“An off-trail route to summit Cloud Peak with an elevation gain of over 3,000 ft, topping out at 13,200 ft.
— Brian Sheets
The Forest Service requires that you pack out all solid human waste from the Cloud Peak Wilderness. A light day pack is best for this ascent, as anything heavy you'll quickly regret when trying to scramble over boulders.
Lake — River/Creek — Views — Wildflowers
This isn't very suitable for trail running, as you can't exactly run up the boulder-scramble section.
This "trail" is fairly apparent until you get to the waterfall at the bottom of Cloud Peak. From here, the route is marked off and on with rock markers. The last 3 miles is pretty much boulder hopping up a 20% grade.
Along the way, enjoy lots of glacier-fed water. Be prepared for lots of scrambling and boulder-hopping. No ropes are needed, but the route does pass some sheer cliffs along the way.
Expect weather changes (hail, snow, rain, wind, fog, clouds, and of course blue sky and sun) along the way. It's pretty hard to get lost, even though it's not much of a trail. Just stay between the drop-offs on either side and work your way up the boulders to the summit and 360-degrees of phenomenal views!
This area is primarily rocky with flowers growing along the creeks. Expect a tundra landscape.