Pets allowed
Allowed
Elevation Gain
3,251.00 ft (990.90 m)
Trail type
Loop
Distance
16.60 mi (26.72 km)
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As one of the most accessible overnights in the Wind River Mountains (especially in the southern part), Stough Creek Basin is a popular backpacking destination. It features moderate grades over a rocky trail with a huge payoff at the end.

Leg Lake is quite a bit more obscure and less trafficked, despite the easy ability to combine both destinations into one simple loop. Until very recently, Leg Lake was a locals-only sort of hike, with little to no published information online outside warnings of its difficult navigability and poorly marked trail. This is no longer the case. Very recently (sometime early in 2021), the forest service went through and (excessively, in my opinion) planed a number of trail blazes into the trees and placed log clusters over all the once formerly spicy stream crossings.

Still, the Leg Lake Trail is more tricky than the Stough Creek one, which is why I recommend starting the loop this way and hiking out via Stough Creek. 

Both trails begin from Worthen Reservoir, located 20 miles outside Lander via the steep series of switchbacks at the end of Sinks Canyon State Park. In fact, they share the first mile or so of trail, up to Roaring Fork Lake. Just before the lake, the trail splits, right going toward Stough Creek Basin and left going toward Leg Lake. Note that if you take the right fork, you’ll have to actually cross Roaring Fork Lake. There is no footbridge and it’s far too wide to get across without wading. Though the water is slow, knee-to-thigh deep, and easy to fjord, bear in mind you will have to do that on the way back at least.

If taking the left fork toward Leg Lake, you will pass around Roaring Fork Lake before coming to another split, with a faint path going straight and a more well-trodden trail curving right over a muddy stream with some crude planks to aid in crossing. Go right here, as the trail straight is a swampy dead-end (from personal experience). 

From here, continue following the trail. There are a few “alt trail” splits that I believe will all link back up, but having never taken them, I recommend sticking to the main path. As previously mentioned, many of the trees now bear trail markings in the form of a large swath of bark planed away. When in doubt, follow these blazes.

The real route-finding begins the closer you get to Leg Lake, shortly after the walls of its cirque come into view. This cirque means your destination is clearly in view, but without any actual path to the lake, it’s easy to get turned around in the final scramble up. Staying right whenever the path splits is the better choice, or else you’ll end up either at some small unnamed lakes below Leg or scrambling over large granite slabs to get to Leg.

Leg Lake isn’t large, but it is beautiful, surrounded by harsh cliffs and boulder fields that make the terrain feel a little unearthly. It offers both excellent fishing and stellar multi-pitch climbing. Mountain Project has a few of these routes, including a 6-pitch splitter crack dihedral that would be a classic even in the likes of Moab. Almost certainly more has been climbed but good luck finding information about it.

To continue on to the Stough Creek Basin, head northwest away from the lake toward the obvious saddle in the adjacent hillside. The trek up to the saddle begins with lots of waist-high bushwacking over many small, tributary streams but ends with a few hundred meters of chill scrambling up scree and talus. Depending on the season, you might have to ascend a snowfield that sticks in this saddle well into summer, but later in the year, the snow melts enough to leave a dry path up the right side. The angle of inclination isn’t that steep, so crampons and an ax should not be necessary.

Here is one particular spot why it is not recommended doing the loop in the reverse order. While glissading down the snowpack might be the preferable way to tackle the talus slope, reorienting oneself through the bushwacking section to aim for the already tricky-to-find trail would be difficult indeed, even for one who had already done the hike and knew what to look for. 

The top of the saddle flattens out and reveals the tops of the stunning granite walls that make up the ominous western edge of the Stough Creek Basin. As you continue through the gently sloping saddle, the basin’s many lakes will begin to reveal themselves to you. Just about any of the larger lakes have excellent camping and fishing opportunities.

When it comes time to descend the saddle, the further right (north) you go, the easier the descent is. However, none of it is particularly difficult, just a little rocky.

The hardest part of navigating back from Stough Creek Basin is navigating the many trails that wind in between the lakes. A map and compass are a good idea to keep you heading north in the proper direction. Even if you get off track, the forest is sparse enough that bushwacking is easy.

Eventually, the trail becomes quite obvious as it descends a rocky hill. You’ll only encounter one more fork in the trail between there and Roaring Fork Lake. This fork is signed just after a small footbridge, Going right here is what you want. Left will connect you to the Middle Fork Trail and Tayo Lake trails.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Fall

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

No

Open from

May 29 to October 01

Days

2

Pros

Amazing vistas. Rock climbing possibilities. Quiet and non-crowded camping. Excellent fishing at any of the lakes. Tons of backcountry camping opportunities.

Cons

Bugs. Basic route finding skills required. Difficult to navigate. Seasonally specific trail conditions (too early in summer and it'll be very wet). Rocky trail. Commonly used for horsepacking (watch your step!).

Trailhead Elevation

8,847.00 ft (2,696.57 m)

Highest point

11,093.00 ft (3,381.15 m)

Features

Backcountry camping
Near lake or river
Big vistas
Big Game Watching
Horseback riding
Wildlife
Fishing
Wildflowers
Bird watching

Typically multi-day

Yes

Suitable for

Biking
Horseback

Permit required

No

Location

Comments

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