Backpacking in the Cloud Peak Wilderness

The Cloud Peak Wilderness is located in the Bighorn National Forest in northeastern Wyoming. Kassi and I spent three days backpacking in the southern part of the wilderness over the long July 4th weekend. We did a loop starting at Battle Park Trailhead, about 12 miles of dirt road north of Highway 16. Early in July trail conditions can still be a little muddy, but I called the ranger office in Buffalo and they had said the trails should be okay for us.

Our destination for the first night was Lake Solitude. It didn't take long for us to find snow, and Wyatt always takes those opportunities to cool off.

About halfway to Lake Solitude we stopped at Grace Lake for a midday snack. The mosquitoes were pretty thick so we didn't remain stationary for too long.

The remainder of the hike to Lake Solitude wasn't anything spectacular, but the view really opened up when we reached our destination.

The way the lake sat in the canyon it only seemed feasible to find camp spots at the two ends of the lakes. Before heading to the far east end to look for a spot we decided to look around the west end first. It didn't take long to find a great spot next to Paint Rock Creek at the outlet of the lake.

We setup camp, and it didn't take long to notice the swarms of mayflys flying around. We broke out the fly rods to see if anything was feeding on those mayflys.

It only took a few casts with a dry fly to get a brook trout to strike. And they kept striking, one after the other. We decided the brook trout were ample in this lake so it wouldn't hurt for us to harvest a couple of small fish for dinner.

The mosquitoes around the lake were very dense so we took shelter early and spent the rest of the night in the tent.

The next morning, after breakfast, we packed up and headed out. The destination was Mistymoon Lake. The weather was clear and calm and Lake Solitude was beautiful. Like every scenic view - photos don't do it justice. Mysteriously, the water was calm, and bugs were hitting the water, but there was practically no fish activity. I suspect they gorged early in the morning.

The trail followed Paint Rock Creek up the canyon, and we had to lose the boots to cross the creek in a couple of spots. The water was cold! Wyatt was the only one in our group who enjoyed this part.

We got above tree line and the snow became more frequent and covered the trail in spots. It wasn't difficult to navigate and we made it to Mistymoon in the early afternoon. We only saw two groups of hikers on our first day to Lake Solitude, but once we got to Mistymoon we saw probably a half dozen groups within the first hour. This is a very popular spot, and I imagine it gets quite a bit of traffic in July and August. However, we were able to easily find a great spot to setup camp between Mistymoon and Lake Marion. And the mosquitoes were practically non-existent here! It was very nice.

We spent the majority of the afternoon fishing the creek between Mistymoon and Lake Marion, as well as the inlet at Lake Marion. The fish in the lake were bigger, and the creek was packed full of small brook trout. Again, the brook trout population did not appear to be struggling, so we took a couple more small fish for dinner.

The next morning the weather was absolutely perfect. The surface of Mistymoon was a goddamn mirror.

Click for a higher res photo

The hike back headed down the opposite side of Elk Mountain from where we hiked into Lake Solitude. The trail in the wilderness was nice and scenic and we crossed paths with a big bull moose. The trail eventually ended at Lily Lake and from there we walked the rest of the way back to the car on an ATV trail.

A look back up from where we started our hike down

The Cloud Peak Wilderness was amazing and did not disappoint. It takes a bit of driving to get up there, but it is absolutely worth it!