Trail Name: Popo Agie Falls Trail, Sinks Canyon State Park
Despite popular belief, summers in Wyoming are hot, and in Lander, Wyoming, nestled at the southern end of the Wind River Range and surrounded by sagebrush prairie, finding some relief with an afternoon swim is a priority.
For that, we head up the Popo Agie Falls Trail (you say it “Puh-Po Juh”), which ends at a natural waterfall slide, the Middle Fork Falls. For locals and visitors, whether Lander’s a short stop on their way to Yellowstone or they’ve spent a hard day climbing at the limestone crags of Wild Iris, this trail is a favorite for beating the summer heat.
Heading up the Falls Trail on a summer evening. All images: Molly Herber.
Trailhead: You’ll find the trailhead across the street from Bruce’s parking lot in Sinks Canyon, about 15 minutes southwest of the town of Lander.
Drive (or bike, if you’re feeling energetic) southwest from Lander toward Sinks Canyon State Park on Fremont Street, which will turn into Sinks Canyon Road/WY 131 S. Drive until you reach Bruce’s parking lot and park your car there (if you start driving up a bunch of switchbacks, you’ve gone too far).
Trail type: Out-and-back
Distance: 3 miles, round trip
Duration: Usually, hiking there and back takes around two hours, but if you stay and play at the waterfall you could be there all afternoon.
Description: This hike starts gently as you wander on the trail through shady aspen groves and pine along the Middle Fork of the Popo Agie River. You’ll see the cliffs of the Granite Buttress, a climbing area, on your right as the trail steadily rises. After about a mile, you’ll come to a short switchback section—make sure you get a good look down Sinks Canyon here. At the top of the switchbacks, you’ll see a fork in the trail. Take the left fork. After about a quarter mile, you’ll reach the Popo Agie Falls (the falls roar pretty loudly, so trust your ears if you aren’t sure how much farther to go).
Signage for the turnoff to the waterfall. Stay right on the Middle Fork Trail for a long hike into the Winds! Photo by Molly Herber.
Best Time to Go: Year round! You can snowshoe it or hike it in the winter, and hike or run it during the rest of the year. The times I like best are June, when you can see wildflowers bloom, July-August, when the river levels are just right to slide off the waterfall, and the end of September, when the aspens start to change color.
Best Oboz for the hike: You’ll like wearing the Sawtooth Low Waterproof shoes if you’re hiking, and for running I’d recommend the Echo Low trail shoes.
Women's Sawtooth Low Waterproof is a sturdy, comfortable work horse.
What to Pack: Bring a small backpack filled with: full water bottle, (or other beverages to drink while you’re relaxing at the falls), snacks, sunscreen, a swimsuit and towel if you plan to swim, and an extra layer in case it gets chilly.
If you’re going by yourself or in the early morning or evening, you should also bring bear spray. This is a popular trail, which usually keeps animals away, but there have occasionally been wildlife sightings there.
Level of Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Trail Highlights: Waterfall slide, views of Sinks Canyon and the Granite Buttress. If you’re really feeling eager you can bypass the waterfall turnoff and keep hiking up the Middle Fork Trail into the Winds, which is a great multi-day trip.
Refuel: The smoothies at The Juicery on Main Street (between 2nd and 3rd Streets) are a delight, and if it’s later in the evening and you want a burger to go along with a beer brewed right in Lander, then the Lander Bar and Gannett Grill are your place to go.
Molly Herber is a NOLS instructor and writer who lives in Wyoming. She loves the smell of her backpack and does her best writing before 7:00 am. Find her work on theand follow her on @mgherber.