Bighorn Peak shares its name with the range that it’s in and is a prominent feature to the scenery along the Cloud Peak Skyway (Highway 16). In fact it is often mistaken for Cloud Peak, which is the highest mountain in the range. The peak's most dramatic feature is the steep couloir that cuts through the East face. Bighorn Peak possesses many of the characteristics that are particular to this range such as sheer cliffs and expansive boulder fields. Bighorn Peak like many of the other mountains in the Cloud Peak wilderness area is relatively remote. The rugged terrain encountered in order to access the peak, as well as, the physical endurance required to ascend the non-technical routes probably contribute to the fact that this mountain isn’t climbed often. In addition, it is probably ignored by many climbers who are interested in the areas more famous mountains such as Cloud Peak.
To climb this peak will require at least a day, maybe 2 for slower parties. There are several ways to get to the base of the mountain, each of which is about a days worth of hiking. The most striking feature of the east face is the deep inset couloir. To access this side of the mountain drive west from Buffalo Wyoming for about 14 miles on the Cloud Peak Skyway (Highway 16). Turn right onto forest service road #20(this is a really good two wheel drive road). Continue down #20 to Circle Park trailhead. From here pickup the Sherd Lake Loop trailhead and take trail 46 west and then south to trail #90 west to Old Crow lake. It is another 2 miles of boulder hopping and off trail traveling west towards Lame Deer Lake. From Lame Deer, the most convenient ridge is the central ridge, west/sw of Lame Deer.
Registration is mandatory when entering the Cloud Peak Wilderness area. Just fill out a permit and put it in the drop box at any of the trailheads. Filling out the permit acknowledges that you understand the wilderness rules. There will not be any permits at the trailhead so make sure to stop by a ranger station on the way there.
When To Climb
There are three narrow ridges that protrude in an Easterly direction off the East side of the mountain. A large notch intersects the northernmost of the easten ridges so it can not be ascended in a non-technical fashion. Most people hike up the other two ridges as well as the Western slope in the months of July-mid September. However, boulder fields cover each of these routes from start to summit. These routes may be climbed more easily with crampons and an ice ax in May and June when the rocks are covered with snow. However, be aware of avalanches.
There are many lakes to camp around which allow close access to the peak and water. Lame Deer Lake and the Firehole Lakes are in close proximity to the Eastern side.
Campfires, other than a self contained stove, are not allowed above 9200 feet
Snow may occur any month of the year. However, warmer summer conditions may occur from July through mid September. Anytime after that heavy snows may occur. Climbers should also be aware of violent afternoon thunderstorms in the summer.
Mosquitoes are thick and very aggressive during the summer time (June-mid September) in the Bighorns. So make sure to bring bug spray.
Click on the following link to see a live webcam that monitors the Cloud Peak Wilderness area which includes Bighorn Peak.