Big Sandy Lake Trail

Difficulty
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Moderate
Duration
This reflects the estimated time the majority of users will take on this trail. If you are slower, add time to the top-end figure. If you are fast, then you may complete this route faster than this time range.
4-5.5h
Distance
This reflects the return distance of this route as measured by the GPS file.
17.5 km
Elevation
This reflects the total elevation gained throughout this route as measured by the GPS file. This includes all ascents and descents, and is higher than what is quoted in most route guides, which simply measure the distance between the starting-point and high-point of the route.
271 m
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Directions to Trailhead

Seeking the best hike in the Wind River Range? Well, you’ve found one of our favorites—the Big Sandy Lake Trail. This gorgeous adventure yields a diversity of flora and fauna, stunning alpine lakes, and of course, breathtaking views of the Wind River Mountains that rise from the lively landscape—including the Cirque of the Towers.

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Route Description

The Big Sandy Lake Trail is one of the most popular hikes in the Wind River Range because it is used as a gateway into the backcountry, and most don’t even realize that this route is a beautiful destination in and of itself. Providing access to the Bridger Wilderness, the Continental Divide, and the Cirque of the Towers, this route is well-traveled, so arrive early for a more tranquil experience and to secure a spot in the trailhead parking lot. As with all types of exploration in the area, it is important to be bear aware—make sure you or someone in your party carry a can of bear spray and knows how to use it.

The Big Sandy Lake Trail grants exceptional views of the Wind River Mountains that rise above the lush sub-alpine terrain. Offering more than just incredible sights of the mountainscape, this path offers the exploration of meadows bursting with Indian Paintbrush, columbines, fireweeds, and a diversity of wildlife. With limited elevation change, this route is also ideal for novice hikers and families with older children eager to discover Wyoming’s famous backcountry. Don’t forget to bring your camera, the views along this path are quite photogenic! We love this adventure, and we bet you will too.

Embark on this amazing expedition from the Big Sandy Trailhead. After some loops around the parking lot, hopefully, you will find a parking spot. Making your way to the trailhead, you will briefly hike the Fremont Trail, crossing the footbridge over a meandering creek before reaching the Big Sandy Trail. From this junction, veer left and follow the Big Sandy Trail north. Wandering along the lazy river, the scenic route will consistently climb through a stand of lodgepoles and mixed pines. After some hiking, the path will divert away from the riverbank and into a lush meadow that offers motivating views of the looming Wind River Mountains peeking above the treeline.

Continue along the mildly undulating path, nearing the river again. As you hike, be mindful of wildlife, you never know what you will find out here! Soon the path will reach Diamond Lake—this is a good place to turn around if you are already exhausted. If you still have some gas left in the tank, persist further into the Bridger Wilderness. Mind your footing on the increasingly rocky and uneven terrain and marvel at the scene of Schiestler Peak towering above. From here, breathtaking views of Big Sandy Mountain will unfold before you.

Continue hiking, and you will ultimately reach the shoreline of Big Sandy Lake. Rejuvenate your tired feet in the chilly alpine waters and revel in the grandeur of the impressive granite peaks that encircle you. On a calm day, you will be granted the scene of the lake mirroring the bounding summits.
Appreciate the beauty of the unspoiled wilderness and make friends with the resting trekkers heading deeper into the range. When you are ready, simply retrace your footing along the path all the way back to the trailhead.

Trail Highlights

Big Sandy Mountain

Big Sandy Mountain is a prominent summit that stands at an elevation of 12,416 ft in the Wind River Range. Located on the Continental Divide, this mountain sits just south of Dog Tooth Peak, framing the Big Sandy Lake below.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is the Big Sandy Trailhead?

The Big Sandy Trailhead is located at the end of the Big Sandy Opening Road, which merges off the Lander Cutoff Road.

How long is the Big Sandy Lake Hike?

The Big Sandy Lake Trail is a 10.9 mi out-and-back hike in the Bridger Wilderness.

Insider Hints

  • The mosquitos are relentless, wear bug spray
  • Head out early to beat the crowds and snag a spot in the parking lot
  • Be aware of obstacles such as roots and rocks on the path
  • Come prepared to do some scrambling over downed trees
  • Bring a can of bear spray and keep it within reach
  • When exploring the base of the Wind River Mountains be mindful of rock falls
  • Follow Leave No Trace principles

Getting There

The Big Sandy Lake Trail departs from the Big Sandy Trailhead off the Big Sandy Opening Road.

Route Details

  • Backcountry Campground

    Backcountry Camping

  • When to do

    May-October

  • Pets allowed

    Yes - On Leash

  • Family friendly

    Older Children only

  • Route Signage

    Good

  • Crowd Levels

    High

  • Route Type

    Out and back

Elevation Graph

Weather

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