Acclimating to altitude & a few other questions for Winds trip

Janice

Member
Joined
Dec 5, 2017
Messages
454
We're working on plans for our backpacking trip in the Winds next August and have a few questions:

1) I'll need a few days to acclimate to the altitude. We'll fly into SLC, spend a night, then head directly to Pinedale for a few dayhikes OR make our way to Pinedale more gradually with a dayhike or two in the Uintas and/or Flaming Gorge and/or elsewhere in the general area. Any preferences or recommendations? Thanks!

2) In August, do trailheads tend to be more crowded on weekends than weekdays? Or does it not really matter?

Thanks so much. I have really benefitted from people's help planning previous trips and appreciate any advice you can give for this one, too.
 

b.stark

Forever Wandering
.
Joined
Apr 8, 2015
Messages
823
Late July through early September is pretty much peak busy season for the Winds. Trailheads will be fairly busy any day of the week, with the usual peak business on the weekends, pretty much like anywhere. That said, Big Sandy will be crazy crowded, Elkhart Park busy but I've never seen it as crazy as Big Sandy, and the Green River Lakes trailhead seems to be gaining popularity, but it's not terrible.

There are a lot of day users at the Green River Lakes, seems to have become a very popular spot for kayaking/canoeing/etc. It's a nice dayhike up along those lakes, or an overnight if you like. Not very high elevation. There are quite a few other dayhike options that will give you more elevation gain out of Green River Lakes, also. Slide Lake is a good option. The drive in is pretty neat, be aware that it's a long gravel road so if it's been rainy it can be a mess (I have found it generally better than the road to Big Sandy Opening though).

The hike in to Photographer's Point is a popular day hike, but there aren't a ton for views except for Photographer's Point itself. Expect plenty of people. There aren't actually a ton of good scenic dayhike opportunities out of Elkhart Park, to be honest. If you're in for punishment, you can take the trail down to the head of Fremont Lake and back up, but it's pretty steep.

There are definitely a few fair dayhikes out of Big Sandy Opening, but that's kind of another fairly long drive in on gravel. Also takes a while to get to good views, just depends how far you're willing to go. I think going to Big Sandy Lake itself would be the best acclimation hike, and give the best views in reward (with opportunities to get to better spots by pushing a little further).

That's all I've got off the top of my head from the Pinedale side of the range. There are probably some good opportunities in the Gros Ventre and other areas nearby, I've just never had the opportunity or incentive to explore those myself so can't comment. The Tetons are not far away, and offer plenty of day hiking opportunities, but plenty of people also.
 

Janice

Member
Joined
Dec 5, 2017
Messages
454
Late July through early September is pretty much peak busy season for the Winds. Trailheads will be fairly busy any day of the week, with the usual peak business on the weekends, pretty much like anywhere. That said, Big Sandy will be crazy crowded, Elkhart Park busy but I've never seen it as crazy as Big Sandy, and the Green River Lakes trailhead seems to be gaining popularity, but it's not terrible.

There are a lot of day users at the Green River Lakes, seems to have become a very popular spot for kayaking/canoeing/etc. It's a nice dayhike up along those lakes, or an overnight if you like. Not very high elevation. There are quite a few other dayhike options that will give you more elevation gain out of Green River Lakes, also. Slide Lake is a good option. The drive in is pretty neat, be aware that it's a long gravel road so if it's been rainy it can be a mess (I have found it generally better than the road to Big Sandy Opening though).

The hike in to Photographer's Point is a popular day hike, but there aren't a ton for views except for Photographer's Point itself. Expect plenty of people. There aren't actually a ton of good scenic dayhike opportunities out of Elkhart Park, to be honest. If you're in for punishment, you can take the trail down to the head of Fremont Lake and back up, but it's pretty steep.

There are definitely a few fair dayhikes out of Big Sandy Opening, but that's kind of another fairly long drive in on gravel. Also takes a while to get to good views, just depends how far you're willing to go. I think going to Big Sandy Lake itself would be the best acclimation hike, and give the best views in reward (with opportunities to get to better spots by pushing a little further).

That's all I've got off the top of my head from the Pinedale side of the range. There are probably some good opportunities in the Gros Ventre and other areas nearby, I've just never had the opportunity or incentive to explore those myself so can't comment. The Tetons are not far away, and offer plenty of day hiking opportunities, but plenty of people also.
Super helpful - thanks so much for taking time to provide all these ideas!
 

Wanderlust073

Member
.
Joined
Oct 30, 2016
Messages
837
Wouldn’t worry much about acclimating. If you’re fit enough for the trip you’ll probably be fine.

If you’re the unlucky type that gets sick at elevation, a couple days ‘acclimating’ probably isn’t going to make much difference.

Stay very well hydrated, avoid booze, listen to your body and slow down if you start feeling off.
 

