louise. However, a very short and worthwhile diversion down the Glacier Trail leads to a footbridge traversing a chasm above the thunderous crashing of Torrey Creek as it spills toward the valley below.
After leaving the Glacier Trail junction behind, the trail becomes steep and rocky as it winds its way to the southwest toward Lake Louise. The trail continues to climb and passes through a boggy section within a spruce grove, which can be extremely muddy in the early summer. As hikers get closer to the lake, the trail parallels the foaming torrent of Torrey Creek, offering ample opportunities to rest on the boulders that are strewn along its banks.
The final ascent to the lake creates some challenges as the trail traverses open bedrock, but a general scamper along the various ledges to the west will bring hikers back to the trodden path. Eventually, the trail levels off with an easy westward approach to the lake, where the trail ends. The views at the lake are exceptional, with shear cliffs and canyon walls on the north and south side of the lake and the imposing Shale Mountain to the west.
Although the trail is heavily used, at least by Wind River Range standards, there is ample opportunity to view bighorn sheep, elk, and deer. In addition, as is the case with the Winds in general, hikers should be aware of grizzly and black bears, which are prevalent in the region.