Distance: 4 miles (one way)
Best time of year: Spring, Summer, Fall
Last hiked: 2014 August
A water purifier is not something you want to forget on a three-day backpacking trip. A wiser person, upon realizing an essential item was forgotten while still at the car, would have packed everything back up, gone home to retrieve the purifier, then done another trip closer to home, especially if this person hasn’t been able to go hiking much lately. I, however, have stubbornness issues.
Despite being completely unfamiliar with the terrain, particularly with reliable sources of water, I still headed into the Wyoming Mountains with two liters of water to see where that could bring me.
My initial plan was to spend three days backpacking the Little Grey’s River Loop, a hike I had read about that promised solitude, rugged mountain wildness, and wildlife. Eager to explore new territory, I didn’t let a mere two liters of water stop me from heading out. I began from the trailhead at the Little Grey’s River and proceeded toward Pickle Pass, a trail I found to be very unforgiving in terms of elevation gain. The trail ascended nearly from the start and never seemed to let up for the duration of the 3.9 mile ascent, gaining nearly 2,000 feet along the way.
The trail begins paralleling the Little Grey’s River, providing a soothing white noise as you begin your trek. If you time your journey right, you’ll be accompanied by thick meadows of wildflowers, often overtaking the trail itself. It’s not soon after that the trail begins the pattern of thick fields of wildflowers interspersed with welcomed shade from the sporadic evergreen groves.
Eventually the evergreen trees give way to a significantly large meadow covering a small valley covered in wildflowers of many different varieties: silver lupine, showy goldeneye, giant hyssop, western coneflower, and the duncecap larkspur, which can easily tower above most people. If you’ve ever wanted to experience hiking through a forest of wildflowers that dwarfs any human, this is the place to do it.
Through the wildflowers, you climb hill after hill, until you crest a ridge: Pickle Pass. Immediately you’ll notice a completely unexpected sight far in the distance: the Teton Mountains towering above the scenery, faded into the background.
A late start combined with incoming clouds factored into my decision to camp at Pickle Pass for the night. The clouds also affected my motivation to stay up to otherwise capture a few new night shots. As the thick blanket was pulled over the area shortly after sunset, I simply went to bed early, curious about what tomorrow would hold.
As I awoke, I checked on the view of the Tetons, disappointed that they had faded farther into the horizon courtesy of some forest fire smoke. Without anything too exciting to photograph, I ate my breakfast, packed up my camp, and proceeded up the trail, hoping to find some running water at a higher elevation.
I made a steep ascent covering roughly a mile to a rather scenic overlook, but was a little discouraged to not hear any running water, nor see any in sight. I studied the map a little harder and noticed that I had two options from this overlook: continue up my planned route, gaining more in elevation where water might be safer, but with no known water for roughly four miles, or, cut downward 2.3 miles toward Roosevelt Meadows where the elevation drops significantly, thus making the water less trustworthy without a purifier. Left with these two options, I created a third: knowing the previous five miles would be nearly all downhill with potentially safe water if I needed it, I could head back to my car, stay healthy, and make other plans for the weekend.
A few hours of enjoyable hiking downhill and I was back at my car, ready to get back to town and properly rehydrate. Given that I was relatively out of shape, though, I was happy I was able to hike nearly ten rugged miles with only two liters of water and never get very dehydrated at all. On top of that, the remoteness and solitude of the Wyoming Mountains will continue to call back to me until I can return for a properly prepared hike. With any luck, my next hike there will be the Wyoming Range National Recreation Trail.
From Jackson, follow Highway 89 south out of town, through the Hoback Junction, then the Snake River Canyon and finally to the town of Alpine, Wyoming. Once in Alpine, the highway will come to an intersection where it continues south. Turn left to follow the highway, but you won’t be going far on it from there. Highway 89 will cross the Snake River and in just a few tenths of a mile, you’ll see Grey’s River Road on the left. Turn in there and continue through the Bridger-Teton National Forest boundary which is about a mile down the road, at which point the road turns to a well-packed dirt road. After 7.5 miles, you’ll see Little Grey’s River Road on the left at a relatively significant intersection. Turn left onto that road and continue for another 11.7 miles and you’ll see a right turn for Forest Road 10047, which may or may not be well signed, but will be obvious considering the mileage and relative lack of other options. Take Forest Road 10047 all the way till it dead ends at the trailhead and you’ll see the trail veering off to the north along a hill.