Highlighting the Green River Lakes and Squaretop Mountain
Description: The Green River Lakes are nestled behind a natural terminal-moraine dam scoured out by glacial action and surrounded by the stark, cold, steep topography of the Wind River Range. Mostly composed of granite uplifts from deep within the earth over 1 billion years ago, these granite monoliths were uplifted and carved by glaciers 500,000 years ago to form circular valley cirques. The Wind River Range is not only one of the oldest mountain ranges in North America, but has the most extensive glacial network in the lower 48 states. Elevations range from 8,000 feet at Green River Lakes to 13,804 feet at Gannett Peak, the tallest mountain in the middle Rocky Mountains.
The Green River Lakes are considered the headwaters of the Green River; the chief tributary to the Colorado River. The Green River runs 730 miles through Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, and eventually terminates in northern Mexico.They are also the starting point for many backpacking trails including the northern entrance to the frequently used Highline Trail, which extends along most of the Wind River Range and follows the spine of the Continental Divide south to Big Sandy Opening.
Hiking the Highline Trail:
Visitors have a view of the much-photographed large-granite monolith, Squaretop Mountain (11,695 feet) from the Green River Lakes. The mountain looms over pristine blue-green lakes. You can expect to view glimpses of large game animals such as moose, elk, deer, and pronghorn. Other remarkable and more common animals observed in the area include several hawks, both bald and brown eagles, fox, coyote, wolverines, yellow-bellied marmots (rock-chucks), and the golden-mantled squirrel. Occasionally a black bear or grizzly bear are spotted.
The Wind River Range and the Upper Green River Valley were home to both Shoshone and Arapaho Native Americans, and provided sustenance and marketable goods for their daily livelihood as well as to early trappers and settlers. The road to Green River Lakes, which roughly parallels the river, passes the remains of the earliest dude ranch in Sublette County, the first in a long line of successful ranching businesses. For several weeks each June, the Green River Drift, one of the longest-running cattle drives in the nation takes place as wranglers push livestock from adjacent valleys to higher grounds with rich mountain pastures, a distance of about 70 miles.
It is also a naturalist and angler’s paradise being home to the Mackinaw (lake trout), golden, brook, rainbow, brown, cutthroat, and grayling trout.
It can snow any day of the year in the Wind River Range. Visitors should come prepared for cold weather. Afternoon thunderstorms and rain showers are common in the summer and can build quickly. While summer days may be warm, nights are generally cool to cold. Bring warm clothing. Also, bring and use sunscreen. At this high elevation, the sunlight is severe.
Early in the season, hikers should be prepared to encounter high water crossings, muddy trail conditions, and tree downfall. Note that this is designated grizzly bear habitat and food storage regulations apply for both the campground and backcountry users.
Pinedale Ranger District
At a Glance
Please note that there are no reservations for dispersed camping. Some campgrounds have reservable sites available, go to www.RECREATION.gov. The remaining sites are “First Come, First Served."