Review: 52 Miles Hiking Glacier Trail to Dinwoody Basin

Review: 52 Miles Hiking Glacier Trail to Dinwoody Basin

Reading Time: 21 minutes


➤Quick Facts

Information at a Glance

  • Date of Visit: 29 July-2 August
  • Notable Features: Torrey Falls, Torrey Creek, Arrow Mountain, Burro Flat, Dinwoody Lakes, Upper Phillips Lake, Phillips Lake, Double Lake, Star Lake, Honeymoon Lake, Downs Fork Meadows, Big Meadows, Dinwoody Creek, Klondike Creek, Gannett Peak, Horse Ridge, Shoshone National Forest, West Sentinel, East Sentinel, Dinwoody Glacier
  • Total Miles: ~52 miles
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: +/-9100 feet
  • Elevation Min, Avg, Max: 7594, 9632, 10,888
  • General Route: 
    —ON TRAIL: Torrey Creek/Glacier Trailhead ►Glacier Trail 801 ►
    —OFF TRAIL ► Upper Phillips Lake from Burro Flat ►
    —ON TRAIL: ► Trail 801►Dinwoody Basin ►Trail 801 ►Return via same ingress route
  • GPS Track Download Download with a free Gaia account (I love them!) but note that this is a reconstructed route. I made the recordings in sections, but for some reason they won’t combine in my GPS editor. At the end of each day, I’ll include a daily recording.
  • Housekeeping: Feel free to contact me if you’d like full-rez/high-quality images or more information about anything. I host the images on my site with compression and display them to you via CDN so that they’re fast.

Interactive Map (Click to See)


⤷Introduction

After our aborted, historically fascinating attempt at a Dinwoody circuit, mom and I had another opportunity to see the basin, so we decided to give it a shot since we’d left some items cached from the previous year and we still wanted them back. I wouldn’t be able to meet mom in Rock Springs, so we decided to park her car in Lander and take mine up to the Glacier Trail Trailhead near Dubois.

Last time the USFS people had made it clear that they didn’t care too much for people leaving their vehicles near the station, so we left it at the local Church of Christ instead, which had an Aussie preacher at the time.

Our plan for the hike was an out-and-back with duplicated camping spots. Caching items is discouraged, but we weren’t leaving food, so we decided to go for it to make it a little bit easier. Our plan was to camp somewhere between Phillips Lakes and Honeymoon Lake on the first night, short of Dinwoody on the second and third, and back at the first camp on the last.

As a side note, I’d just gotten my new SpeedGoat shoes instead of Montrails, which I’d been using (Columbia Montrail), and hoped that the extra cushion would feel better on my feet.



⤑Day 1, 29 Jul: Glacier Trail Trailhead to Upper Phillips Lake

The drive from my home SUCKED, especially as I worked swings and got off at 10PM. It’s 5 hours from my house to our meetup, so there was no way to make it nice, as we wanted to meet up at 1000. Still, it worked out, and at 1022 we were on the road for Glacier Trailhead. There’s no cell service, and we blew past the road to the trailhead south of Dubois on the first pass. Oops.

  • Ranch near the trailhead.

We were on the trail at 1PM, after talking to a nice, older couple with horses, who had been coming to the area for 40 years. As I detailed the trip up to the Goat Flat area in my other report and nothing had changed, I won’t say too much about the initial swath of miles. It’s tedious, you climb the Empire State Building like 4 times, and it was hot, with us starting at mid-day, to boot. Mom was feeling better, though, so we were happy about that. Right before the switchbacks, I found a vape that had fallen out on the trail…man, I bet that person was missing it! Ha. And during the switchbacks themselves, we stopped and ate some Doritos. I offered some to a fatter man who was walking by, but he declined…though he seemed mighty tempted. He also declined any jerky. Oh well!

  • Top row: Torrey Creek Falls area.
  • Bottom row: The Switchbacks.

