Headwaters of the Green River | Tuesday – Saturday, August 17-21, 2021
After Diane and I visited the Wind Rivers for the Great American Eclipse in 2017 we decided that we should try to return every other summer to visit somewhere new in the range. Two years ago we came back and hiked to the Cirque of the Towers, so this year I thought it would be a good idea to check out the area around the Green River Lakes and planned a four day backpacking trip for us. Since Canyonlands is the heart of the world to me and I have spent a lot of time exploring along the Green River on the Colorado Plateau, I though it was finally time to visit its headwaters in the Wind Rivers. Lucky for Diane, she had a week off between semesters at school at the same time we try to go in late August, so the timing worked out perfect for us!
Leading up to the trip I had been keeping an eye on the weather forecast closely and things were not looking very good. A big weather system was moving into the area that was supposed to drop a lot of rain over the next few days, so before we even left home I anticipated that we would probably need to alter our plans somewhat based on the weather. I left from work on Tuesday afternoon, picked up Diane and then we started driving north through the Book Cliffs into Utah. The last two trips we had driven straight through and arrived late in the night, but this time I wanted to split the drive up and reserved a campsite near the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, which is about the halfway point for us. By the time we reached Vernal the first wave of the storm system was just arriving, but we got out of it quickly as we headed further north. We arrived at our campsite at the Cedar Spring Campground shortly before sunset and got our tent setup in windy conditions. We hurried up because it looked like it might start raining at any moment, but it never did. The next morning Diane told me it had rained on and off overnight, but I must have slept right through it.
We woke up early on Wednesday morning, packed up camp and then hit the road again. After a quick stop for breakfast in Rock Springs we continued north to Pinedale through cloudy, smoky, rainy and overall dreary conditions. When we arrived in Pinedale I checked the weather one last time and saw that the forecast had not changed and that thunderstorms were still predicted for the next few days. At this point it looked like our best option was to delay the backpacking trip until the weather was better and just car camp at the Green River Lakes Campground until then. Since we had pretty much only planned to backpack on this trip, we stopped at a grocery store for additional food so we wouldn’t have to just eat dehydrated meals. We continued on to the Green River Lakes and found a nice campsite to wait out the weather in.
This was our first smoky view of the Green River Lakes and Squaretop Mountain shortly after we arrived and setup camp. It smelled like smoke out, too.
Our campsite wasn’t far from the lake, so we walked down to the shore a few times as conditions allowed, but we ended up spending most of the afternoon just hanging out around camp.
Although there was on and off light rain throughout the afternoon, the sun did peek out of the clouds and light up some of the mountains later in the evening.
When the sun struck the lake you could see how blue it actually was.
Light on White Rock
This was the view from our campsite while the sun was still out.
Later in the evening we went for a short hike along the Lakeside Trail.
A little light even struck Squaretop Mountain through the smoke for a few minutes.
Footbridge over the Green River.
A smoky evening at the Green River Lakes.
After our evening walk we returned to camp and had dinner. Once it started to get dark out the rain started to come down and it would continue to rain all night and into the next morning. It did not stop raining until after 10:00am, which means it rained for over 13 hours straight!
The clouds were hugging the mountains when we finally got out of our tent on Thursday morning.
The weather still wasn’t looking good for backpacking on Thursday, so we decided to drive back to Pinedale to pick up some additional food and supplies, and also check the weather forecast again while we were there, since we didn’t have signal at the campground. While we were in town we grabbed lunch from Dave’s Last Stand and the burgers and fires we had were really good! Before leaving town I checked the weather forecast one last time and while things still were not looking good for the rest of the day and night, it looked like we might be able to salvage an overnight trip from Friday through Saturday, so that’s what we planned to do. We spent the rest of the evening around camp- reading, listening to podcasts, napping, walking down to the lakeshore when conditions looked to be improving, and then repeating…
This deer greeted us at the entrance of the campground as we left to drive back to Pinedale.
A view of the Green River as we drove back to the campground from Pinedale. It sure does look a lot different up here than it does in Canyonlands.