LarryBoy

Hiker Trash
.
Joined
Jan 4, 2015
Messages
2,561
Wouldn’t worry much about acclimating. If you’re fit enough for the trip you’ll probably be fine.

If you’re the unlucky type that gets sick at elevation, a couple days ‘acclimating’ probably isn’t going to make much difference.

Stay very well hydrated, avoid booze, listen to your body and slow down if you start feeling off.
Respectfully, I disagree pretty strongly. I used to get altitude sickness pretty bad, until I moved to a place where I live at 4k and regularly recreate at 10-12k. As a result, I got some long-term exposure. Even when I'm not acclimated, I can get acclimated pretty quickly, within a day or two, but if I try to skip the acclimation phase, it really really sucks. Moral of the story, effects of altitude is kind of like shoe fit: it's super personal. I'd be wary of any broad sweeping pronouncements on how to handle altitude, especially where it doesn't corroborate your own experience.

Also, if you're flying into Salt Lake and looking to do some day hikes at elevation, I'd probably personally pick the trailheads off the upper part of Mirror Lake Highway - good short-medium length dayhikes and the trailhead is already above 10k, whereas Elkhart Park is only 9k IIRC. Hike high, sleep low. :D Enjoy!
 

Janice

Member
Joined
Dec 5, 2017
Messages
454
Respectfully, I disagree pretty strongly. I used to get altitude sickness pretty bad, until I moved to a place where I live at 4k and regularly recreate at 10-12k. As a result, I got some long-term exposure. Even when I'm not acclimated, I can get acclimated pretty quickly, within a day or two, but if I try to skip the acclimation phase, it really really sucks. Moral of the story, effects of altitude is kind of like shoe fit: it's super personal. I'd be wary of any broad sweeping pronouncements on how to handle altitude, especially where it doesn't corroborate your own experience.

Also, if you're flying into Salt Lake and looking to do some day hikes at elevation, I'd probably personally pick the trailheads off the upper part of Mirror Lake Highway - good short-medium length dayhikes and the trailhead is already above 10k, whereas Elkhart Park is only 9k IIRC. Hike high, sleep low. :D Enjoy!
Thank you so much for the suggestion of Mirror Lake Hwy - I'll look into it. And yes, I do know from experience elsewhere that I have more trouble with altitude than some people do, even though my fitness is fine for the hiking itself. We have time to add a few extra days at the beginning, so we might as well enjoy some beautiful day hikes!
 

Wanderlust073

Member
.
Joined
Oct 30, 2016
Messages
837
Respectfully, I disagree pretty strongly. I used to get altitude sickness pretty bad, until I moved to a place where I live at 4k and regularly recreate at 10-12k.

Doesn’t sound like you disagree at all... Used to get sick until you were permanently at higher elevation doesn’t sound like an argument that someone prone to getting sick won’t simply by hanging out for two days in SLC.
 

OwenM

Member
.
Joined
Aug 6, 2019
Messages
270
There are some great dayhikes off the Mirror Lake Highway, for sure.

While I also disagree about "not worrying about it", the staying very well hydrated part is what I call worrying about it.
I've had headaches for days, and struggled with climbs for a whole week before, but also had no problems when staying tanked up and taking a few grams of L-Arginine several times per day. I live at 700ft, fly in, and may be over 12k' the next day, if hiking in the Rockies. That doesn't mean what works for me will for anyone else(I'm typically all good up to 10k' or more-for some people that number is quite a bit lower), just saying I have no time for acclimation, and a conscious effort to drink more water than usual has made a significant difference in how I feel and perform.
 

Janice

Member
Joined
Dec 5, 2017
Messages
454
There are some great dayhikes off the Mirror Lake Highway, for sure.

While I also disagree about "not worrying about it", the staying very well hydrated part is what I call worrying about it.
I've had headaches for days, and struggled with climbs for a whole week before, but also had no problems when staying tanked up and taking a few grams of L-Arginine several times per day. I live at 700ft, fly in, and may be over 12k' the next day, if hiking in the Rockies. That doesn't mean what works for me will for anyone else(I'm typically all good up to 10k' or more-for some people that number is quite a bit lower), just saying I have no time for acclimation, and a conscious effort to drink more water than usual has made a significant difference in how I feel and perform.
Yes, I drink a LOT of water (and no alcohol) to help acclimate. I'm not familiar with L-Arginine and will look into that. We live around 800 ft and a couple summers ago I made the mistake of hiking up to 12,000 ft a few hours after arriving in Colorado. That did not go well! After a few days, though, I was ready for backpacking and had a great trip in the Holy Cross Wilderness. This summer, since we'll have time before putting on heavy packs in the Winds, I'm looking forward to a few beautiful warm-up hikes. I've started searching Mirror Lake Hwy hikes and am excited to explore that area!
 
