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Cloud Nine in Cloud Peak Wilderness

Read a visitor’s account of a backcountry wilderness trip in the Cloud Peak Wilderness.

Wyoming is always full of surprises. Certainly, Bighorn National Forest near Washakie County is one of those delightful surprises, a cluster of mountains in north-central Wyoming. In the middle of that forest lies the pristine Cloud Peak Wilderness.

Pick a Lake, Any Lake.
My friend and I stepped up to the register at the trailhead and filled out our backcountry permit. We had to choose our destination, and had been going back and forth between a few different lakes. Finally we concluded that we couldn’t make a bad decision. A Ten Sleep local strongly urged us to visit Lost Twin Lakes, and at last we decided we’d be foolish to not listen to a local. A few steps up the trail we crossed paths with a national forest ranger who reminded us of backcountry wilderness etiquette. I believe this is one of the reasons the area has remained so pristine, people simply care for the land there.

Going Deep
The hike was downright grueling at certain points with our heavy packs on. Fortunately, the abundance of trailside wildflowers kept the conversation light and pushed us further. The scenery evolved as we ventured deeper into the mountains and peaks became more and more rugged. A stream meandered slowly through a meadow below us and was the perfect midway point for a snack. Brook trout zipped through the water and I wished I had my fly rod in tow. We hurled our packs back on and continued up the trail for the final push to Lost Twin Lakes. Somewhere between the sweat and sunlight in my eyes, I fixed my gaze on a sheer mountain face; a peak whose name I never found. I blurted a few profanities to express my excitement at the sight of this beautiful, fin-shaped peak. I should also mention that I typically have a fairly good idea of what the scenery will be like in many of the places I am hiking (thanks to the internet). In this case, I had no idea. I just knew there were steep mountains surrounding the lakes given the topography on the map.

The Reward
The sight of Lost Twin Lakes was incredibly welcoming, almost as much as the several marmots that perched and squeaked around us. We found a soft bed of grass above the lower lake and pitched our tent for the night. A waterfall nearby carved its way through the granite rock and flowed into a small creek where we filtered water. We made dinner, and hiked up the hill to settle in for sunset. The sun dipped in the valley that cuts its way to the quiet town of Ten Sleep and beyond to the rest of Washakie County.


The Second Reward
Back at the car, the only thing on our minds was the Speed Goat Golden Ale from Ten Sleep Brewing Company. We drove out of Ten Sleep
Canyon, pointing out climbers that speckled the canyon walls. We shook our heads at how much this corner of the state has to offer the outdoor adventurer. I pulled into the brewery which sits at the base of a massive red rock feature on the outskirts of town. Sipping a beer on their outdoor patio actually feels a bit more like spending time on a family ranch. The brewery is everything you’d imagine about Wyoming and love… wide open spaces and friendly faces.

This story was created in partnership with Visit USA Parks.

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