It got cloudy as we climbed, with a bit of a threatening look, but made the going easier. At 7 miles in, we crested the saddle (around 10,890′) and were looking down on Burro Flat, which has a little pond, at 630. Yay, downhill! Of course distances are deceiving in areas like this, with broad expanses, so the little pond feature is over a mile-and-a-quarter away. You never actually approach it, as the trail skirts it to the east, and then enters into some pretty riparian brush, with boulders and flowing water, some some “bridges,” if they can be called that.

  • 1: Top of the switchbacks.
  • 2. Approaching the pass.
  • 3. Looking at Burro Flats from the Pass.
  • Above: Burro Flats area.

We veered off trail and headed through the burned forest toward Upper Phillips Lake, as I thought that we were less likely to find anyone camping there. The walking wasn’t terrible like it is at places such as Clear Lake over by Green River Lakes, which made me want to die. Once we could see down into the lakes we searched for campsites. There appeared to be young campers near Phillips Lake and along the southern slopes of the creek between the two lakes. We could hear them more than see them, though. Upper Phillips Lake had what was almost a pond below it (probably only a couple feet in elevation difference, and between the two bodies of water there seemed to be a little spit of land. We decided to see if we could camp there.

  • Left side: Looking down on Upper Phillips Lake.
  • Right column: the lumpy meadow; approaching our chosen site.

The walk down was easy enough. We crossed a boulder field and saw a little meadow on the northwest side of the pond, though it didn’t seem like that great of a camping spot, as it seemed somewhat sloped and lumpy. The little “connector” area actually was mostly rocks that one could just walk across, but it had a very nice, secluded camping spot, and we were 1,300 feet from the trail, so not likely to be disturbed. Some of the trees in the area were old but long dead, with their centers hollowed out by natural processes and time. I tried a quick spot of fishing but only caught brassy minnows, the same as I’ve caught at Blueberry Lake.

Storms seemed to be building, so we got in the tent, and then the thunder and started. Despite the rumbling night, it was a pretty good sleep, and I enjoyed the comfort offered by my Big Agnes Double Z pad, which provides 4 inches of loft.



⤑Day 2: Dinwoody Creek Camp

We packed up in the morning and I went and explored the little meadow I’d seen on the way in to see if it was a decent place for putting a tent. While it had looked sloped and lumpy, upon inspection, I found it to fairly suitable, though crowded with mosquitoes who took to the air as I tromped through the grass.

Discovery complete, I returned and finished packing up the camp. We crossed the little stream between Upper Phillips and its pond and headed somewhat west, cresting the granite and finding a nice cut to descend towards Phillips Lake. We had a bit of an issue getting through a meadow that was littered with dead trees and a marshy creek, but soon enough we were back on the trail in dense forests, with a couple of switchbacks, and a descent to the outlet of Double Lake. It’s not a double of anything, so I don’t understand the name, but we got water at the crossing and weren’t too pleased with the heat that the day was bringing.

  • Camp, Upper Phillips Lake (our camp in the trees centerline on the right), Phillips Lake itself from above, and the crossing where we got water below Double Lake.

Sadly, the trail from the outlet of Double Lake to the beginning of Star Lake also features a set of switchbacks that take you up a few hundred feet, which of course you’ll have to lose again at some point. While we crossed the creek between Star and Double Lakes, we didn’t get to hike near it, as it’s set off in some boulders and chutes—at least the trail was wooded! Eventually we came to the crossing of Florence Lake’s outlet, too, which had a nice bridge and felt cool—there was no wind, so it was sure a pleasant discovery. We discussed the ongoing Mueller investigation into Trump. Yay, politics.

  • The climb out of Double Lake, and one of the bridges.

If I get time, I’d like to see all the lakes in the area, and then make my way over to Downs and Klondike Lakes. On my last trip, they seemed much nicer than anything else in this area. Star Lake itself was something of a letdown, to be honest, though it had plenty of spots to camp. I guess I’d hoped that it would have an infinity-pool look, but instead it just featured a climb at the southwest end of it.

