June 7-8, 2012
Green River Lakes
Highline Trail (#094)
Clear Creek Trail (#184)
Slide Lake Trail (#147)
Highline Trail (#094)
Lakeside Trail (#144)
+/- 14.2 miles
Beartooth Publishing North Wind River Range
Earthwalk Press North Wind River Range
USGS 7.5 minute Topographical Maps: Green River Lakes
I did this trip as an overnight adventure with a friend of mine early in the summer. The first day, we drove to the Green River Lakes Trailhead and hiked along the Highline Trail (northeastern side of larger lake), past Clear Creek Falls, and enjoyed lunch at the Clear Creek Natural Bridge. As this was in early June, the weather was cold, the water was high, and the rain turned into snow. The water crossings were a little scary, as the logs people had placed across the small creeks were small in diameter and icy, but it seemed too cold to take off our shoes and cross the chilly runoff streams. So, we jumped the water where we could and braved the log-crossings where the water was too high – trekking poles came in handy! Because it was early in the season, we saw several elk, and moose tracks were everywhere in the meadows.
The view of the peaks were amazing through the rainy mist along the Clear Creek Trail, and the natural bridge was a beautiful sight to see.
From Clear Creek Natural Bridge, we hiked back along Clear Creek to the Slide Lake Trail. As this was one of the first trips of the summer, the switchback trail winded me, and I rested at almost every corner of the trail along the Slide Creek Falls. You climb from approximately 8,000 feet to 9,000 feet in less than half a mile, so it’s a great climb to get you in shape at the beginning of the backpacking season!
Creek Falls is a stretch of Slide Creek that flows rapidly down a smooth rock along the right (southwestern) side of the trail. It is a spectacular sight and an enjoyable view while you return your heart rate to normal, as needed.
At the trail’s end, we were greeted by Slide Lake under the majestic Lost Eagle Peak. We had the lake to ourselves but still had a difficult time finding a legal campsite (200 feet from the lake). After collecting firewood, the two of us enjoyed a fire and some whiskey to keep us warm as the sun set and the alpine glow lit up the peaks. I slept in a tent with a zero-degree sleeping bag, but my friend was going tent-less and made a makeshift shelter under the pine tree boughs.
The next morning, I awoke in a tent under two inches of fresh powder.
I peeked outside my tent at my friend and saw that he had pulled out the emergency bivy he carried “just in case” and looked way too still. Tentatively, I called his name. Waking, he rolled around to face me, shook off the snow, and gave me a huge smile. This was his first backpacking trip in the Wind River Range, and he couldn’t be happier that we got snowed on in June!
The morning was chilly, and the hike out was cold. We had to don rain gear because everything brushing our clothes was wet with yesterday’s rain and last night’s snow, now melting in the morning. The hike downhill was much easier on the way out, and we made better time without my “breathing breaks”. The water crossings were a bit more sketchy with ice and frost on the logs, so we were much more careful on the way out. We hopped marshy spots in the meadow between the two Green River Lakes to hike out on the Lakeside Trail (southwestern side of the bigger lake). There were several trees down along this side of the lake, as beetle-killed trees on a north-facing slope usually result in many fallen trees after the winter. As the clouds lifted, the lake shimmered, and we were able to shed some layers and enjoy the beautiful June day.
To me, the hike to Slide Lake is the perfect overnight trip. The elevation gain makes for a wonderful start to getting fit at the beginning of summer with a light pack or as a way to acclimate to the elevation in the Winds. Not to be underestimated, the views of Squaretop, Flat Top, and Lost Eagle Peak are breathtaking, even from the parking lot! I would recommend bringing bear spray for bear and/or moose along this trail, especially in the spring or early summer. And the additional couple miles to get to Clear Creek Natural Bridge is well worth the side trip, but be prepared for any weather! Enjoy!