Pets allowed
Allowed with Restrictions
Elevation Gain
10,050.00 ft (3,063.24 m)
Trail type
Loop
Distance
68.00 mi (109.44 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The Solitude Trail (#038) is a 55-mile loop around the Cloud Peak Wilderness in northern Wyoming's Bighorn Mountains. With the proximity and tourism of Yellowstone and the Tetons, this mountain range is often overlooked, but is no less spectacular. With granite peaks, jagged ridges, and glacier-carved valleys, the Bighorns feel like a blend of the Sierra Nevada's high elevation alpine with New England's dense evergreen forests.

Prime season for hiking is summer and fall after the snow pack has melted. All of the creek crossings require fording, and even late July has swift knee-high currents. The remoteness and ruggedness of this National Forest is filled with wildlife including moose, elk, black bear, deer, and eagles. Grizzly bears do not inhabit this area because of its isolation from the Rocky Mountains.

Low traffic means the Solitude Trail lives up to its namesake, but also has poorly marked sections that are difficult to follow (specifically the east side of the forest). Carrying a quality topographic map is strongly recommended.

The West Tensleep Lake trailhead provides easy access to the Solitude Loop and has overnight parking, vault toilets, a potable water spigot, and an established Forest Service campground. To get to the Loop, depart north from Tensleep Lake on trail #063 and hike 6.5 miles to Misty Moon Lake. This is a high usage area and designated as requiring all human solid waste to be packed out (including part of the #038 trail between Florence Pass and about a mile counter-clockwise/west of Misty Moon Lake).

The trail from Misty Moon Lake continues up along a creek cascading down from high elevation, past Gunboat Lake, to Florence Pass. Florence Lake is an ideal campsite for launching a side trip up Bomber Mountain, otherwise the next campable ground is found another mile down Florence Canyon in one of its lush meadows. Hiking down through the east facing Florence canyon is a treat during the morning as the sunlight creates spectacular shadows along the textured cliff walls.

At the bottom of the Canyon, a side detour to Seven Brothers Lakes is only 2.5 miles (and up a short ridge) -- it makes a nice lunch or camping spot. The Solitude Trail continues north from this junction and climbs up and over a meadow pass to Elk Lake. The route here shows signs of overgrowth and is marked only with large rock cairns above treeline. On the far side of Elk Lake, the trail joins up with off-road vehicle double-track just beyond the wilderness boundary and continues several easy (but rocky) miles to Willow Park Reservoir.

A cutoff trail is shown on some maps (trail #400), but it is strongly recommended to stay on the main Solitude loop -- the detour is overgrown and hard to follow, and leads to a difficult creek crossing! Stay on Trail #038 along Kearny Creek to the Kearny Reservoir where it again joins with an ATV trail at a small campground area.

From Kearny Reservoir, the trail climbs up again to Lake Winnie and then Highland Park, a 10,000-foot plateau filled with wildflowers and a view that looks into the heart of the Cloud Peak Wilderness mountains. With some more gentle up and downs, continue along through the forest, travel between the Bighorn and Cross Creek Reservoirs, and arrive at the intersection with trail #592.

Along the next several miles up to Geneva Pass, the remains of mining cabins play tribute to a gold rush that has faded away into history. After cresting the pass, the Cliff Lake Trail (#060) offers a scenic 4-mile detour to beautiful alpine lakes carved into the mountainside by ancient glaciers. Beyond this intersection is an easy walk with several creek fords down to Teepee Pole Flats. Cross over a steep ridge with several meadows on top, and then arrive at Paint Rock Creek and Solitude Lake, the rendezvous camp for a Cloud Peak summit hike. The final miles back to Misty Moon Lake climb uphill along a wide canyon to above treeline and then #038 hooks south around the ridge back into the Tensleep Creek area. Follow trail #063 south from Misty Moon to return to the trailhead.

For those seeking a true wilderness experience, the Bighorn Mountains and the Solitude Loop do not disappoint!

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Fall

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Days

8

Pros

Rugged, Abundant Wildlife, Low Usage

Cons

Difficult to follow, poorly marked trail, intense mosquito season

Trailhead Elevation

9,080.00 ft (2,767.58 m)

Highest point

10,900.00 ft (3,322.32 m)

Features

Near lake or river
Backcountry camping
Waterfalls
Big vistas
Big Game Watching
Horseback riding
Fishing
Wildlife
Wildflowers
Mine

Typically multi-day

Yes

Suitable for

Horseback

Permit required

Yes

Permit self-issue on site

Yes

Location

Nearby Lodging + Camping

Comments

Have updates, photos, alerts, or just want to leave a comment?
Sign In and share them.

You May Also Enjoy

Craters of the Moon National Monument
Irving and John Anderson County Park, North Branch, Minnesota