Backpack: Cook - Island Lakes Loop
Segment 4: Little Seneca Lake to Island Lake
Distance: 1.4 miles (one way)
Bridger Wilderness, Bridger-Teton National Forest, near Elkhart Park in Wyoming's Wind River Range
- Distance: 1.4 miles
- Elevation: 10,400-ft. at Junction Seneca Lake and Highline Trails
10,625-ft. at Top of the first hill
10,490-ft. at Stream crossing
10,640-ft. at High point of the trail
10,410-ft. at Island Lake
- Difficulty: moderate-strenuous
- Basecamp: Big Sandy / Elkhart Park
- Region: Wyoming's Wind River Range
Little Seneca Lake to Island Lake Description
This description starts at the junction of the Highline/Continental Divide and Seneca Lake trails. (Note the sign at the junction lists the Continental Divide and not the Highline Trail.) Turn northeast at the junction on the combined Highline/Continental Divide Trails to reach Island Lake or Fremont Crossing. The Seneca Trail, branching west, travels around the head of Little Seneca Lake and then turns southwest toward Seneca Lake. This trail ultimately connects with the Pole Creek trail to the Elkhart Park trailhead.
Follow the Highline Trail as it ascends steep switchbacks up a rocky draw. The grade ease as the trail reaches the top of the ridge. Here you get a preview of the coming attractions with Fremont Peak (13,745-ft.) and Jackson Peak (13,517-ft.) dominating the view to the northeast.
Descend from the ridge on moderately steep grades, passing the junction of the Continental Divide/Highline trails with the Indian Pass Trail at 0.4 miles. At the junction the Continental Divide/Highline trails branch left (northwest) toward Fremont Crossing and the Jean Lakes. We continue straight ahead (downhill) toward Island Lake on the Indian Pass trail.
At the bottom of the ridge the trail traverses a small basin and crosses a creek at 0.5 miles. Here views expand to encompass Mount Helen (13,620-ft.), Mount Sacagawea (13,569-ft.) and Fremont Peak towering above Titcomb Basin. A wall of granite summits, including Bow Mountain (13,020-ft.), Arrowhead Peak (12,792-ft.) and the Titcomb Needles (12,714-ft.), fill the skyline to the northwest.
Beyond the crossing the trail climbs over a low rise and then ascends a draw on easy to moderate grades toward the top of a second ridge ridge. The grade eases at 0.9 miles as the trail passes a pretty pond with a backdrop of the peaks to the northwest. Reach the saddle (10,640-ft.) on the ridge at 1.1 miles. Beyond the saddle the trail drops on gentle grades toward Island Lake. Along the way views open to the Fremont Peak, Jackson Peak and Elephant Head towering beyond the eastern end of lake.
The grade steepens as the trail descends toward the lake. At 1.2 miles reach a viewpoint offering a stunning panorama. Here the high peaks towering above Titcomb and Indian Basins form the backdrop for Island Lake. The jagged summits of Twin Peaks (13,185-ft.), Mt. Woodrow Wilson (13,502-ft.), the Sphinx (13,258-ft.), Bob’s Tower (13,040-ft.) and Miriam Peak (13,080-ft.) rise above the head of Titcomb Basin. Mount Helen, Mount Sacagawea and Fremont Peak rim the basin’s eastern wall while American Legion Peak (13,205-ft.), the Titcomb Needles and Peak 12450, to name a few, form the western wall. Jackson Peak (13,517-ft.) and Ellingwood Peak (13,052-ft.), along with a number of unnamed summits, tower above Indian Basin to the northeast. Closer at hand, Island Lake lies nestled amid granite knolls with Elephant Head Peak rising to the east.
From the viewpoint descend steeply down a rocky slope and then through meadows with scattered trees to an unmarked junction above Island Lake’s (10,346-ft.) eastern shore at 1.4 miles. Along the way pass a few spur trails leading to campsites.
At the unmarked junction the trail branching to the left (northwest) leads to scenic campsites along the lake’s southwestern shore. The Indian Pass trail continues straight ahead (northeast) toward Indian and Titcomb Basins.
Island Lake is an extremely popular destination, so don’t expect solitude. On the knoll at the south end of the lake are tightly packed, overused campsites. Please try to avoid camping here. The further you get from the junction at the south end of the lake, the more likely you will find a campsite with some privacy. Additional campsites are located along Island Lake’s northeastern shore and in the basin above the waterfall on the northeast side of the lake. Please respect the areas closed for regeneration along Island Lake’s heavily used eastern shore.
Campsites are also located in Titcomb and Indian Basins. Both basins are above timberline so the sites are exposed with large rocks offering the only protection. Finding legal campsites that are at least 200-ft. from trails and water is somewhat challenging in both basins. Hanging food is also problematic due to the lack of trees. You will need to find a large boulder to hang your food or carry a bear container.
Return to Segment 3: Pole Creek to Little Seneca Lake via Lester Pass
Go To Segment 5: Island Lake to Elkhart Park
- Introduction: Cook - Island Lakes Loop
- Segment 1: Pole Creek and Highline Trails to Cook Lake Junctions
- Segment 2: Cook and Wall Lakes
- Segment 3: Pole Creek to Little Seneca Lake via Lester Pass
- Segment 4: Little Seneca Lake to Island Lake
- --- Side Trip: Titcomb Basin
- --- Side Trip: Indian Basin and Pass
- --- Side Trip: Island Lake Waterfall Day Hike
- Segment 5: Island Lake to Elkhart Park
Driving Directions to Big Sandy Trailhead
Directions from Pinedale: From the intersection of Pine Street (US 191) and North Tyler Ave (the Pinedale Tourism office is located on the northeast corner) in Pinedale, WY, drive east on Highway 191 (East Pine Street) for 0.3 miles and bear left onto Fremont Lake Road. Follow this road for 14.3 miles and turn right into the large parking area for the Elkhart Park/Pole Creek Trailhead. After the first 3.0 miles the road will turn into Skyline Drive/Forest Service Road 370740. The trailhead is located at the northeast end of the parking lot between the outhouse and the trailhead kiosk. It should take about 25 minutes to drive the trailhead. The last section of the road has some holes and uneven spots.
- Backpack Intro
- Segment Photo Gallery
- Segment Map
- Trailhead(s) Information: Big Sandy / Elkhart Park
- Region Information: Wyoming's Wind River Range
- Other Hiking Regions in: Wyoming