Last edited:

Bob

Trailmaster
Joined
Mar 3, 2013
Messages
2,799
You can get altitude sick at 6000 ft... Plan on a couple days. Plan your first day milder, slower hiking. Most of the winds is +10,000 feet. Depending on your trip it could be all over 11,000 and some camps over 12,000.... Been there done that... I've had people with me get altitude. You may not get sick but your judgement can change.

Go to the "other" trailheads... Sweetwater, Boulder, scab Creek, Fremont, Torrey ... they will have people but not like the main ones. And you get 6 hrs in you will lose most people... Stay away from titcomb, island lake, Cirque.... Just as good or better scenery, less people. Used to be a good site... Basecamp md I think for high altitude stuf

Post your trip we can give you pointers
 
Last edited:

Janice

Member
Joined
Dec 5, 2017
Messages
454
You can get altitude sick at 6000 ft... Plan on a couple days. Plan your first day milder, slower hiking. Most of the winds is +10,000 feet. Depending on your trip it could be all over 11,000 and some camps over 12,000.... Been there done that... I've had people with me get altitude. You may not get sick but your judgement can change.

Go to the "other" trailheads... Sweetwater, Boulder, scab Creek, Fremont, Torrey ... they will have people but not like the main ones. And you get 6 hrs in you will lose most people... Stay away from titcomb, island lake, Cirque.... Just as good or better scrnery, less people.

Post your trip we can give you pointers
Wonderful - thank you so much for suggesting these other trailheads. I noticed Half Moon also - do you recommend that? It will be great to get your suggestions as we figure out more plans.
 

Bob

Trailmaster
Joined
Mar 3, 2013
Messages
2,799
Personally I'd go right to the Winds and dayhike..... Much much to see.
 

Bob

Trailmaster
Joined
Mar 3, 2013
Messages
2,799
Wonderful - thank you so much for suggesting these other trailheads. I noticed Half Moon also - do you recommend that? It will be great to get your suggestions as we figure out more plans.
Never been there to start a trip. As warning some lesser trailheads do have rougher roads....kinda why they are less popular unlike the main road from pinedale
 

Hiker Seth

Member
Joined
May 15, 2019
Messages
90
As a flatlander from sea level I had no problems going right to Pinedale and then starting off for multi day trips at over 9000'. I took diamox the first year just in case, quit it a couple days in. This past summer I had no altitude issues. Fitness wise I do a lot of trail running and my day hikes in the east are in the 8 -20 mile range with 3-9k vert so I'm sure that helped. The big difference is that my quads start to scream on big climbs at altitude. Your muscles will notice the lack of oxygen. Once I stop moving I'm fine even above 12,000'.

Just go, you will love it and probably crush the altitude. Have a great trip.
 

Janice

Member
Joined
Dec 5, 2017
Messages
454
Never been there to start a trip. As warning some lesser trailheads do have rougher roads....kinda why they are less popular unlike the main road from pinedale
Helpful - thanks.
 

Bob

Trailmaster
Joined
Mar 3, 2013
Messages
2,799
Altitude effects are variable. You can go one year or years with no effects then, bam you have problems, then the next none..... One person's reaction to altitude does not predict another's..... It is a individual reaction. I have been lucky, no effects in 50 years....and a lot of time over 10,000 feet and a bit over 12,000.....
 

LarryBoy

Hiker Trash
.
Joined
Jan 4, 2015
Messages
2,561
Doesn’t sound like you disagree at all... Used to get sick until you were permanently at higher elevation doesn’t sound like an argument that someone prone to getting sick won’t simply by hanging out for two days in SLC.
Yeah, I do disagree. I get altitude sickness. I'm helped immensely by acclimating for a few days, hiking high and sleeping low. And I'm certainly not going to tell somebody to ignore the accepted medical consensus if they don't already know the way their particular body reacts to altitude in different circumstances.
 

Wanderlust073

Member
.
Joined
Oct 30, 2016
Messages
837
Yeah, ‘dont worry’ was not meant as advice to ignore everything.

Do what you can, but don’t stress over it is what I meant. Medical consensus is that no one knows what causes it, who is susceptible, or why it randomly strikes people who’ve never had a problem.

http://www.princeton.edu/~oa/safety/altitude.html

Good writeup for OP.
 

Perry

Formerly Cuberant
.
Joined
Aug 8, 2016
Messages
2,064
Yeah, ‘dont worry’ was not meant as advice to ignore everything.

Do what you can, but don’t stress over it is what I meant. Medical consensus is that no one knows what causes it, who is susceptible, or why it randomly strikes people who’ve never had a problem.

http://www.princeton.edu/~oa/safety/altitude.html

Good writeup for OP.

Great article @Wanderlust073.

I can attest to the effectiveness of Diamox... it has been a game changer for me. I don't go high for multiple days without it.
 

Similar threads

Don't like ads? Become a BCP Supporting Member and kiss them all goodbye. Click here for more info.

Top