Gros Ventre Wilderness
The Grand Tetons from Gros Ventre Wilderness
Gros Ventre Wilderness is a 317,874-acre property wholly contained within the Bridger-Teton National Forest. The property is bounded on the east by the Green River, on the south by the Hoback River, on the north by the Gros Ventre River and on the west by the Snake River and the National Elk Refuge. Elk tend to spend their winters on the National Elk Refuge but they do a lot of their calving in the spring in Gros Ventre Wilderness before heading into higher country for the summer. The Gros Ventre is also home to mule deer, bighorn sheep, black bear, grizzly bear, bison, mountain lion and gray wolf.
Below 10,000 feet, the landscape is rolling, rounded and heavily forested but above 10,500 feet is a landscape of vertical rock faces, steep talus slopes, arctic tundra and many, many landslides. The mountains are mostly heavily glacier-carved granite and limestone. The rock has been folded and faulted many times since the uplift of the Gros Ventre Range began about 50 million years ago. Today, there is exposed strata everywhere, making the property a bonanza for geologists. There's a landslide at Sheep Mountain where 50 million cubic yards of material slide down the side of the hill after several weeks of heavy rain in June 1925 and formed Lower Slide Lake when it dammed the Gros Ventre River. A flood washed out part of that dam two years later, flowing heavily downstream and wiping out the town of Kelly. That whole area is now a National Geological Area on the northern boundary of the wilderness (so you can drive to Lower Slide Lake and explore).
There are more than 250 miles of established trails in Gros Ventre Wilderness. In many areas you are liable to come across evidence of past human habitation with everything from 10,000-year-old artifacts at Paleo-Indian sites to fur trappers' cabins to range cabins and drift fences from the years when large herds of sheep grazed the land.
The highest point on the property is Doubletop at 11,682 feet. Almost any high point in Gros Ventre Wilderness will yield excellent views of the more spectacular Tetons to the west.
The landslide on Sheep Mountain, slowly being reclaimed by the forest
Lower photo courtesy of Daniel Mayer, CCA-by-SA 3.0 License
Upper left photo courtesy of Ralph Maughan