Camping on the Cloud Peak Skyway on US 16–Bighorn NF

This is our camp on FR 20 on the Cloud Peak Skyway. It's pretty clear why they are called the Cloud Peaks! The Ranger knew most sites were taken and I was only staying one night, so he said I could jut camp right on the grass a few feet off the road.

This is our camp on FR 20 on the Cloud Peak Skyway. It’s pretty clear why they’re called the Cloud Peaks! The Ranger knew most sites were taken and I was only staying one night, so he said I could just camp right on the grass a few feet off the road. I had a strong Verizon 4g signal.

In today’s post we’ll start up where I left off  at my camp on the Medicine Wheel Scenic Byway. The next day I broke camp and headed off to explore the southern part of the Big Horn National Forest on US Route 16 through the Cloud Peak Wilderness.  I stayed on US 14 and dropped off the plateau until I came to Interstate 90 and then turned south on it through typical high plains sagebrush country. Eventually I came to Sheridan, Wyoming where I stopped for lunch and gas and then continued on to Buffalo, Wyoming. There, I got off the Interstate and took US 16 and climbed up into the Bighorn National Forest on the Cloud Peak Skyway. I know my travels through the Bighorn National Forest are confusing, hopefully this map will make it clearer.

O's a tough climb up into the Bighorn NF and so only two roads cross it, 14 and 14A to the north and 16 to the south. This post is about my trip over 16 to the south.

I’s a tough climb up into the Bighorn NF and so only two roads cross it, 14 and 14A to the north and 16 to the south. This post is about my trip over 16 to the south.

The climb was typical of most Rocky Mountain passes, although it struck me as being less steep than most and a little longer. At any rate, nearly any vehicle can comfortably climb it by gearing down and just crawling up it. Once on the top of the plateau it was very similar to the northern part of the Bighorns with a pretty forest and rolling hills.

Big2-nice-cody-wide

The one big difference is US 16 passes right by the Cloud Peak Wilderness area, from which it got its name, the Cloud Peak Skyway. It’s a very pretty group of mountains that face nearly due east, and dominate the skyline for many miles around. Because they face due east, the best time to photograph them is first thing in the morning when the sun is hitting them on their face. It was getting late in the day so I decided to camp there for the night and the next morning take my photographs and then continue my journey.

Cody got a chance to run around in the meadows and wildflowers. A Good time was had by all!

Cody got a chance to run around in the meadows and wildflowers. A Good time was had by all!

I kept driving along the US 16 but the further I went the worse the view of the mountains were so when I came to a closed Forest Ranger station I stopped on the side of the road into it and let Cody out so he and I could go for a walk. I was lucky and a Ranger just happened to be going into the Station, so I flagged him down and told him my plans and asked where he would recommend dispersed camping so I got the best views of the mountains. I was doubly lucky because he was a very nice guy and loved talking about his Forest so he told me everything I could need to know!

He said that because it was mostly a Wilderness Area none of the roads got very close to the mountains but he told me the one that was the very best and would give me the best photos of the mountain was Forest Road 20, the Circle Park Road. He also told me about a little trail that went off the FR 20 and up a hill and had a fantastic view. When I asked about getting a Verizon cell signal he said it was spotty in this part of the Forest but the road he recommended just happened to have a decent signal. He warned me that it was a popular area so all the campsites might be taken. If they were, he said, I could just pull a little ways over into the grass and camp there for the night.

big2-mtns-best

It was getting late so I headed over to FR 20 and he was right, it had a fantastic view of the mountains! It wasn’t a long road and nearly all the camping spots were taken. I got out my JetPack and Wilson Sleek so I could check for a signal while I drove and I did find a nice campsite with no one nearby but it only had a weak 3g signal so that wouldn’t do. I didn’t find any place with both an available campsite and a good signal so I did what the Ranger had suggested and found a spot with a good signal and pulled over into the grass about 20 feet and called that camp. Of course I parked so my doors open to a view of the mountains and boy, did I enjoy that!

There are many really pretty meadows in the area and you can see a 5th wheel along the road--he had a great view!

There are many really pretty meadows in the area and you can see a 5th wheel along the road–he had a great view!

That evening Cody and I walked down the road toward the mountains and took pictures and the next morning we were out early taking pictures again. It was a magical place that we both enjoyed a great deal! The road we were on dead ends at the trailhead of the primary hiking trail to the mountains and if I weren’t in such a rush I would have loved to have hiked part way back to them. My knees will no longer allow me to carry a heavy pack or go for very long hikes, but I could have gone 5 miles or so in hopes to find some better shots. But the mountains are so photogenic that I was happy with what I got.

Heading down TenSleep Canyon.

Heading down TenSleep Canyon. The red arrows point to the road as it winds down the mountain above me. The many switchbacks keep the grade fairly easy.

