The peak receives its name from Nelson Horatio Darton, a geologist with the USGS who worked extensively in the Bighorns at the turn of the twentieth century. Darton is a prominent part of the skyline when viewed from route 16 heading west out of Buffalo, but it is easily overshadowed by the sheer faces of Bighorn Mountain to its south. Although both of the trailheads that access this peak are popular and can be crowded, few people venture off the trail to the summit.
The previous summit register has been lost down a large crevice, but a replacement is in place. There are supplies on the summit for anyone with the time and inclination to attempt to retrieve its predecessor.
Sunlight and solitude on the summit
The peak can be approached from the east or the west from the Circle Park or West Tensleep trailheads respectively. To reach Circle Park, drive approximately 15 miles on route 16W from the center of Buffalo and turn right onto FR 20. The West Tensleep trailhead is about an hour and 20 minutes from downtown Buffalo. Turn onto FSR 27 by the old Deer Haven Lodge and drive 7 miles to the trailhead. From Tensleep, it is about 17.5 miles on 16E to the turnoff.
: Begin from Circle Park walking up trail 43 on the Sherd Loop and up past Rainy Lake. If you leave early, it is possible to avoid the crowds at the trailhead and Sherd Lake.
Looking back down the east ridge
Take the trail towards Willow Lake, but as the trail begins to descend after approximately 3.3 miles begin ascending the ridge. There is no marked trail to the summit. Once on the ridge, it is a relatively simple case of heading uphill.
Below the treeline it is possible to follow elk trails on the ridge. fortunately there are few areas of dense vegetation to get lost or tangled in. There are a number of small peaks along the ridge that you may wish to avoid climbing and are easy to circumvent. There are a few areas of low grade scrambling within a mile of the summit, but most of the route is fairly gentle and can be hiked. There is snow year round near Darton's summit. It can be easily skirted or it can be walked up with the use of crampons.
A clear day on the summit affords views of Cloud Peak and the Mathers to the north, and Bighorn to the south. The round trip is about 16 miles. It can be done in a day, but it may be desirable for some to camp up near Rainy Lake.
: I have not personally approached from this direction, but it is possible to do so by following a route similar to that outlined on the Peak Angeline page.
Most of the walk up to Darton lies within the Cloud Peak Wilderness. Special regulations apply that can be found on the back of the self-registration form at the trailhead and on the forest service website below.
See the camping regulations relevant to the area in the red tape section above. There are campsites available near both trailheads.
External LinksCloud Peak Regulations