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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Cloud Peak, Bighorn Mountains Wyoming

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.

Lake Helen

There were nice reflections in ponds near the trail.

Cloud Peak

The trail was in good condition and I passed a few day-hikers as I hiked.

I reached Marion Lake and enjoyed the view.

Marion Lake

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.

Mistymoon Lake

Cloud Peak

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 clouds to the west were very colorful.

The view south was also nice.

I had a restful night's sleep and awoke to clouds over Cloud Peak.

 There was a great morning reflection.

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.

Cloud Peak

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.

Glacier Lake

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.

Cloud Peak

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.

Lake Helen

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.

About Me

I've been born and raised in the great state of Michigan. I recently graduated from physical therapy school. I enjoy being active, playing sports, and running. Backpacking has become a great interest as it is a physical challenge that provides many rewarding views and experiences. I strive to make a difference in the lives of those encounter in every day life, on the trail, or even just on this blog. May God bless each of you. Now go find an adventure! It's only a few feet away!