With a free day in Lander before our 2017 Llama Trek, I drove up to Worthen Meadows Reservoir for a day hike up to Roaring Fork Pass. This is the first time I have been on this hike since my very first Llama Trek in 2005, and it affords one of the best views from a trail in the Wind River Range. Add to that the vast amount of snow that persisted in mid-July from a 300+% Winter snowfall, and it was a truly beautiful hike.
The drive up to Worthen Meadows from Lander is pretty easy given the paving of road from Sinks Canyon State Park up to Fry Lake 10 years ago. Once the pavement ended, the damage from the heavy winter snowfall was apparent, with several sections consisting of deep potholes and part of the road washed out at places. My Hyundai Sonata rental car did fine, but it just took some delicate steering and taking it slow at times.
Worthen Meadows is a central location for camping and launching point for several Southern Winds destinations. We have been up here for several of our Llama Treks, more often taking the trail to Sheep Bridge. Since my visit in 2005, they moved the Roaring Fork Trailhead to the parking area, across the lot from the latrine and Sheep Bridge Trailhead. There is ample parking, and you will see livestock trailers as it is frequent to see llamas, horses and even pack goats on the trails.
The first half mile of the hike up to Roaring Fork Lake is relatively flat and through a nice forest. Once you reach the lake, you are welcomed to your first view (and last for awhile) of the mountains that await.
Your only water crossing is at the outlet-side of the lake, and while it is a mellow, easy crossing, it does require water shoes. There is a side trail going downstream that comes to somewhat of a log crossing over a narrow section of the river, however, I didn’t feel like chancing it this early into the hike. On the way back down at the crossing, people on the other side were talking about seeing a bear on my side just five minutes prior!
The trail starts a gentle incline after the crossing for the next mile and a half, including coming to a couple nice little parks, one with a pretty long boardwalk across it. I looked for Moose, but no luck. Shortly after the parks, the trail starts a much more noticeable ascent, and there is a rushing creek to the left. Just beyond, you come to a decent sized rock/boulder slide that opens up the trail for a bit, providing decent views down to the parks you walked through and beyond.
I eventually started catching up to other hikers, one large group (19) from Utah heading up to Stough Creek Basin for a few nights of camping. This was one of our options for our Llama Trek, so I am glad we are not going with the crowd! At 3.5 miles, the switchbacking becomes more noticeable as you make the final push to the pass. I hadn’t noticed the mosquitos much during the hike, but when I stopped at about an elevation of 10,300′ for a break, they made their presence known!
Right before you reach the pass, the remnants of the winter appeared in the form of a very large snowbank covering the trail.
Once I crossed over that, you get your first glimpse of the pass and mountains beyond, a beautiful, framed view of Wind River Peak, the tallest mountain in the Southern Winds.
I climbed Wind River Peak in 2010, but I don’t think it would be possible for me to do on this day with all the snow still existing on the mountain!
I reached the pass at 4.5 miles in about two hours of hiking (1,500′ elevation gain). The pass is a very large open space (a football field?) with beautiful vistas along the Southern Wind River Range, from Roaring Fork Mountain all the way over to Lizard Head Peak. With all the snow remaining on the mountains, it was much more stunning than I remember in the past. I read in a WRR guide book that most of the trails in the range are in the valleys and basins that this view is one of the finest in all of the Winds from a trail.
The pass is a great area to take in lunch and enjoy the beauty, The mosquitos were bad, so I tried to find a breeze and move around a bit. The large Utah group came up soon, as well as a few other hikers. I decided I would scramble up to the peak designated as 10,985′ on the topo map immediately to the south of the pass. I took off after lunch and before it got too crowded.
I read a couple reports of the hike to the top of Roaring Fork Mountain from the pass, which was beyond my destination. I started in that direction in a direct route along the west face of the peak, snaking through some shrubs and then scrambling over the rocks. After surveying the route, and since there is a dip between my peak and the entry to Roaring Fork Mountain, IF you are interested in hiking over to Roaring Fork, I would recommend staying down along the tree line until you reach the dip. This would be the path of least resistance to get to your destination.
Shortly, I decided to just start heading up the rocks directly to the peak. I like the rock scrambling, and the footing was really good. Additionally, with views like this, I took my time and enjoyed the scenery.
It didn’t take too long to climb the 500′ to the peak, but once I got up there and was exposed to the East, the Wind River Range lived up to it’s name! Wow. I had to be careful standing on the top of the peak. What a beautiful view from the peak (see the top image for the panorama). From the top, you also get a great view down to where you started at Worthen Meadows Reservoir.
It is quite a 360 degree view from this peak, and highly recommended if you are making the trek to the pass. I wouldn’t mind doing the hike over on top of Roaring Fork Mountain to get the views down to Stough Creek Basin, Silas Canyon and and the lakes that form the Roaring Fork River. If your destination is to do the peak I did today, I recommend just climbing straight up to it along the North side, directly from the pass.
I returned that route down to the pass and enjoyed a snack. I ran into an ambitious hiker from Colorado and his dog. He didn’t have a particular direction or itinerary, so I gave him an overview of the entire Southern Winds based on my previous Llama Treks. After, it dawned on me that I really do know the trail network and highlights pretty well from our five previous Llama Treks throughout the area. I think I will come back some day with a backpack and meander through the South Winds for a few days.
The hike down was uneventful outside of running into a bunch of day hikers (I was surprised with the # of people I saw) and the bear report. I was surprised how well I felt after the 10.5 mile hike and 2000′ elevation to near 11,000′. A great, accessible day hike that has views that are worth the hump if you happen to be in the area.
Complete photo album: https://flic.kr/s/aHsm7iFrhm
GPS track from the hike: https://www.gaiagps.com/public/OGbMrKD8Nl0N1f0lFeHr9SA1/?layer=mapquestaerial