  • Star Lake

Finally, we topped out at 10,300 feet, and started the switchbacks to Honeymoon Lake, soon arriving at another creek crossing (no lake above it, so it’s either springs or meltwater, but probably both), and then down, down, down. The most memorable part was the crazy switchbacks hewn out of the cliffs over Honeymoon, which the trail doesn’t really approach. We did see some use trails leading to the lake, which really is close to a “double lake” (were my maps wrong?), but it didn’t look super inviting, so we continued on our way. More and more switchbacks took us down to 9180 feet, where we encountered smooth granite by Dinwoody Creek, which here is a wide, turquoise river, choked with glacial flour. (Don’t expect to catch any fish.)

  • The switchbacks down to Honeymoon Lake.

We’d now gone 13.8 miles, and it was going to be all uphill toward Dinwoody Basin. The trail from here until the Dinwoody Meadows just isn’t pleasant. It meanders in order to avoid marshes, rivers, and granite mountains which fly high into the air above you, but it’s also old burn. A sign had told us that the Downs Creek bridge was out of commission, so we weren’t looking forward to that. Thankfully, we got to it and it looked to have been pushed off its moorings, but was otherwise crossable. On the other side of the creek, the braided channels made finding a path hard. We went southeast too much and had to cut back northwest to find our way out. To alleviate the boredom of the trail, we listened to a hilarious court case over a very strange parrot named “Kobe van Munching.” “Kiiiim? Helllllo? Kim? Where arrrre you?”

  • Gotta love the bridge.

Eventually we came to a pretty waterfall, below which we stopped for a snack and water, hoping to soon see Gannett Peak. Of note, above the waterfall is a beautiful bend in the river, off-trail, and right after that, if you leave the trail to the south, is an incredible geologic cut. We only saw it going out, so I have no pictures going in. Past the cut is a floodplain area loaded with sand—we saw what looked to be a wolf, which watched us intently before vanishing. Surely it wasn’t, right? Maybe the world’s biggest, meanest coyote?

  • The sandy, flat area where we saw the unknown creature. (ULO, unknown loping object)

The trail through this flat sticks near the mountain, and you’d be wise to do the same. We didn’t, instead following the river, and found ourselves in marshes and little ponds, which slowed us down. We also found a map, so at least one other person had made the same mistake!

Entering back into the woods, we learned about a place in America that specialized in dead animals, and a man who aspired to get all of his own dead animals, with his wife not taking well to it! I sided with the wife.

Emerging from the forests again, we saw a bridge near what appeared to be a very large, active outfitter camp, which itself seemed downright permanent. I wondered about how the permitting works for such a place, and who was running it. The bridge itself takes one over to the trail up to Ink Wells and toward Gannett Peak Road, which saves one SO MANY miles. Sadly, we couldn’t afford the $600 for the Native guide which would have gotten us access to that trailhead. (Just way too much money for us.)

  • Some sort of outfitter camp.

Finally, just past the camp, we rounded a corner and Gannett Peak came into view. Wowzers! It was absolutely beautiful, though it looked so very distant. This was around mile 18 for us, though one of my GPS trackers claimed that it was mile 21. Ha! It felt like 21. We stopped about 15 minutes later off in some trees nearer to the creek, following a use trail, and set up camp there at 6:30. While we could have gone farther, there was no need to carry our packs uphill, given that we’d be camping in the same spot twice.

  • The first views of Gannett. I remember thinking, “FINALLY!”

The evening was incredible, quiet, and still, though loaded with bugs. I was mildly worried about the filters due to the rock flour, but I don’t know if such a worry is valid. My feet were hurting, but nothing bad, and I was able to clean myself really well before bed, which made the night better. What made it the best was the Mountain House turkey dinner meal! Oh my it was GRRRRRRRREAT! Yummmmmmmm.

  • Dusk comes to our campsite in the Dinwoody Meadows. Waterfalls in the distance.

