If you like lakes and ponds, don’t miss the trip to Wyoming’s Snowy Range Mountains. While we often hike 7 or more miles to see one lake in Colorado, there are trails in the Snowy Range that offer a lake every half mile or less. And while Wyoming may see far away, it’s just three hours from Denver to the Lewis Lake trailhead.
Quite possibly my favorite trails in the Snowy’s are the Gap Lakes Trail and the Lost Lake Trail (directions below). Even without leaving the parking lot, you should see several lakes. Libby Lake is at the first parking lot on the drive in. Lewis Lake and several other unnamed lakes/ponds are at the second parking lot on the road. Quite honestly, you could walk around these lakes and be very happy with the lakes and the scenery. 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 end 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. Walk the rocky, single track around Lewis Lake, past the turnoff for Lost Lakes and 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 Class Lake (unsigned) and two more 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 and North Gap. At the top, look on both sides of the ridge to see incredible views of both lakes.
You can stop here and return for a hike of about 3 miles roundtrip or hike a little further for more several more lakes. I highly recommend adding another mile or so and seeing the Shelf Lakes.
To see the Shelf Lakes, hike down to the shoreline of North Gap Lake. 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.
Just a quarter mile from the top of the ridge, and part way around the lake, is the trail split for Shelf Lake Trail 109. Hike up this trail and see lower and upper Shelf Lakes. You can continue off trail, around the mountain, past several lakes to Brooklyn Lake campground and Lost Lakes Trail and create a loop hike, but that trek is about 12 miles and a full day.
Most people at Shelf Lake return to the Gap Lakes Trail and hike a little further to Reservoir Lake or Deep Lake or return to their cars.
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 to the ridge between South and North Gap Lakes is about three miles roundtrip with about 300 feet of elevation gain. From there, you can add on more distance to see the Shelf Lakes and the other lakes beyond.
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.