Windy Mountain Trail

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Windy Mountain is perfect for summer peak baggers. The summit is just under 3 miles from the start of the trail, but you’ll climb up, up, up in that short distance. Start this hike early in the day to get off the exposed summit before the afternoon thundershowers start up.

Written by

Leslie Tribble


6.0 miles

Destination Distance From Downtown

32.4 miles


4 of 5 diamonds

Time To Complete

4 hours


Spring, Summer, and Fall

Late Spring-Early Fall

Dog Friendly

On Leash Only

Land Website




Windy Mountain lies just outside the isolated 350,000 acre North Absaroka Wilderness. Grizzly bears, wolves, bighorn sheep and Golden Eagles roam this country and chances are good you’ll see each of them, or at least some sign they’ve left behind. This is a great trail for the entire hiking season. You’ll need to leave Cody early in the morning as it’s a 90 minute drive just to get to the trailhead.

What Makes It Great

Many of the higher, dominant peaks in this part of Wyoming have no trails to the top, so peak bagging isn’t much of a sport. That’s what makes the Windy Mountain Trail unique - you can actually stand on the summit at 10,239' and get a birds eye view of the surrounding countryside. The drive to the trailhead isn’t half bad either. Views of Heart Mountain, Red Buttes, the view from the top of Dead Indian Pass and the bucolic Sunlight Basin make the long trip worth it.  

The beginning of the trail is steep and can be slick, then it’s an uphill chug to the summit. You’ll walk through a section of grey, gnarly snags leftover from an earlier forest fire before entering a thriving, green forest. At .9 miles you’ll start getting views of Windy Mountain itself. The trail begins to switchback, gaining elevation for the next 1.7 miles to the peak. The last half mile is above treeline, with nothing between you and a lighting bolt. Get off the summit right after lunch before the usual afternoon thunderstorm build up.

Who is Going to Love It

Hikers wanting to pull a high point and take in the craggy peaks of both the Absaroka Range and the Beartooth Mountains of Montana are going to be happy with this trail. Although much of the snow blows off the peak, there will still be snowfields in early summer so don’t attempt this hike much before mid-June. At the top, look for the remains of an old fire lookout and the USGS survey marker. Bring a wildflower identification book because the summit will be ablaze with tiny tundra flowers. You might even hear the “EEEP” call of a pika.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

From Cody, take WY-120 north for 16.8 to the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway. Turn left onto the Byway, or State Highway 296 and travel 17 miles over Dead Indian Pass before turning left onto the Sunlight Basin Road. At this point the road is gravel and well-maintained to the trailhead.  Drive on the Sunlight Basin Road for 6 miles, then turn north (right) at the Wyoming Game and Fish Habitat sign. Drive past the outhouses, over a bridge and a cattle guard. Continue straight toward Painter Gulch. There’s a fork in the road at 1.3 miles - stay right and drive to the next fork at 1.5 miles. Again, stay right onto Forest Road 113 and head for Painter Gulch and Windy Mountain. At 2.8 miles there will be another fork. Stay left on Forest Road 113 until you reach the trailhead. From the Wyoming Game and Fish Habitat sign it is 5.8 miles to the trailhead.

There’s room for four or five cars here. There are no fees and your leashed pets are permitted.  Carry bear spray. Cell service can be spotty.

Written by Leslie Tribble for RootsRated.

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Windy Mountain Trail

Cody, WY, 82414
44.78321, -109.60236

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