The ideal camping experience can be elusive. Whether you’re headed deep into the mountains for a backpacking trip or enjoying a less hardcore Wyoming camping weekend, the balance between adventure and creature comforts has to be just right. Bighorn Mountain Country makes it a little easier to have the dream expedition—maybe because the Cloud Peak Wilderness lies in the heart of this at once rugged and welcoming part of Wyoming.
You’ll need a launching point, and before you embark on your backpacking or camping trip, you’ll probably need to pick up some last-minute supplies and information. Spend the night before your Wyoming camping or backpacking adventure in Worland. Learn a bit about the area you will be exploring it—and the people who preceded you—at the Washakie Museum and Cultural Center.
Make sure you have plenty of food and everything you need for camping and hiking in Wyoming’s mountains. You can pick up supplies and last-minute tips from locals at The Outdoorsman. Once you’ve packed up the car or the backpacks, grab a hot meal at Goodies.
The next morning, fuel your Bighorn Mountain Country adventure at Brass Plumb before making the 60- to 90-minute drive to your Wyoming camping location or the start of your backpacking trip.
Take the stunning Route 16 (aka The Sweet 16) into the Bighorn Mountain Range. Slow down and soak up the views from the highway, especially of Ten Sleep Canyon.
Campgrounds and nearby adventures
There are numerous camping options at and near the lovely Meadowlark Lake, ranging from grounds for larger RVs with hookups to more primitive tent sites. There are also campsites with a little separation from the lake, where you’re likely to spot more wildlife and fewer people, such as Deer Haven Lodge. Take your pick from all the options to enjoy the atmosphere and comfort levels to suit your dream Wyoming camping trip.
From your home base campsite, there are a number of Bighorn activities on or near Meadowlark Lake. Take a boat or paddleboard out on the water, or catch your dinner as a reward for a peaceful day of fishing. There are a number of hikes—ranging from easy to difficult—that start at the lake, so you can explore the Bighorn National Forest and Cloud Peak Wilderness from your campsite.
Best of Wyoming backpacking trips
Deeper into the Bighorn National Forest is a major trailhead, your gateway to a backcountry expedition into the Cloud Peak Wilderness: West Tensleep Trailhead.
While you could trek all the way to the top of Cloud Peak, there are many other backpacking trips that are less demanding and just as stunning. According to the U.S. Forest Service, “Although rugged in appearance, the Bighorns are actually more gentle than other mountains in Wyoming.”
We recommend hiking into Lake Helen. This hike, just under 9 miles, will take you through breathtaking scenery with plenty of chances to spot wildlife, ending at Lake Helen. The lake has plenty of trees around it to provide shelter and shade for your backcountry home, so settle in. Be sure you pack mosquito spray and/or nets, sunscreen, and bear-proof food containers. And definitely, don’t forget your camera and journal—you’re never going to forget these views, but you’ll want to share them with friends and family when you get home.
Reentry into civilization
Whether you spent your Wyoming camping vacation in a campground with a few like-minded neighbors or deep in the Cloud Peak Wilderness on a backpacking trip, the time will come when you have to head home
Load up the car and point it back down the Sweet 16 highway. Your re-entry to civilization will include a cold, local beer and a little bit of quirky shopping for a souvenir. Pull into the town of Ten Sleep with an appetite and thirst. Your first stop will be Ten Sleep Brewing Company for a casual and authentic welcome to town. The brewery is nestled against beautiful red rocks and is the ideal transition from rustic back to real life.
From here, you’ll head into town. Stop at Dirty Sally’s for some locally made crafts and gifts and treat yourself to an ice cream or iced coffee. The Bighorn Mountain Stage Company is another shop full of surprises that will top off your Bighorn Mountain Country vacation, full of cute towns, unique stops, breathtaking scenery, and more.