But I Love Wyoming

Story and Photos by Ruffwear Ambassador, Katie Pollack

I like a lot of places we have ventured, but I love Wyoming. Last summer, I spent 4 days in the Wind River Range with my dogs Chipper and Quin trying to wrap my mind around its beauty and variety.  It’s filled with alpine peaks, colorful valleys, water sources, high desert, mountain towns, and friendly faces.

We spent the first day exploring near Pinedale, WY. We walked along the Green River, explored some dirt roads, and spent the evening in a small, rustic AirBnB cabin. We would be heading out on a backpacking trip, and we wanted to rest up and buy some last minute gear before getting on the trail. In town, we found the friendly and local Great Outdoor Shop. They had the gear we needed, and provided guidance on the snow levels and accessible trails. After a cozy night in our log cabin and a sun shower wash up, we were ready to hit the trails!

Day 1: Big Sandy Trailhead to Big Sandy Lake (6 miles)

The drive in through Big Sandy Wash was beautiful and very Wyoming.  We even got caught in a traffic jam caused by some ranchers moving a herd of cattle. The dogs loved that one!

The hike itself was stunning, gradual, and most importantly – dog friendly!  This was the main reason we chose the Wind River Range. Unlike the nearby Tetons, this range has miles and miles of dog-friendly trails through its breathtaking wilderness. The trail into Big Sandy Lake meandered through fragrant pines and opened up to beautiful views of meadows and snow-covered peaks. The dogs couldn’t get enough. The most luxurious part of the trail? Having a freshwater source running alongside the entire trail.  This left us Arizona desert rats feeling very spoiled!

We arrived at the lake around midday, giving us plenty of time to set up camp before exploring more. After finding the ideal campsite, with views of Big Sandy Lake, East Temple Peak, and Haystack Peak, we decided to load up our day packs and see what the range had to offer. We made our way to Clear Lake and Black Joe Lake, making the first tracks through the snow that still remained from a heavy winter. Making tracks led to a fun change of pace and some humorous falls from the humans, but the views…the views were worth every misstep!

After adding five wet and soggy miles to our day, we relaxed at camp and stuffed our faces. I think humans and dogs can agree that everything tastes better when you’re in the wilderness! The food was magical, but the mosquitoes were pesky, leading us to start our fire well before dark (which also served as a dryer for our sloppy socks and stinky boots. The dogs hid from the bloodsuckers in their Clear Lake Blanket, the perfect place to rest and hide – creating quite a cozy, homey scene, in this rugged range.

Day 2: Big Sandy Lake over Jackass Pass to Cirque of the Towers (5 miles)

Day two was full of “WOW” moments! I’m still reliving the magic of this day. I’ll be honest though – the dogs were more into the millions of marmots than the view.  But, as long as we all enjoyed the journey…that’s what matters.  The hike was a fun mix of gradual uphill, boulder hopping, trekking through some serious snow pack and hopping across quite a few overflowing creeks. 

On our way up to Jackass Pass, we passed by a couple lakes. The first was unnamed, but we quickly named it Infinity Lake (since it resembled an infinity pool) and the second was Arrowhead Lake (and it was appropriately named).

Just passed Arrowhead Lake was Jackass Pass – our final ascent to the Cirque of Towers. We made our way up an alternative climbing trail since the primary trail was covered in snow. Even before we made our way all the way up Jackass Pass, the views were indescribable. So much granite!

My heart could hardly stand what my eyes were seeing, it was so much to take in. Surrounded by towering granite walls, so raw and real. The dogs, on the other hand, were mostly interested in the marmots…

I could’ve stayed on this pass all day, just trying to comprehend how amazing nature is, but a storm was brewing and we knew our time was limited to taking some photos, a quick rest, and some snacks. And back down the pass we went, followed by a 3 hour nap while the storm made its way over our campsite.

After a delicious dinner, a cozy fire, and a restful sleep – it was time to head back to the trailhead, an easy 6 mile jaunt. However, our Wyoming fun wasn’t quite over. We enjoyed one more night of car camping in the Big Sandy Basin – what a place!

Our campsite was near perfection – complete with privacy, stellar views, a meadow in front of us, trees behind us, a secure fire ring and a winding river that we were able to float down over and over…dogs and all! What more could you need?

Wyoming left me utterly speechless. This desert dweller fell in love. I can’t wait to return to the Wind River Range to continue exploring the miles and miles of dog-friendly trails. 

Now, let’s talk gear!  I would only use gear I have complete trust in for backpacking — there is minimal room for error when you’re in the backcountry. Here are our go-to gear items:

Chipper: Approach Pack, Flat Out Leash, Climate Changer Jacket

Quin: Webmaster Harness, Powder Hound Jacket, Knot-a-Leash

Both dogs: Trail Runner Bowl, Clear Lake Blanket

Katie, Chipper, and Quin are an Arizona-based adventure trio that hike, backpack, and camp together, frequently picking up trail litter as they explore. Follow all of their adventures on Instagram.

One thought

  1. I also live in AZ, and have a love for WY, fell in love with Jackson Hole, Grand Teton NP and greater Yellowstone NP. Both are stunning and left me in awe; life changing. Can’t wait to go back to WY and do more exploring, and have heard the Wind River Range is breathtaking. Great story and pics. There is nothing like mountains, rivers, lakes and the wildlife.

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