Popo Agie Falls

Lander / Sinks Canyon / Shoshone National Forest / Popo Agie Wilderness / Wind River, Wyoming, USA

About Popo Agie Falls


Hiking Distance: 3.8 miles round trip (to water slide)
Suggested Time: about 3 hours

Date first visited: 2020-08-07
Date last visited: 2020-08-07

Waterfall Latitude: 42.72049
Waterfall Longitude: -108.88241

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Popo Agie Falls was more of a swimming hole and play waterfall in the Wind River Range by the town of Lander, Wyoming.

Despite its reputation as a place to cool off, this waterfall was a series of disjoint cascades on the Middle Popo Agie River making for a very beautiful scenic spot as well.

Popo_Agie_Falls_131_08072020 - This was as much of the run of Popo Agie Falls that I could see from one spot (and this doesn't include its other segment to the right of this photo)
This was as much of the run of Popo Agie Falls that I could see from one spot (and this doesn’t include its other segment to the right of this photo)

It was hard for me to tell where the waterfall started and ended, but the steepest part of its drop from what I could tell might be on the order of 300ft.

That said, the cascades kept going downstream from the most comprehensive viewing spots that I could find, and it could drop well over 550ft throughout its cascading sections over a run of about a mile.

The tallest of any one of this twisting multi-drop waterfall was said to be 60ft, but I’m not sure how accurate this was because I spotted a handful of segments where the individual drop could arguably taller.

One of these segments included a spot where I saw kids using a particularly steep slope next to a thin waterfall as a water slide!

Popo_Agie_Falls_170_08072020 - This was perhaps the tallest of the accessible drops of Popo Agie Falls, which even had a viewing bench near its brink
This was perhaps the tallest of the accessible drops of Popo Agie Falls, which even had a viewing bench near its brink

Indeed, it’s hard for me to put into words the fun and festive atmosphere that I witnessed on my visit in August 2020, but it just felt like this place was more of a place to experience in addition to see.

However, in order to even access Popo Agie Falls, I had to go on a hike of at least 1.5 miles with a 650ft gain in elevation in a noticeably dry area starting at an elevation of about 7100ft.

That said, according to my GPS logs, I actually went as far as 1.9 miles from the trailhead with nearly 700ft of elevation gain.

In fact, it still looked like I could have gone further up the waterfall if I wanted to, which I saw some people do to get up to an even higher cascade and chill out spot.

Popo Agie Falls Trail Description – hiking up to the viewing area

Popo_Agie_Falls_011_08072020 - Crossing the bridge over Middle Popo Agie River between the Bruce's Bridge Parking Lot and the Middle Fork Trailhead kiosk
Crossing the bridge over Middle Popo Agie River between the Bruce’s Bridge Parking Lot and the Middle Fork Trailhead kiosk

The hike to Popo Agie Falls began from the spacious Bruce’s Bridge Parking Lot (see directions below), which was right at a bend in the Sinks Canyon Road where it started climbing steeply.

After crossing the road and then a bridge over the Middle Popo Agie River, I then encountered a trailhead kiosk (400ft from the parking lot).

This marked the start of the official trail to Popo Agie Falls and beyond into the Popo Agie Wilderness.

From here, the trail pretty much followed the north side of the Middle Popo Agie River while climbing at least over 500ft along the way.

Popo_Agie_Falls_078_08072020 - The Middle Popo Agie River started to look like a continuous cascade along the Middle Fork Trail
The Middle Popo Agie River started to look like a continuous cascade along the Middle Fork Trail

Initially for the first 3/4-mile or so, the trail followed a wide track with sporadic shade offered by trees growing on the side of the river to my left.

As I went higher on this trail, the trees started to thin out so I started to notice big boulders and cliffs towering over me to my right while the cascading river to my left cut into a deepening canyon.

After the first 3/4-mile, the trail started to climb more steeply while exposing me more to the intense sun, which was further exacerbated by the dry conditions on the eastern side of the Wind River Range.

Indeed, I definitely consumed a lot of the 2x 1.5L bottles of water that I brought in this stretch, and I definitely appreciated the generous application of sunscreen here as well.

