Lander, Wyoming is located near the Wind River Mountain Range. It is only about three hours south of Jackson. While it is well known among climbers, it is yet to be discovered by many. I expect ten years from now, it will be the next Moab and no longer a hidden gem.
During my time in Lander, I took five hikes; two in Sinks Canyon State Park and three in the Shoshone National Forest which borders the state park.
Popo Agie Falls: 3.3 Miles – Moderate
My favorite hike near Lander (by far), was to Popo Agie Falls in the Shoshone National Forest. Of course, as a waterfall lover, in my opinion, it is hard to beat a hike to a multi-tiered cascade.
This 3.3 mile round trip hike climbs approximately 700 feet through sage brush covered hills to a lovely view of the falls. Along the way, wildflowers pop under June’s sunny skies.
A moderate effort rewards hikers with a magnificent waterfall which tumbles over protruding rocks in all directions. Be sure to walk down to the bridge tucked in the aspen to take in some different views. For more details and photos, see my post Popo Agie Falls Trail.
Upper Silas Lake: 6.9 Miles – Moderate
Upper Silas Lake is also located in the Shoshone National Forest and may have been the most difficult hike I took, though the 6.9 mile round trip was still moderate.
This trail is rather rocky and full of downed trees which slows your progress to a degree, especially because at times it is difficult to find the path.
That said, the trail features lots of water, which I love. There are several creek crossings which were all passable without getting your feet wet in late June. And the path passes by Lower Silas Lake and Townsend Lake before it reaches Upper Silas Lake.
Additionally, the trailhead basically begins at Fiddlers Lake. So, if you are a water person, this is the hike near Lander for you. I’d recommend waiting until July to do this one, in order to avoid a muddy track and patches of snow. For more details and photos, see my post Hiking Silas Lakes Trail.
Sheep Bridge: 5.8 Miles – Moderate
The Sheep Bridge Trail is 5.8 miles roundtrip and begins at Worthen Meadow Reservoir. I believe this trail is best suited for the fall or for a back packing trip. Why? Well, it passes through an aspen grove whose golden color in the fall would be breathtaking.
And the reason I mention the hike for a back packing trip is it acts as a connector trail to many others in the vast wilderness. In fact, there is not much of a destination if only hiking Sheep Bridge.
The path, loaded with bike, foot, horse, deer, and moose prints as well as plenty of scat, climbs a little and then descends into a flower strewn meadow to a bridge. Be sure to save some energy for the uphill coming back.
From aspen to pine trees, there is rarely a view until the return, which is lovely. In all, I found this hike to be a peaceful, stroll in the woods. With limited views and little water, I wouldn’t make it my first choice unless I planned a much longer hiking/backpacking trip to some of the backcountry lakes.
Sinks Canyon Trail: 4 Miles – Easy
Sinks Canyon Trail may be accessed from the Popo Agie Campground in Sinks Canyon State Park or from the Bruces Camp Parking Lot in the Shoshone National Forest.
I accessed the trail from Bruces Camp because the parking lot is very big, and I figured it would be easier to park VANgo. Additionally, dogs are allowed off-leash in the National Forest but must be on leash in the State Park. Consequently, this was the best direction to go to let Annie release her energy.
The first, very short section to the corrals is paved, but there after it becomes a dirt road that follows the Popo Agie River. It intermittently travels through lush, shaded areas and open sage brush meadows. Along the way, it passes by and old cabin as well as many connecting trails.
In fact, upon reaching the state park fence line (and almost the Popo Agie Campground), I naughtily veered from my plan and backtracked just slightly to Moose Gulch Trail to make a lollipop loop. This added a little elevation with a short climb through the forest.
But, if I had to do it over again, I would have stuck to my original plan with the four-mile out and back, as the road, which turned into a single track along the river, was prettier with more lush vegetation and wildflowers.
North Slope Trail: 3.3 Miles – Moderate
Of the five hikes I took near Lander, the North Slope Trail was my least favorite. In my post Sinks Canyon State Park, I describe this trail in a lot more detail, specifically the best way to hike it if you want to avoid the 30% grade for little reward.
The North Slope Trail is one mile long (one-way) and travels from the Visitors Center to the Nature Trail across from the Popo Agie Campground. Adding the Nature Trail interpretive loop makes the round-trip 3.3 miles.
The reward from the climb is the lovely view of the valley with the Popo Agie River, but the reward may be achieved much more easily if accessed from the Nature Loop.
While I’m not big on interpretive signage, I thought the prettiest part of the path was by the river in the aspen grove with the signs. I’d pick this hike near Lander for a workout or reverse directions for an easy stroll. ETB