This hike was amazing! I really loved this Darby Canyon Wind Cave hike. It is a really beautiful, enjoyable hike. Trees, wildflowers, mountains, meadows, streams, and a waterfall coming out of a cave at the end.
The trailhead is accessed from Driggs ID in the Teton Valley and crosses over into Alta WY. It offers stunning views and is a popular hike for the area, and for good reason! It’s gorgeous!
- Distance: 6.3mi RT
- Type: Out & Back
- Time: 3-4 hours
- Elevation at trailhead: 7,069 feet
- Elevation Change: 1,811 ft
- Difficulty: Moderate- Hard
- Crowd Factor: Low – Moderate
- Best Time: June-Oct
- Permits/Fees: No
- Water: Partial, needs to be filtered
The trailhead is located in Alta WY, but it’s accessed from Driggs ID off of Rt 33. It’s about one hour from Jackson WY.
From Rt 33, turn onto E3000S. At T intersection, take a right onto Darby Canyon Rd and follow it to the end. There will be signs to get to the trailhead, but hang to the left at the fork to avoid going to Darby Canyon LDS Camp. It’s about 5mi down Darby Canyon Rd until you come to the parking lot for the trailhead.
What to expect along the trail
The trail starts off nice and easy as just a walk in the woods.
You go through a meadow and cross a footbridge over a stream.
Then enter the Jedediah Smith Wilderness boundary which has a seasonal stream and log bridge to help you cross it.
After about .25mi you’ll come to a huge rock on the left.
After this the trail starts to climb.
Slowly at first until you reach a rock plateau overlooking the ravine below.
Then the trail continues to climb through a relentless series of switchbacks ascending more than 1,200 feet in 1.5 miles.
From here the trail slows its climb as you continue to the back of the canyon. A cliff drop-off to your right as you’re high above the canyon floor.
As you work your way back to the end of the canyon along the ridge you’ll be able to see the cave across the ravine from the trail.
The trail here becomes less shaded and passed by lots of wildflowers for the next mile or so.
Once you reach the back of the canyon, the trail goes to the right, crossing to the other side of the ravine. From here the trail winds through another forest and starts to climb again.
As the forest clears, you’re greeted with another meadow full of wildflowers.
Just passed the meadow you’ll be directly below the cave. This is a great vantage point of the waterfall and steam comes out from the bottom of the cave.
There’s a memorial to five hikers from Darby Girls Camp who were killed by lightning in the canyon. This is a reminder that dangerous weather can move in quickly here, so if the weather looks threatening, head back down the mountain.
Up next is another series of switchbacks, even steeper than the first as you climb towards the opening of the cave. These switchbacks are more like stairs in some spots as they are made of stone steps carved into the mountainside.
As you come to the base of the cave there’s one final series of stone steps to get up to the mount of the cave. Depending on the weather and water levels, these stairs can be wet and slippery.
From here look back out at the valley for a stunning view of the area.
To enter the cave you’ll have to carefully scramble over piles of rock, some which are loose, to get into the cave. The spring that feeds the waterfall comes out from the cave, so you may need to scramble over wet rocks.
For me, it was easier to cross the stream at this point and then climb up the other side to get into the cave rather than trying to enter from the same side as the trail.
As you head into the cave it gets dark and cold quickly, make sure you’re properly prepared with the right equipment. If you want to explore the cave, it’s highly technical with steep drop-offs and deep, cold water. The passageway of the cave connects to the nearby Ice Cave, which creates the cold wind that you’re feeling (hence the name Wind Cave).
If venturing to the Ice Cave, you need to be an experienced spelunker and should have proper caving and rappelling gear.
Once done exploring the cave and taking in the views, it’s back the way you came to get back to the trailhead.