Popo_Agie_Falls_111_08072020 - Near the signed trail junction, I got this look back at the context of the Middle Fork Trail, which shows just how much unshaded climbing that I had to do to even get to this point
Near the signed trail junction, I got this look back at the context of the Middle Fork Trail, which shows just how much unshaded climbing that I had to do to even get to this point

After about 1.4 miles from the trailhead kiosk (or 1.5 miles from the Bruce’s Bridge Parking Lot), I reached a signed fork, where I then left the Middle Fork Trail and continued towards the Popo Agie Falls.

In almost the next quarter-mile, the narrower trail climbed another 100ft or so before I finally started to glimpse the uppermost tiers of the Popo Agie Falls high up on the cliffs.

As I continued further along the trail, I started to see unmarked outcrops and cliff rims where I got perhaps my most contextual views of the disjoint segments and tiers of the Popo Agie Falls.

This was where I realized that it was really a collection of smaller waterfalls all in a concentrated area at an apparent convergence of a handful of creeks (at least according to my maps).

Popo_Agie_Falls_161_08072020 - Looking back at the context of other hikers finding a good spot to view the context of Popo Agie Falls from the rim of the canyon
Looking back at the context of other hikers finding a good spot to view the context of Popo Agie Falls from the rim of the canyon

I even noticed that the cascading waterfall continued its descent further downstream from where I was standing so it could very well be much taller than I’m giving it credit for.

After all, I couldn’t really tell where the falls started and ended.

The trail kept going for maybe another 200-250ft before reaching a rest bench near the top of perhaps the largest of the accessible drops of Popo Agie Falls.

I noticed quite a few people content with this view of the falls before heading back, but I also noticed that the trail continued even beyond this point.

Popo Agie Falls Trail Description – scrambling beyond the viewing area

Popo_Agie_Falls_017_iPhone_08072020 - Context of a rest bench near the top of one of the larger and accessible sections of Popo Agie Falls
Context of a rest bench near the top of one of the larger and accessible sections of Popo Agie Falls

Beyond the viewing bench, the trails became more like use-trails (with plenty of use, I might add) as the terrain became steeper, rockier, and less defined.

After about 250ft, I noticed one scrambling path on my left that went to a little wading pool that a large family pretty much had for themselves.

However, the use-trails kept going up, which continued following for another 400ft or so before I finally reached a much quieter but even more scenic swimming hole occupied by a handful of people.

At this swimming hole, I saw a sloping cascade split by a rock, but right next to this cascade was a steep slab of granite where kids took turns sliding down into the cold and deep plunge pool below.

Popo_Agie_Falls_181_08072020 - A large family enjoying themselves at one of the swimming holes beyond the maintained part of the Popo Agie Falls Trail
A large family enjoying themselves at one of the swimming holes beyond the maintained part of the Popo Agie Falls Trail

This seemed like the legendary locals’ water slide that I had read about on other trip reports, and it was very worthwhile to extend the hike to get up here.

Beyond this water slide pool, I saw another group of adults further upstream sitting in what appeared to be another pool at the base of another set of cascades.

Indeed, this place felt like one of those choose-your-own-adventure (or choose-your-own-swimming-hole) spots, and I’d imagine it might even be possible to scramble way higher to even the uppermost of the Popo Agie Falls that I saw early on.

In any case, I pretty much turned around at the water slide, which brought the one-way hiking distance to 1.9 miles and about 700ft of elevation gain.

Popo_Agie_Falls_191_08072020 - Context of the deep plunge pool beneath a smaller cascading segment of Popo Agie Falls with someone about to slide down the granite slab next to the waterfall
Context of the deep plunge pool beneath a smaller cascading segment of Popo Agie Falls with someone about to slide down the granite slab next to the waterfall

At least I was able to go pretty fast on the way back to the trailhead because it was pretty much all downhill.

That said, as it was getting even hotter during the day, I did notice some people struggling with the climb so it might be worth getting an early start to avoid this climb during the hottest times of the day.