We spent another dreary afternoon hanging around at camp with on and off rain, plus today it was a bit more windier out which made for rougher waters on the lake.
Stormy clouds over White Rock with a touch of light.
I’m glad I had thrown one of our larger tents into our vehicle before leaving home, since I’m not sure our backpacking tent would have kept us dry through all the rain we experienced.
Another smoky evening at the Green River Lakes.
We did finally see some blue sky shortly before sunset!
The peak above our campsite was hidden in the clouds.
Guess what? Once it started to get dark out the rain started up and didn’t stop until the morning again. That was two nights in a row of all night rain! We woke up to snow-capped mountains and low clouds on Friday morning when we got out of the tent. With our change of plans we decided we’d try to salvage an overnight backpacking trip to Slide Lake today. Although the weather still wasn’t looking good this morning, I had hopes that things would get better in the afternoon, so we took down our soaking wet tent, packed our backpacks and started hiking up the Highline Trail to Clear Creek.
Diane crossing the Green River on the footbridge with low clouds in the valley.
The Highline Trail is part of the Continental Divide Trail and we had encountered a couple of thru-hikers the past couple of days on the trail and around Pinedale. It’s funny because on my last trip with Diane in May we had encountered a bunch of thru-hikers on the CDT in New Mexico and now we were running into them in Wyoming.
Soon we entered the Bridger Wilderness.
Taking in the views from the Highline Trail.
Squaretop Mountain In The Clouds
After leaving the Highline Trail, we followed the Clear Creek Trail above Clear Creek Falls.
When we reached the junction for the Slide Lake Trail we had to cross Clear Creek, but the bridge had been washed out, so off came our shoes and socks to cross the cold water of the creek.
Towers In The Clouds
No wonder this is called Slide Creek! It looked like a big steep waterslide, but with dangerous falls and rocks at the bottom.
Slide Lake Trail
As we climbed higher toward Slide Lake, the mountains above were still in the clouds.
Fish Bowl Spring was really cool with turquoise water and lots of fish swimming around.
I was having doubts that the clouds were going to clear out this afternoon when we arrived at Slide Lake. It was also a bit chilly up by the lake.
Rock & Clouds
We found a nice place to setup camp for the night.
After a while of hanging out by the lake under the clouds, I finally saw some blue in the sky and had some hope for a nice sunset!
Touch of Light
Light & Reflection
As the clouds continued to clear out, the dappled light on Flat Top Mountain was looking good. The temperature also warmed up a bit, too.
Lost Eagle Pinnacle Reflection
I guess this was our finale after waiting out stormy weather and smoky skies for the past couple of days!
The Setting Sun
By the time the last light of the day struck Lost Eagle Peak the clouds were almost completely gone, but at least we were able to watch one nice sunset without smoke this trip.
Surprisingly, there was absolutely no rain overnight for the first time on the trip. We woke up shortly before sunrise on Saturday morning and even though the sky was still mostly clear, the smoke was back. I didn’t bother taking any photos this morning since they wouldn’t compare to the conditions from the previous night. We packed up camp and started hiking back down just after sunrise.
We could see low clouds hovering over the Green Lakes below, but they burned off pretty quickly and were long gone by the time we made it down there.
Diane follows the trail to Clear Creek with Big Sheep Mountain in the distance.
Clear Creek Towers in the Morning
We took off our shoes and socks to cross back to the other side of Clear Creek. The water felt much colder early this morning.
It was a little deep in the middle.
Hiking along Creek Creek as we made our way back to the Highline Trail.
Clear Creek Trail
Clear Creek meets the Green River.
When we reached the Highline Trail again, I walked a short distance up the trail to the footbridge over Clear Creek.
Here’s a smoky parting shot of Squaretop Mountain before we returned to the trailhead and started our long drive back home.
Although things certainly didn’t go as we had hoped on this trip, we both still had a nice relaxing weekend away from work and school in the Wind Rivers and we look forward to returning again in two years!