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Monday, November 4, 2019

Cloud Peak 500 - THAT's The Plan

As a shake-out for a possible ride of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route ("GDMBR") in 2021, I'm making the Cloud Peak 500 a priority ride for me in 2020. Cloud Peak 500. If you're searching for a destination multi-day bikepacking trip, take a look at this one.

Shout out to the irrepressible Lucas Haan for alerting me to this route.

Cloud Peak Wilderness Area, Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming.

The Cloud Peak 500 is a 500 mile gravel/dirt road loop through and around the Big Horn Mountains of north central Wyoming. It covers about 20% of the distance (500 miles vs. 2,500 miles) and climbs about 20% of the elevation gain (40,000 feet vs. 200,000 feet) of the GDMBR, with seemingly similar types of roads, distances between towns and re-supplies, and relative remoteness. It looks tailor made for a GDMBR dreamer.

The Cloud Peak 500 route begins and ends in the small town of Sheridan, which is less than a four hour drive from Rapid City. It follows roads I don't know through country I don't know. It looks like a great experience standing alone, as well as an ideal shake-out for a possible GDMBR ride the next year. As such, I'd ride the Cloud Peak 500 in the manner described in my GDMBR post. Bikepacking the GDMBR.

Alternatively, the Cloud Peak 500 route could be ridden a number of other ways. One could ride it like our small group rode the Black Hills BackBone, with a support vehicle attending to daily needs and shuttling to nightly accommodations. Three Days of BackBone 2017. One also could ride it like we rode the DED Dirt Ride, carrying a day's worth of supplies and self-shuttling between campsites. DED Dirt Ride 2014. One may be able to ride it as a credit card tour by staying in motels along the way, although I have not analyzed the route in detail to confirm that. I suspect somebody out there might even try to continuously ride those 500 miles. In any event, options abound.

Rough map of the Cloud Peak 500. Links to details, including GPX files at Cloud Peak 500.

Elevation profile of the Cloud Peak 500, from

There's one option for me - a GDMBR shake-out. I plan to bikepack the Cloud Peak 500 route self-supported, ride most all day and maybe some at night, disperse camp, and re-supply at small towns along the way. If I ride solo, Colleen would drop me off in Sheridan at the start and plan to come back 6-7 days later to pick me up. If I carpool or caravan to Sheridan with others from the Black Hills or beyond, I would still bikepack it self-supported, regardless of what everyone else did.

The Cloud Peak 500 post announcing the 2019 ride publicized a "group start" on September 19, 2019. I don't know if that happened and I don't know if they are planning such a "group start" for 2020. In any event, I will be riding the route on my own timetable and will not be part of any race, event or "group start."

So, I've penciled in the Cloud Peak 500 ride on my calendar for August 2020.

Shaun (incredulous):  "That's the plan?"
Craig (emphatic):  "THAT'S the plan!"
Shaun (skeptical):  "How are you going to do it?"
Craig (less emphatic):  "I have NO idea."

(apologies to "A Few Good Men")

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