Overall, I spent a total of almost 3 hours away from the car.

Of that time, I spent only 50 minutes on the way back, which gives you an idea of how slow the uphill hike was as well as how much time I spent exploring around the falls.

Authorities

Popo Agie Falls resides in the Shoshone National Forest near Lander in Fremont County, Wyoming. It is administered by the USDA Forest Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Popo_Agie_Falls_002_08072020 - The parking area at Bruce's Bridge, which had plenty of spots during my visit in August 2020
Popo_Agie_Falls_007_08072020 - Looking towards the restroom facility and entrance to Bruce's Bridge Parking Lot
Popo_Agie_Falls_009_08072020 - Crossing the Sinks Canyon Road towards the Middle Fork Trail from Bruce's Bridge Parking Lot
Popo_Agie_Falls_013_08072020 - Looking upstream at the Middle Popo Agie River from the footbridge near the trailhead kiosk
Popo_Agie_Falls_019_08072020 - Ascending on the Popo Agie Trail, which involved traversing lots of unshaded terrain
Popo_Agie_Falls_025_08072020 - Getting passed by this fast hiking pair of backpackers intending to go deep into the Popo Agie Wilderness beyond Popo Agie Falls
Popo_Agie_Falls_028_08072020 - Hiking on the early part of the Middle Fork Trail towards Popo Agie Falls as the shade started to disappear with the thinning out of the forest in this stretch
Popo_Agie_Falls_032_08072020 - Context of the pair of backpackers that passed me, which shows you just how unshaded the hike to Popo Agie Falls is
Popo_Agie_Falls_036_08072020 - The Middle Fork Trail follows along the north side of the Middle Popo Agie River for pretty much the entire way
Popo_Agie_Falls_040_08072020 - This was one of the few shaded parts of the Middle Fork Trail when it actually went by the Middle Popo Agie River
Popo_Agie_Falls_042_08072020 - Cliffs up ahead as the Middle Fork Trail continued climbing on the way to Popo Agie Falls
Popo_Agie_Falls_047_08072020 - The Middle Fork Trail passing by some huge boulder on the way up to Popo Agie Falls
Popo_Agie_Falls_054_08072020 - Context of the steepening climb on the Middle Fork Trail, where the hiking became even hotter and more tiresome at this stage
Popo_Agie_Falls_062_08072020 - The Middle Fork Trail continuing to climb as the Middle Popo Agie River cut deeper into the canyon below on the left
Popo_Agie_Falls_066_08072020 - Looking downhill and downstream at the Middle Popo Agie River from higher up the Middle Fork Trail
Popo_Agie_Falls_068_08072020 - Looking down into some cascades on the Middle Popo Agie River. Notice the huge boulder that apparently fell into the canyon
Popo_Agie_Falls_095_08072020 - The Middle Fork Trail still climbing moderately without shade en route to the Popo Agie Falls
Popo_Agie_Falls_101_08072020 - By this point of the Middle Fork Trail, it seemed like the Middle Popo Agie River was starting to be a continuous series of cascades. This was one of the reasons why I had a hard time figuring out where the Popo Agie Falls started and where its run ended
Popo_Agie_Falls_109_08072020 - At around 1.5 miles, I reached this signed junction, where I then went left to leave the Middle Fork Trail and head to Popo Agie Falls
Popo_Agie_Falls_117_08072020 - Finally starting to get my first glimpse of Popo Agie Falls, which appeared as a cascade high up on the cliffs in the distance
Popo_Agie_Falls_119_08072020 - Approaching the rim of the canyon near Popo Agie Falls
Popo_Agie_Falls_122_08072020 - As the trail started to skirt the canyon's rim, Popo Agie Falls started to reveal more of itself
Popo_Agie_Falls_125_08072020 - Looking downstream at the context of the canyon's cliffs and the continuation of the cascades downstream from the main part of Popo Agie Falls
Popo_Agie_Falls_130_08072020 - Broad contextual view of Popo Agie Falls revealing several segments and tiers in a disjoint manner so it was hard to get an all-encompassing view of it
Popo_Agie_Falls_152_08072020 - As I went further along the Popo Agie Falls Trail, I started to notice this interesting segment on its far right
Popo_Agie_Falls_147_08072020 - Just to show that you can't really get an all-in-one view of Popo Agie Falls, when I got closer to the side segment on the far right, the segment that I saw earlier started to get obstructed by trees
Popo_Agie_Falls_150_08072020 - More focused look at the far right segment of Popo Agie Falls
Popo_Agie_Falls_168_08072020 - Getting close to the rightmost segment of Popo Agie Falls
Popo_Agie_Falls_175_08072020 - As I continued on the Popo Agie Falls Trail, I noticed this narrow bridge that seemed to traverse some real bushy and swampy section, but it also signaled to me that the hike wasn't over yet
Popo_Agie_Falls_184_08072020 - As I continued to hike further upstream from the rest bench by Popo Agie Falls, I started to notice this cascade and someone about to slide down the granite slope next to it
Popo_Agie_Falls_187_08072020 - Looking downstream towards a smaller swimming hole as I was making my way up to the water slide at Popo Agie Falls
Popo_Agie_Falls_192_08072020 - Finally making it up to the local water slide at Popo Agie Falls
Popo_Agie_Falls_197_08072020 - After having my fill of the water slide at Popo Agie Falls, it was time to scramble back to the main trail
Popo_Agie_Falls_203_08072020 - Making it back to the rim of the canyon by Popo Agie Falls where I got perhaps the most comprehensive views of the waterfall
Popo_Agie_Falls_205_08072020 - Returning to the Middle Fork Trail where the rest of the way back was a pretty straightforward downhill hike
Popo_Agie_Falls_220_08072020 - Enjoying the Middle Fork Trail juxtaposed with the Middle Popo Agie River
Popo_Agie_Falls_237_08072020 - Looking up at the cliffs by the Middle Fork Trail appearing to have some kind of purplish shade to them
Popo_Agie_Falls_242_08072020 - Almost back at the end of the Popo Agie Falls hike as the trail started to follow power lines again
Popo_Agie_Falls_248_08072020 - I caught up to this family of three that had just finished a 7-day backpack in the wilderness at the end of my Popo Agie Falls hike

