Length: 6.8 miles out and back
Time: 4 to 5 hrs
Difficulty: Difficult due to elevation gain
Best Season: Summer to early fall
Trail Users: Hikers and horses
Pets: Leashed pets are permitted
Access: Wood River Road can be quite rugged year round and a few creek crossings are required. Consider calling the Meeteetse Museum (307-868-2423) to check on road and river conditions prior to leaving for the hike.
A high alpine hike through massive terrain to astounding views of some of North America’s most remarkable wilderness.
The ghost town of Kirwin sits at the junction of several trails that rank as some of the best in Wyoming. The main trailhead sits in the shadow of soaring peaks and alongside the beautiful Wood River. Any of the trails leaving Kirwin will provide an epic hiking experience, steeped in history and expansive views. But the Brown Basin trail provides access to alpine bowls, a glimpse of Francs Peak, and a view into one of the wildest places remaining in the US.
What Makes It Great
The Kirwin trailhead’s combination of solitude, scenery, wildlife, great trails, and fantastic historic sites might be unmatched anywhere in the lower 48 states.
Kirwin was settled back in 1891 when William Kirwin and Harry Adams discovered gold and silver a few years earlier. At its height of settlement, Kirwin consisted of a hotel, two general stores, a post office, and a few other buildings. Around 200 miners and their families, lived in Kirwin at one point as well. Freezing winters and a constant threat of avalanches eventually pushed everyone out of Kirwin.
Today, Kirwin plays host to hikers, backpackers, peak baggers, and sightseers. The town is surrounded by 12,000-foot peaks and boasts several scenic hikes for those willing to make the journey here. A well-maintained parking area, several interpretive kiosks about the area, and vault toilets can be found at the trailhead parking area.
Who Is Going to Love It
Fit hikers, fans of western history, and those who are willing to put the time into a relatively long climb to the astounding scenery.
To get started, locate the Brown Basin Trail at the northern end of the parking area. A small sign that reads “Brown Basin Trail” can be found tacked to a tree to confirm you are in the right place. Begin hiking northwest up the trial as it quickly begins ascending the mountain in front of you. At 0.1 mile, you will reach a trail junction with the Canyon Creek Trail, which breaks off to the right (north). Stay left on the Brown Basin Trail and continue hiking northwest as the trail enters the forest and begins a series of switchbacks. Reach the top of the switchbacks at 1.0 mile and come into a clearing.
Continue hiking uphill through the clearing until the trail leads you up over a hill that opens up into Brown Basin at 1.5 miles. Follow the well-worn trail and rock cairns through the basin to 1.8 miles. Here, the trail begins its ascent to Greybull Pass.
Greybull Pass sits between Mount Crosby and Brown Mountain and offers spectacular views in all directions. Follow the beautifully designed switchbacks that lead from the basin to Greybull Pass at 3.4 miles. Please do not cut switchbacks. They not only make hiking easier but they prevent trail and soil erosion as well. From the pass, turn around and return to the trailhead at 6.8 miles via the same route.
Directions, Parking & Regulations
The Drive: From the intersection of Highway 14/16/20 West and Alt 14 East/WY West in Cody, Wyoming, drive south for 2.1 before turning right (south) onto WY 120 East. at 30.4 miles, in the town of Meeteetse, turn right (west) onto WY 290 toward Sunshine Reservoir. Drive to 36.8 miles and turn left (south) onto Wood River road. Continue down the Wood River road to the pavement ends at 41.6 miles. Enter the Shoshone National Forest at 51.9 miles. Pass the Wood River Campground at 52.6 miles and the Brown Mountain Campground at 55 miles. You will reach the first of three creek crossings at 56.9 miles, the second at 58.8 miles, and the last at 59.3 miles. At 63.2 miles reach the Kirwin Trailhead parking area on the right and park here.