Pets allowed
Elevation Gain
3,785.00 ft (1,153.67 m)
Trail type
30.60 mi (49.25 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Deep Creek Lakes are a network of lakes nestled deep in the Shoshone National Forest. As far as hikes in the Wind River Mountains go, it’s one of the easiest, moderate distance backpacking routes that leads to a stunning playground of dozens of crystal clear alpine lakes. It’s also one of two access points to Wind River Peak, the highest peak in the southern Winds at an elevation of 13,120 feet.

Begin your hike from Bruce’s parking lot (the large lot at the very end of Sinks Canyon, right before the steep switchbacks). The trail begins across the road from the parking lot. 

The first mile of trail scrawls up a barren and rocky side hill as you slowly ascend above the Middle Fork of the Popo Agie River. 

After 1 mile, you’ll come to a signed fork. The left trail will take you to Popo Agie Falls, a short detour under 1 mile. Otherwise, continue straight up the Middle Fork. You’ll climb a little more very briefly after the split but the trail levels out nicely for the next 8 miles.

NOTE: Be careful not to accidentally find yourself on an unmarked, left-forking stock bypass trail shortly after this split. The stock trail never truly rejoins the main trail, taking it isn’t recommended for those unfamiliar with the area.

6.5 miles from the trailhead, the Sheep’s Bridge Trail intersects from the left. This is an alternative start to the hike for wanting to shave off about 5 miles each way. The trade-off is a longer drive from Lander to start from Worthen Reservoir.

Hike another 3 miles, passing one more split to the right that would take you to Shoshoni Lake, until you reach a split with signage indicating the Pinto Park Trail to the right (northwest). This is 9.3 miles from the beginning of the Middle Fork Trail.

If you are low on water at this point, take the opportunity to fill up at the nearby Popo Agie because there are few water sources along the Pinto Park Trail that may be dry. Your next sure source isn’t for another 4-ish miles, shortly after the Deep Creek Cutoff. Water is abundant in the Winds but it is ALWAYS recommended filtering your water due to a large number of free-range cattle. You may have even encountered some already on your hike (and if not, most certainly some cow pies). In general, the cows will ignore you, but you should exercise caution. Mothers with calves or bulls can be aggressive. Give them a wide berth, even if they’re blocking the trail and it means bushwhacking. 

Starting the Pinto Park Trail, you will almost immediately start up the steepest and most sustained climb of the hike. The first mile of this trail gains 600 feet of elevation. While still considered a moderate grade, compared to the gentle incline you’ve been hiking for the last 8 miles, it feels a little shocking. 

At the top of this rocky grade, the trail once again flattens for the next 2.5 miles until you reach the Deep Creek Lakes cutoff to the left (southwest). You can take this cutoff trail for 3.2 miles, contrary to the Forest Service sign that says it’s 2 miles, to the first Deep Creek Lake. Or continue straight to access Deep Creek Lakes via a roundabout trail from the north that adds an extra mile.

The first lake in the Deep Creek series, individually nameless and just referred to as the collective, is stunning and a great camping option for those who don’t want to pack in farther. After crossing the stream via boulder hopping, there are several well-trafficked campsites near the trail. Try to use these to lessen your impact in the backcountry. Remember, you are in the Popo Agie Wilderness, meaning all campsites must be 200 feet from lakes and trails. The trail one can be difficult to abide by given the rocky terrain around the lakes, and usually no one will bother you if you’re a little closer to the trail if it means being in an established spot.

Fishing is great at this lake (and all the others) so feel free to use your spare time to explore. If you’re hoping to attempt Wind River Peak, you’ll want to continue up the trail on the south side of the First Deep Creek Lake. After cresting the hill, you’ll enter a meadow and spot a very steep but short trail going up the right hillside. This leads to yet another lake and it is also the access point to Wind River Peak. If attempted from the southeast face, it’s a non-technical Class 3 scramble.

For your return journey, you have the option to either retrace your steps back out or continue south 4.5 miles through Ice Lakes to the Tayo Lake Trail Junction, then continue another 5 miles to Three Forks Park, which is where you originally split onto the Pinto Park Trial. This adds mileage and some significant elevation gain and loss, so another night would be recommended for this route. Unless you have stellar endurance with a heavy pack!

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass


Open Year-round





Uncrowded. Stunning vistas. Excellent fishing, swimming and packrafting. Easy to moderate terrain.


Bugs are in the summer. Unpredictable weather patterns. Bear country.

Trailhead Elevation

7,133.00 ft (2,174.14 m)

Highest point

10,522.00 ft (3,207.11 m)


Near lake or river
Backcountry camping
Big vistas
Horseback riding
Family friendly

Typically multi-day


Suitable for


Permit required



Nearby Lodging + Camping


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