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Popo Agie Falls resides in the Shoshone National Forest just west of Sinks Canyon State Park and the town of Lander, Wyoming.

From the US287 and State Highway 789 intersection in Lander, I would drive 0.6-mile west along Main Street to the traffic light at 5th Street (signed for Sinks Canyon Road).

Popo_Agie_Falls_250_08072020 - Looking back at the context of the parking lot at Bruce's Bridge, which was where I started the Popo Agie Falls hike
Looking back at the context of the parking lot at Bruce’s Bridge, which was where I started the Popo Agie Falls hike

Then, I’d turn left and follow the signs (which stayed on the State Highway 131) for about 10 miles to the Bruce’s Bridge Parking Lot on the left.

The road passed through Sinks Canyon State Park, but I had to keep going since the trailhead was actually in the national forest area and not the state park.

Overall, this 11-mile drive should take around 20 minutes.

For context, Lander was 75 miles (under 90 minutes drive) southeast of Dubois, 151 miles (over 2.5 hours drive) east of Jackson Hole, 145 miles (under 2.5 hours drive) west of Casper, and 280 miles (over 4 hours drive) northeast of Salt Lake City, Utah.

Sweep from further along the cliffs at the disjointed Popo Agie Falls


Upstream to downstream sweep focusing on the flow of Popo Agie Falls and all its disjointed segments before panning back towards the falls in a more panoramic manner


General sweep of the disjointed segments of Popo Agie Falls while also showing the rapids downstream of the falls


Brief sweep showing the Popo Agie Falls as seen from near the bench


Video showing the water slide of Popo Agie with one girl sliding down into the deep pool below

Trip Planning Resources


Tagged with: lander, wind river reservation, wyoming, sinks canyon, shoshone national forest, popo agie wilderness, waterfall, water slide, fremont county



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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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