Cloud Peak is a 22.5 mile out and back trail located near Buffalo, WY that features a lake. The trail is only recommended for very experienced adventurers and primarily used for hiking and backpacking.
did this trail during June of this year (2016). it was incredible. the scramble up and down the boulder field to Cloud Peak was grueling, but the views were so worth it. the entire area around misty moon lake (and honestly the whole trail) is gorgeous as well. holds great populations of healthy brook trout, if you're into fly fishing! caught many on a tenkara rod. they were ferocious, and i really mean that. never seen fish rise in a frenzy like they were there.
If you plan on going around the time I went, BRING MOSQUITO NETS! They were so ridiculously thick that it drove us insane a few times! :)
Best trip ever. It was so worth it.
Cloud Peak has been on my bucket list for awhile now! We finally were able to check it off on August 30, 2014. We started at the Lily Lake Trailhead (#66). We first stopped at Battle Park to register since we were going into the wilderness area. We then drove a side-by-side to Lily Lake and parked it there. From there we hiked the 4 miles to just past Mistymoon Lake, where we spent the night. The hike was relatively easy and followed the Paintrock Creek all the way up. The next morning we woke up with the sun (6:30am) and started our hike up to the summit. We crossed Paintrock Creek by the waterfall where we saw two huge bull moose! As we started up the mountain, the hike wasn't bad at all. There really isn't a set trail to follow so keep picking your way to the top. Once we started to climb out of the "bowl" is where the real hard work began. Boulders. I never want to see another boulder in my life!! We made the mistake of going to the far right and that made it harder on us. When we came back down we found out it would have been easier to stay to the left on the way up, there are less boulders and a somewhat nice trail! On your way up you will eventually run into the "Narrows." This is the spot where the mountain actually narrows down to where it's maybe 30 feet across. After that you have to climb through more boulder fields and will eventually reach the top. What an amazing feeling it is once you reach the summit!! All the hard work paid off and you have conquered CLOUD PEAK!! We made it to the Summit within 5 hours with food and drink stops along the way. We made it back down from the Summit in 2.5-3 hours. We packed up our tent that same day and hiked on out of there. I would suggest spending a second night though! We were wore out by the time we made it to the truck. We only passed one other group on the way to the summit but when we came back down there was about 4-5 more groups camped out to summit Cloud Peak the next day. This was our first big backpacking trip and we didn't know what to expect. We definitely learned a lot and can't wait to do another trip soon!
The Cloud Peak summit hike is technically challenging due to the extensive and mostly steep bouldering and rock scrambling that is required. The trail is not marked on most maps of the area nor via trail signs or blazes. A lack of a continuous distinct trail or other foot traffic makes this peak a bit of a route finding puzzle. The majority of the approximately 3000 ft ascent requires hopping from boulder to boulder for approximately 3 miles each way (from the valley floor). It took our group of three experienced hikers 8 hours round trip (including breaks, water filtering, and lunch) which was longer than expected.
Do not rely on any clear or consistent trail during the course of this hike through the miles of boulder fields. There are cairns up the entire length of the hike but they are sometimes difficult to spot. We followed a different set of cairns up than we did down, just to indicate the variety offered by these markers. A spotting scope or binoculars may help locate some of these features in less time.
The Cloud Peak trail begins on the upslope of an unnamed valley (over a small ridge) out of Mistymoon Lake heading Northwest towards Solitude Lake on trail 34 (Solitude Trail). After cresting this ridge and descending towards the left into the adjacent valley, follow a faint "goat" trail short-cut down to the valley floor. You must jump a narrow stream and also ford a larger but still shallow creek (with a noticeable waterfall) for access to the summit trail. The summit trail start is faint but can be seen located on the north side of the valley, just left (west) of the waterfall that empties into the creek that you must ford (at least until mid summer). The steep summit trail levels off for just a bit and follows the creek up towards cloud peak. After a few hundred yards the real work begins as the trail transitions to steep scrambling and boulder hopping. The cairns found tended to keep you climbing high on the steep and jagged ridge-line to the right (East) rather than the more gently sloping mid-section of the ascent which tends to hold more snowfields. For this reason the ascent is fast and exhausting but gratifying.
Two thirds of the way up is a knife edge with some stomach churning double exposure. Not for the squeamish but easy in good weather. Half of the knife edge was covered in snow leaving about 5-10 feet of width to cross without snow on it. I would imagine it could be completely covered at times in the year. The mountain top widens but continues with large and steep boulder hopping with occasional snow fields. The cairns lead you on a faint path on the very far left side of the peak, although we only found them on the way down. Be prepared for a false peak after the knife edge followed by another push to the true summit.
There are multiple snowfields throughout the hike if climbing before late summer. Most of them can be hiked on with ease before they soften late in the day. Water is fairly abundant for pumping until halfway up the peak. After that water is randomly found in seeps and small rivulets as far up as the summit (seasonally dependent). I personally drank around 2.5 liters on the entire hike. The hike is all above treeline so bring lots of sun/wind protection.
I recommend camping near the trail start but no further away than Mistymoon Lake to get an early start. I have heard of some people doing this as a day hike from Tensleep Campground (about 10 miles each way). I would think that would be very difficult for many hikers as the duration and intensity of the hike could leave you burnt out before the hike is complete. You can approach the summit hike from the Tensleep campground via trail #64 then to #34; however, we wanted to increase the backpacking duration and began from Hunter campground closer to the town of Buffalo. That route included a gorgeous valley hike (with several creek fordings --bring your water shoes!) and climaxed with an up and over Florence Pass towards Mistymoon Lake. We encountered snowfields beginning at Florence pass and throughout the rest of the hike to the summit --and in a very hot and dry season.
Overall, I highly recommend this for more experienced hikers seeking a low population 13K peak that feels like a somewhat difficult 14'er. The scenery is fantastic and the hike exhilarating.