July 14-15, 2018
This was an ~22 mile roundtrip overnight backpacking trip to the summit of Cloud Peak in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming. I began from the West Tensleep Trailhead.
I arrived in the afternoon at the West Tensleep Trailhead. Initially Google Maps had tried to connect the trailhead from the Sitting Bull campground. I had quickly realized it was incorrect. The main road to the trailhead was in good condition. I filled out the free wilderness permit and began the hike.
I joined TR 063 and headed toward West Tensleep Lake. I didn't have time, but there is a possibility to form a loop with TR 065.
West Tensleep Lake
The trail went through some nice meadows and I could see people fishing in the creek nearby.
West Tensleep Creek
There was an easy crossing of the creek.
Soon the trail entered the forest and I crossed into the Cloud Peak Wilderness.
The trail gradually climbed up.
There were some rocky outcroppings with distant mountain views.
There were many beautiful wildflowers.
I reached Lake Helen and the mountains were getting closer.
I could see the Cloud Peak summit to the right.
There were nice reflections in ponds near the trail.
The trail was in good condition and I passed a few day-hikers as I hiked.
I reached Marion Lake and enjoyed the view.
Next I came to Mistymoon Lake and there were a few others camped nearby. I had considered camping here, but still had time so I decided to continue a little further.
At Mistymoon Lake I joined the Solitude Trail, TR 038, which is a 60+ mile backpacking loop.
I continued around the western side of Mistymoon Lake.
I went off trail in the basin north of Mistymoon Lake and looked for a place to set up camp.
I found beautiful spot up on a rocky overlook with panoramic views.
There was a small unnamed lake down below.
I could see a group of hikers heading south on the trail.
There were nice reflections of the mountains in the nearby ponds.
It was cloudy, but I was surprised the sun started to shine on the mountains.
I attempted to get ready to sleep in order to wake up early for the summit attempt in the morning, but the light and clouds were so interesting that I stayed up to take pictures.
The view south was also nice.
I had a restful night's sleep and awoke to clouds over Cloud Peak.
I returned to the trail and started hiking to the point where the route leaves for the summit of Cloud Peak.
I rounded a corner and entered the Paint Rock Creek Basin. I could see a moose on the trail down below.
There was a cairn marking a small trail down to the creek below.
There was a nice waterfall.
There isn't an official trail up Cloud Peak, but the route is marked with many different cairned routes. I wasn't sure which way to go initially and started following the creek up on its eastern side.
Soon I discovered there was a better trail on the other side and crossed over. The sun was quite bright and it was difficult to even look up even with sunglasses.
I began the rocky portion of the climb.
There were many boulders and scrambling. At times, I couldn't find cairns, but generally just kept going up.
There was a great view south once I made it up on the main ridge.
I could see down off the ridge to beautiful lakes below.
There were many boulders to scramble up.
In some places there were steep drop-offs.
I could see the summit of Cloud Peak with a snowfield below it.
There was plenty of room to hike below the upper snowfield.
There was a great view to the west of lakes and a waterfall.
There was a section that was narrow on both sides of the ridge.
A cairn was balanced on a cliff edge.
Scrambling below the snow field
I reached a high point, but actually was to the right of the summit.
I enjoyed my first view of Glacier Lake down below on the east side of Cloud Peak.
The snow was very steep, but I didn't have to cross it.
Cairn on the Cloud Peak summit
Clouds obscured the view to the north.
The eastern side of Cloud Peak is a steep cliff. The view from Cloud Peak is very dramatic.
After a break to eat some food, I walked further north on the summit.
There was a steep chute.
The clouds had moved on providing an excellent view of the mountains to the north.
The eastern face of Cloud Peak is vertical.
I was able to take a nice panorama from the summit.
I began the descent carefully.
I passed a few other hikers who were on their way up.
Many boulders ahead!
Looking back up to Cloud Peak
I neared the bottom and could see a trail below.
There was a group of guys with a dog who asked me if they were almost to the top. I told them they still had a ways to go.
The trail stayed on the west side of the creek and took me all the way back to the waterfall.
I climbed up to the main trail and began the return hike to the trailhead.
Looking across to where I had camped the night before on the rocky hill in the middle.
Soon I was back at Mistymoon Lake.
I met a couple backpackers who were planning to summit Cloud Peak the next day. They had hiked the entire Solitude Trail last year. They pointed out a pair of moose nearby and we watched them for some time.
It felt like a fairly long descent to the trailhead.
The scenery was still pretty.
I was hiking relatively fast as I still had a three hour drive to get home. I crossed the Cloud Peak Wilderness boundary.
Soon I was back at West Tensleep Lake.
West Tensleep Lake
West Tensleep Lake Trailhead
Overall, this was an excellent overnight backpacking trip. Summiting Cloud Peak took a little longer than I anticipated, but the views were spectacular and it is one of the favorite summit hikes that I've done. It would be great to add the summit hike to a loop from the West Tensleep Trailhead. There appears to be a good loop described in Douglas Lorain's Backpacking Wyoming book. I'm not sure if I will have much time to backpack again in the Bighorns in the future, but I think they are an under appreciated mountain range. I think if they were somewhere else besides Wyoming, they would be a really popular attraction, but maybe this is the way they are meant to be.