Avoiding Weekend Crowds - Tetons vs. Wind Rivers


Oct 9, 2016
Hey Everyone,

Hey Everyone,

Some friends and I have an opportunity to do a 3-4 night backpacking trip in Wyoming in late August 2017. Unfortunately, it looks like the hiking will have to be mostly over a weekend, one immediately preceding a solar eclipse. The eclipse will no doubt be great, but it also means weekend warriors will be flocking to western Wyoming in droves! So...

Which popular backcountry is less crowded on an August weekend: the Tetons or the Wind Rivers?

It's not entirely clear from my internet research, because the Tetons are obviously more touristy, but have a backcountry quota system in place, while the Winds apparently don't have any quota system at all.

To give you an idea of what we're thinking, here are some possible itineraries. Are any of these measurably better or worse than the others in terms of August weekend crowds? Or are all of them going to be pretty packed?

1) Green River Trailhead -- Knapsack Col -- Titcomb Basin -- Elkhart Trailhead (Winds Shuttle Hike)
2) Big Sandy Trailhead -- Hailey Pass -- Lizard Head Trail -- Cirque of The Towers (Winds Loop Hike)
3) Death Canyon -- Teton Crest -- Paintbrush [or Cascade] Canyon (Tetons Shuttle Hike)

(And yeah, I know that this problem can be solved if we simply avoid the most popular trails, but for the sake of discussion, let's just assume for the moment that we are only looking at the premier spots.)

Any wisdom anyone might be able to dispense would be a huge help! Thanks!

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Outside of counting 103 people one day in Coyote Gulch this year, I've never seen so many people in the backcountry as I did in Titcomb Basin and the trail down to Elkhart. And that was in September during the week. You will see less people along the Teton Crest.

Any of those routes will be spectacular, and I doubt you will be disappointed any way you go Since you don't need a permit for the Winds, it will be simpler and easier to just go do what you want. The Tetons tend to be a hassle since it is a national park.
Thanks, Joey! I confess I'd rather do the Wind Rivers, so at the risk of pressing my luck, do you have any experience approaching Titcomb Basin via the Green River Trail and Knapsack Col? Or perhaps approaching the Cirque of the Towers via the Hailey Pass loop? I'm wondering if those itineraries would provide some (relative) solitude for the first few days and then we'd only have to brave the crowds for the last day and a half...
Just once going over Knapsack Col. Came in from Lozier Lakes area. We shared Knapsack with 3 other groups. Saw quite a few people along the main trail corridor that comes up from Green River Lakes. But it didn't really feel over crowded until Titcomb Basin.

A lot of people on here love that place, and will chime in with more info. Solitude in either of those spots will be hard to find, and the same for the Teton Crest trail. But you can still find private campsites in all of those places.

And i lied in my first post. Using the word corridor got me thinking about those corridor trails in the Grand Canyon. That might be the most crowded trail system i've seen. But heck it's paved in some places.
Thanks. I'm certainly not aiming for true solitude -- just hoping to keep things below a certain threshold of insanity. My baseline is always my home range of the Sierra, where there are plenty of very popular trails, but the quota system keeps it reasonably pleasant so long as you avoid the areas around Mammoth and Yosemite!

If no one else comments on this thread, maybe I'll start a new one asking about that Hailey-Cirque of The Towers loop and compare notes.

Have you done the Teton Crest or Cascade Canyon BTW?
I was in the Winds in early August (not a weekend) and can echo what Joey said about the Elkhart/Titcomb area. I was only out for 3 days. The first day and a half were out near the Pole Creek Lakes, and once we were out there, off the main trail to Island Lake, we only saw 3 other groups. Once we joined up with the main trail, we saw a different group maybe every 10-20 minutes.

That's my limited experience. Not much of an idea on the others. I guess the beauty of a permit system is that there is a set limit on how many people can be out there at once. But I still don't like having to get permits.
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Thanks for the intel, Jackson. I think I converted to permit-ism a long time ago...
Outside of counting 103 people one day in Coyote Gulch this year....

That is insane. Especially when every other canyon in that area had less than 12.

I haven't been back to that canyon for 20 years. I will see it again, but only as a day hike, or passing through to another nearby area.
Outside of counting 103 people one day in Coyote Gulch this year

Geeze, that is nuts, considering when my brother and I did Coyote during Spring Break this year there were only five groups of less than six people.
That is insane. Especially when every other canyon in that area had less than 12.

Geeze, that is nuts, considering when my brother and I did Coyote during Spring Break this year there were only five groups of less than six people.

Yes, it was insane, and kind of strange. I actually did a weekend trip in Coyote the weekend before with friends, and it wasn't overly crowded outside of the main arch there. Then I went right back a week later, and it was so busy I actually took time to count. I walked in from Hurricane Wash. I've never seen so many tents. Of course, then I didn't see another soul the next 6 days going up Stevens, down Fold, and up Fools. I almost never see people in any other side canyon outside of Harris and the Neon/Egypt area, and even then its not many. Last fall I did a 9 day loop and never saw a single person.
Have you done the Teton Crest or Cascade Canyon BTW?
Yes, i've spent a fair amount of time in that area. You will see people for sure. Cascade Canyon especially. From there up to Lake Solitude will be similar to going up to Titcomb Basin. But more day hikers, and less competition for campsites.

Both places have their own beauty. The Tetons are a much smaller range, and you don't necessarily feel engulfed by the mountains or wilderness like you will in the Winds. You can also find solitude in both areas. A little research on this forum will lead you to a bunch of reports for both places.
I would think that finding a place to park at the trailheads in the Winds could be your biggest obstacle to backpacking the weekend before the eclipse.

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