The night itself was a bit warm, though, and I wished that my sleeping bag had better venting. Instead, I ended up using it as a quilt.



⤑Day 3: Dinwoody Basin Day Hike

Our third day was pretty easy, given that we didn’t need full packs. In fact, I was the only one with a pack, and took only my camera gear, snacks, and a filter. We were heading uptrail by 0930ish and the going is pretty much level between where we camped and the Gannett Creek crossing. At the head of our little “pinch” of meadows (the meadows come in segments differentiated by slight uprises, and are pinched off at intervals by the granite from the mountains interloping on the canyon floor) was a cool section of waterfalls/rapids/cascades. Beyond this we reached a creek crossing; this was Klondike Creek. I’d love to visit that lake, as I mentioned.

We’d seen a crossing just before Klondike Creek, but it seemed to be for outfitters. The trail itself reached the creek and then went right and uphill. We followed it, but you should not. It just goes uphill until it vanishes, at which point we had to cross the creek in a much worse place, over raging falls, using a large log. The lower portion is wide and slow.

  • The bottom two pictures: Klondike crossing area. Don’t go up, of you’ll have to use a log or something. Just cross there where it’s all green.

We made our crossing and walked all the way back down the hill until we found the trail. It gets lost in the riparian zone there. 2 miles later, we crossed a small creek and then Gannett Creek using logjams. The forest beyond was more arid, and there we began our climb up Dinwoody Basin. We’d eventually top out at 10,800 feet…or rather, stop there.

  • Right before the big climb.

After passing through some meadows, we came upon a camp, which had people lounging in tents with science gear all around. They were climatologists measuring the glaciers. Because of the wilderness regs, they couldn’t have helicopters fly in their gear. Ick!

  • Notice the climate folks.

Dinwoody Basin itself was just incredible. Blaurock Pass to the south had an incredible rockfall as we watched (talk about a horror of a pass), the river was full of glacial milk, and we could have stayed there for days, staring at the beauty of the peaks and glaciers. We could also see Bonney Pass beyond the Dinwoody moraine, and boy did it look like a real treacherous hike to get through. The pictures will explain all you need to know about that.

  • Pictures of the basin.

On the north of the cliff walls, just as you stop at the terminal moraine (well before the tarn), mom spotted and odd, geologic inclusion. Upon inspection, it was a memorial.

Judge E.H. Fourt lived in Wyoming for sufficient years that he became one of the.leading lawyers of the state. He made his home in Lander. Fourt was an 1890 graduate of the University of Wisconsin. He was appointed Judge of the Ninth Judicial District of Wyoming in 1927.

Fourt was born on May 7, 1864 at DeSoto, Wisconsin. His parents were Charles S. and Hannah (Valentine) Fourt. He married Sarah Roberts in November, 1894. [Source (of birth and marriage): Wyoming From Territorial Days to the Present, vol. 3, p. 37]

Fourt was the author of poetry, songs, and articles on the Wind River Mountains wilderness area.

Fourt seemed to do a lot of work with water rights and was involved with the early Boysen disputes. The plaque really spoke to my heart.

After marveling at the beauty of the basin, we started our return to camp. I stopped my GPS due to my phone’s battery being low. Since it’s a direct return, you can double the distance and do the math. My feet were hurting very bad; the shoes were breaking me in instead of the other way around, and no amount of leukotape or moleskin could fix it. For whatever reason, the shoes made my feet “slump” into certain pressure points, compressing my little toes. I also got blisters, but the compression was the worst.

  • First two crossings: Gannett Creek.
  • First river picture: looking back up Dinwoody Basin across Dinwoody Creek.
  • Rest: Klondike Crossing area.

Back and Klondike Creek, we talked to two young guys on horses who decided to set up camp there. They were from Colorado and said that our mountains in Wyoming were so much better than theirs…they’re right! At 7:30, before getting to our camp, we stopped to get some pictures of the sunset, which was…I can’t even explain how breathtaking. I’d forgotten my physical filters, but it was dark enough that I capture the flow of water without them, thanks to God!