After I was done shooting we broke camp and headed down off the mountain. We were traveling East to West on 16, so that put us going downhill on the TenSleep Canyon which is the climb up from the West into the Bighorns on 16. It is a very pretty canyon and well-designed because it never gets terribly steep. You are climbing for a long ways but they put in enough switchbacks to make it comfortable.  I’m sure you’ll want to stop for some pictures here, I did!

This is another shot of TenSleep Canyon looking up the canyon. You can see an RV on the road above me coming down the hill.

This is another shot of TenSleep Canyon looking up the canyon. You can see an RV on the road above me coming down the hill.

In my next travel post I’ll pick up from there and tell you all about the next leg of my travels south through the Wind River Canyon and then up the Wyoming Centennial Scenic Byway through Dubois and then into the Grand Tetons NP.

Thanks for shopping at Amazon.com from the links here in my website. I’ll make a small percentage on your purchase, no matter if you buy the item linked or something else!  Best of all, it won’t cost you a thing!

Here are some things I’ve found useful as a vandweller:

This is the ladder rack I have on my van and I’ve installed on 5 other vans. It’s only $80 right now! Pro-Series 500 lbs. Capacity Van Rack–Highly Recommended

Reflectix, 4 foot by 10 feet: indispensable in the winter! Reflectix 48-Inch by 10-Feet Bubble Pack Insulation

Weber Go-Anywhere Portable Gas Grill: I love this grill because it gives exceptional flavor to grilled foods. Weber Go-Anywhere Gas Grill

Xantrex 2000 watt Pure Sine Wave Inverter. Runs my microwave with no problem and at $368 is a great deal. I’ve been using it for 3 years now. Xantrex 2000 Watt Pure Sine Wave Inverter

Bob
About

I’ve been a full-time VanDweller for 12 years and I love it. I hope to never live in a house again!

16 comments on “Camping on the Cloud Peak Skyway on US 16–Bighorn NF
  1. Lucy says:

    Nice & colorful pictures, love seen Cody surrounded by wild flowers.

    My regards, Lucy.

  2. jonthebru says:

    It is really great that you are giving Cody a fine tour of America’s West! Seems like he appreciates it.

    • Bob Bob says:

      jonthebru, he had a truly wonderful time! Like I’ve said before, by giving him his best possible life, I give myself my best possible life.

      I wonder what that says about me.
      Bob

  3. david says:

    Bob, another informative and enjoyable post. Your writing style makes me feel that I am there in many of your posts. One factor I do miss is temperature. Would it be possible for you to post highs and lows at your camp sights?
    Thanks,
    David

    • Bob Bob says:

      That’s a good idea David. But I’m not organized enough to write down highs and lows, however, I’ll almost always tell you if it’s uncomfortable, in other words, if it’s hot or cold, I’ll say that. If I don’t say anything, then it’s a pleasant temperature. I arranged my summer travels around the temperature so I was almost always comfortable. For example, when I was camped in Idaho it was getting a little hot so in my next post I said I had moved to West Yellowstone to be at a higher, cooler elevation.

      All my travels in Wyoming were at an okay temperature, but when I get to Colorado, I’ll run into some cold and I’ll let you know about it. When he temps are high or low then they get my attention and I’ll remember them.
      Bob

  4. Camilla says:

    Gorgeous, gorgeous!!! Thanks for the photos. I know you had to love those views!

  5. Cae says:

    Where are headed next? It’s starting to get cool.

  6. Jenny Johnson Manuel says:

    Thanks for this post — I am in the process of converting a cargo trailer to a living space — It is a 6 by 12 with a side door and a back door–any instructions or ideas on conversion would be helpful.

    What kind of ceiling vent should I use?
    What would be the best kind of inverter to buy?
    Would it be feasible to put the bed in the middle and use for a bench seat instead of a bed?

    • Jenny Johnson Manuel says:

      I believe I put this post on the wrong article…I apologize –

    • Bob Bob says:

      I’d suggest bed on the side becaue you probably don’t want to lose access from the back door.

      There is a standard 14×14 vent that most RVs use. The question is do you want a powered fan roof vent Mist people do and they cost about $150 for a base model. Fantastic Fan is one of the best

      I like the Cobra 400 from Amazon

      I can’t imagine how the bed in the middle and used for a bench seat instead of a bed would work, but it doesn’t sound very good to me.
      Bob

  7. Kathleen says:

    Glad you enjoyed this part of the Big Horns, my favorite mountains. June is the most gorgeous month to be there, as the rivers are rushing with snow melt, the buffalo grass is emerald green, and the wildflowers are in full bloom. Only problem is the high country roads can still be snow packed til July 1, and it can snow any month of the year in Northern Wyoming at high altitude.

    Those levelers in your last post are a must have. I knew nothing about disbursed camping the decades I traveled these mountains. So happy to learn about it, just have to get accustomed to camping alone. No fear of big animals, my encounters with them have all been great. Most of the time I’m good at being a “wild animal whisperer” but I always say “I never want to meet a bear on a bad day.”

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