How would you like a hike with more than a dozen lakes and ponds in less than ten miles? Then schedule a weekend to take the three hour drive to Wyoming’s Snow Range Mountains, near Laramie. There are so many lakes in this area, you’ll want a map to plot out which way you want to go and how many lakes you want to see. If you hike the trails out of the Lewis Lake parking area, you’ll see a lake every half mile or so (directions below). I like the hike to Gap Lakes and beyond.
Starting at the Lewis Lake trailhead, you’ll see several lakes. The first one is Libby Lake on the drive in. At the parking lot is Lewis Lake and several other unmanned lakes/ponds. The backdrop for these lakes is several 12,000-foot high peaks, including Medicine Bow Peak.
When you’re done taking pictures here and marveling at the beautiful scenery, head to the north corner of the parking lot. A sign here says “Gap Lakes Trail 103” and lists Lost Lakes Trail ½, South Gap Lakes ¾, Deep Lake 4, Sand Lake 5. Our destination is Deep Lake. Begin hiking the rocky, single track trail around Lewis Lake. About a third of a mile from the trailhead you'll pass the turnoff for Lost Lakes and hike up a hill. As you get higher in elevation, the views of Lewis Lake and the lakes/ponds around it get even better. The deep blue color of the lakes next to the white rock of the surrounding mountains is very striking. You’ll likely find yourself taking pictures from several angles.
The Gap Lakes Trail passes a couple unnamed/unsigned ponds on the way to South Gap Lake. South Gap Lake is a large lake with a rocky shore. Walk the short side trail to the lake and enjoy the view. When you’re done, return to the main trail and begin hiking around the lake. Again, you’ll likely find yourself taking pictures of this lake from different angles. While the hike around the lake is short, be careful. First of all, you’re hiking at nearly 11,000-feet, so it can be hard to catch your breath here. Also, the shoreline is quite rocky. There are several long sections of trail that involve hiking over rocks and boulders and some of them will move.
It’s just a little over an eighth of a mile from South Gap Lake to the ridge between South Gap Lake and North Gap Lake. At the top, look on both sides of the ridge to see incredible views of both lakes.
At the bottom of the ridge, the trail once again crosses a very rock section. There’s no ”trail” here, just find the best way for yourself. And remember, the rocks will move.
Part way around the lake, is the trail split for Shelf Lake Trail 109. I suggest saving Shelf Lakes for the hike back. For now, continue around North Gap Lake. If you see any social trails going to the right, stay left.
The trail climbs a bit again and then winds through some scenic meadows. Come at the right time of year and these meadows will be filled with wildflowers. While the wildflowers were gone when we visited in early September, the meadows were very scenic. It’s about ¾ of a mile from North Gap Lake to a view of Crescent Lake in the distance. We guessed it was Crescent Lake from our map and the semi-Crescent shape of the lake. We didn't walk to the shoreline since the lake was a bit small and we had more distance to cover.
About three miles from the trailhead, the Gap Lakes Trail ends at Quealy Lake Trail 102. Turn left here for Reservoir Lake and Quealy Lake, turn right here for Deep Lake, Sheep Lake and beyond. We decided to visit Deep Lake first. The trail to Deep Lake winds through more meadows and passes Cutthroat Lake (a popular backpacking destination) on its way to the turnoff about ¾ of a mile from the Gap Lakes Trail. To see Deep Lake, turn at the marked trail split. The sign says Deep Lake is a half mile away. The first view of the lake is, but we walked part of the way around the lake and found a picnic table to enjoy lunch.
After a break here, it was time to head back the way we came. You can return to the trailhead from here for a hike of about 8.5 miles roundtrip. However, on the way back, I suggest two side trips. First to Reservoir Lake. At the Gap Lakes/Quealy Lake split, go west. It’s less than a half mile from the trail split to Reservoir Lake. Reservoir Lake is a nice place for lunch, a nap or just a stroll around the shoreline. The lake has some rocks and logs in the water, near the shoreline, that make for nice foreground in pictures of the lake. I liked walking around the north side of the lake, so I could include the mountain ridge in my photos.
After a break, it’s time to return to the Gap Lakes Trail. When you reach North Gap Lake and the turnoff for the Shelf Lakes, I highly recommend the short hike up to Upper and Lower Shelf Lakes. When you’re done exploring up there, return to the main trail and hike back to the parking lot.
If you want more hikes, check out this list of 200+ great hikes in Colorado.
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Fee: This hike is in the Sugarloaf Recreation Area. There is a $5 per day fee unless you have a National Parks Pass.
Details: The hike past the Gap Lakes with side trips to Deep Lake, Reservoir Lake and the Shelf Lakes is about 10 miles roundtrip with about 1,500 feet of elevation gain with all the ups and down. Expect a little more distance for any extra exploration around shorelines. You can add more distance to see Quealy Lake, Sheep Lake and others in the area.
Directions: Take I-25 to Cheyenne. Take I-80 west to Laramie. Take the exit 311 for Snowy Range Road/WY-130/WY-230. Turn west. Take WY-130/Snowy Range Road for about 39 miles to the Sugarloaf Recreation Area turnoff. (You'll pass the town of Centennial that has lodging and food). Google Lewis Lake, Centennial, Wyoming for directions.