⤑Day 4: Upper Phillips Lake Camp (Again!)

Gray Jays woke me up early again, though mom was already out and about. I hate those birds so badly. I got some final pictures from our campsite at 7:47 as we hit the trail, and we headed back for the long slog through interminable ugliness; right by our camp some horses were frolicking. My foot was a mess.

Mom noticed the geologic cut that I mentioned before, and bless her for doing so. We stopped to observe and get pictures. So beautiful! Then it was back to the slog.

  • Geology is awesome.

Before the bridge to Downs (the trail up there apparently diminishes into nothingness, but we’d seen the woman there the previous year, so I guess it’s doable…though I would just hop over Goat Flat, to be honest) we ran into a German woman with a pack as big as her! It was insane. She was going to climb Gannett. We never saw anyone else until Star Lake, and hadn’t seen anyone before, so…I guess she was alone. Wild! Tough gal.

  • The area of braided channels near the bridge. We still didn’t make a great path through.

Before heading up to Honeymoon Lake, we debated seeing Dinwoody Falls, but didn’t want to add the 3/4 or a mile or whatever it is…plus it’s in the burn. Up we went. And up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. Up.

  • Double Lake

Finally we were above Star Lake and heading back down. We stopped at Double Lake to fish, but a storm was rolling in, and I had no luck, though it allegedly has trout. Fine! We talked to a couple of young guys who were fishing and they said that Phillips Lakes sucked for them, but they had caught a rainbow (they said) there at Double. Color me suspicious about their IDing… still, maybe not a single fish on this whole hike, huh? We basically backtracked the way we’d ingressed, and got to our tent at 5PM. I fished again and caught a Brassy minnow. The sunset was pretty, at least.

  • Mom likes fires, while I do not.


⤑Day 5: Exit

My feet were killing me, but we were gone up onto Burro Flats by 0830. It took us 40 minutes to get from entering Burro Flats to the top of the pass, which we arrived at at 0910. We reached our campsite from the previous year only 30 minutes later, so we were flying downhill! And guess what…the cache was secure. I packed it up and we headed on out. Awesome!

  • First picture is of our camp spot as we left it.

Since I’ve written about the trail prior, I won’t do that again. It was unchanged, hot, and seemingly wants you to die of old age before you get to the trailhead, though we did arrive at 1240, having covered the 9 miles in just under 4 hours. My feet were beaten to crap!

We stopped and got food in Lander, and it tasted SO good! I decided to make a picture showing how tall Gannett is. Those are Empire State Buildings.



➤Conclusion and Rating

This hike isn’t one that I’ll do again. The initial day really sucks, as well as the second. In fact, of the five days, only one of them was memorable. Still, the plaque to Fourt was incredible, and there’s no denying that Dinwoody Creek and Basin offer some of the best scenes in the Winds, and the best pictures. With that said, are they worth the effort? I think that, overall, they’re not, at least if you have other options. The scenic value/mile is just too low, and there’s not even good fishing to make up for it. I would only do this again if it were on horseback, or as a part of some sort of long-duration exploration of the higher lakes, like Klondike from Downs.


Rating: 2 out of 5.

  • My scientific rating system. I didn’t like this hike very much, and hated much of it. Despite it having some stunning scenery, it gets 2 stars.
  • Beauty. There are three very captivating views, but otherwise the value/mile is exceedingly low for this mountain range.
  • Camping spots. You’ll find some.
  • Crowds. It’s supposed to be heavily trafficked, but you really won’t see all that many people.
  • Difficulty. Strenuous. Hot. Dusty. Boring.
  • Fishing. Nothing worthwhile.
  • History. THE SAVING GRACE OF THIS!

If you have any questions, comments, or anything else, feel free to post below. I’m here to serve you, so let me know if this wasn’t helpful, or if there’s anything I can do to make this better.


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