Gros Ventre Mountains of western Wyoming is another fine example of western Wyoming¡s embarrassment of riches in the natural wonders department. The range is composed of high craggy peaks, glacier scoured valleys, and rolling sagebrush foothills. The Gros Ventre Mountains receives much less visitation than the more well known Grand Teton Range which you can see from much of the Gros Ventre¡s
northern and western flanks. Views from the high country also include views of
the Absaroka Mountains, Wind River Mountains, the Snake
River Range and the Wyoming Range. The name
Gros Ventre is from the French word for "big belly", and originated from Indian sign language meant to convey the idea of "always hungry".
the heart of the Gros Ventre Mountains is the 287,000-acre Gros Ventre Wilderness;
it became a part of the National Wilderness Preservation System in 1984. The
higher elevations are usually free of snow around mid-July and open until mid-September.
Elevations range from 7,000 to over 11,000 feet. This area is best known for
Sheep Mountain, also known as the Sleeping Indian due to its resemblance of an
Indian chief lying on his back, Jackson Hole¡s most prominent feature to the
east. Much of the wilderness lies above timberline and is home to many peaks
over 10,000 feet-with the tallest being Doubletop Peak at 11,682 feet. Mechanized
vehicles, including mountain bikes and snowmobiles.
The landscape is a dynamic one, In 1925 a year of heavy snow and spring rain, a major slump broke off the north side of the Sleeping Indian and resulted in the Gros Ventre Slide. Some 50 million cubic yards of sandstone, limestone, shale and rock, about one mile long, 2000 feet wide and several hundred feet deep in places, plunged down and formed a dam 225 feet high and half a mile wide across the Gros Ventre River. A lake was created above the dam. For almost two years this earth dam held; then on May 18, 1927, part of the dam gave way and a wall of water, mud and rock flowed down the canyon destroying valuable property. Ranch lands were ruined by mud and rubble and the town of Kelly, three and one half miles downstream, was practically wiped out. Six persons drowned in the flood. The slide is still a wonder to look at, giant boulders are strewn willy nilly along the river bottom, natures earthwork dam that still holds back sizable Slide Lake is a marvel and the gapping hole in the mountain still inspires awe. The boulder fields below the dam provide world class kayaking in the spring. In the winter and spring along the south side of the lake in the red cliffs is a good place to view rocky mountain bighorn sheep.
Gros Ventre Mountains are home to elk, moose, deer, bighorn sheep, black and
grizzly bear, wolves, mountain lion and many other species. It is considered
critical calving grounds for the Jackson Hole elk herd. The Gros Ventre River
Valley doesn¡t receive much snow so the area doubles as critical winter range for wildlife also, this dynamic provides great wildlife viewing opportunities for the snowmobile tours offered out of Jackson.
Blue ribbon trout fishing is to be found throughout the range in its many streams and rivers. The range¡s
many tributaries are spawning areas for the Snake
River trout but many stay behind.
The regions numerous lakes also provide great fishing. The Gros Ventre Mountain
Range has fewer lakes than the nearby Wind River Mountains, but still offers
great fishing opportunities for several species of trout. Very large ones can
be found in Lunch Lake, Turquoise Lake, Slide Lake, Brewster Lake, McLeod Lake
and Lunch Lake.
The high alpine meadows have prolific wild flower displays in the summer months starting with the balsamroot in early June. Many high mountain meadows contain little grass, but many tall perennials such as cow parsnip, penstemon, lupine, monkshood, and western coneflower. These plants grow so tall that they obscure lightly used trails by mid summer.
Licensed outfitters and guides offer summer pack trips, hiking, backpacking, llama tours, etc., mountaineering outfitters offer trips into the wilderness in winter.
The hunting in the Gros Ventre Mountains for elk, mule deer and rocky mountain bighorn sheep is hard to beat. In the wilderness area you must hire a guide and there are many to be found in the region.
Expect summer time temperatures to range
from highs in the 70s-80s during the day to lows of around 30 at night. Afternoon
with lightning and rain showers are common in the summer. It can snow any
day of the year and has, so visitors should come prepared for a wide variety
of weather and temperature conditions. Remember Murphy¡s Law and pack accordingly.
Granite Hot Springs a pool built by the WPA
in the 1930¡s
below the towering peaks of Granite Canyon makes a nice destination when
exploring the southern part of the range, in winter it is a 10 miles one
way by cross country skies, dog team or snowmobile but is well worth the
effort. It is a godsend for those returning from a wilderness trip to Turquoise
Lake at the head of Granite Creek.
Gros Ventre Mountains can be accessed from Jackson from Game Creek, Cache Creek,
Flat Creek, and Curtis Canyon. From the south access is along the Hoback River¡s feeder creeks, Granite Creek, Poison Creek, Camp Creek, Jack Creek, Dell Creek, and Fisherman¡s Creek. From the Upper Green River to the east you can access the Gros Ventre From Tosi Creek. Access to the northern portion is and the Gros Ventre River¡s,
Crystal Creek, Goosewing Creek, Big Cow Creek and Clear Creek. Roads to trailheads
are single lane gravel roads that are passable to passenger cars, although higher
clearance vehicles are recommended. Trailheads and parking areas are remote and
primitive, with no services or phones. Cell phone reception within the wilderness
area is spotty at best. There are a variety of trails through the area that offer an exceptional backcountry experience in unspoiled, pristine country.
Backcountry visitors are asked to practice Low Impact Camping to protect the pristine values of the wilderness area. Dogs are allowed, but must be kept under control at all times.