About Popo Agie Falls
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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).
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
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.
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.
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.
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 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).
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.
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