The Sugarloaf Recreation Area is in many ways the center of recreational opportunities in the Snowy Range of southern Wyoming. Encompassing a campground, several lakes and major trailheads that lead to dozens of other lakes, the possibilities are endless. The Snowy Range has two major ridges running north/ to south, and between them sits a low pass. The trail over this pass is called Gap Lakes, and the trailhead is the Lewis Lake Trailhead. The trail has a few moderate climbs but is not difficult, and the rewards are tremendous. This adventure is a short hike that follows the Gap Lakes Trail before branching off to the Shelf Lakes Trail for an out-and-back trip, but the Gap Lakes Trail can be followed until it meets the Sheep Lake Trail for a 12-mile loop around the northern crest of the range.
Leaving the trailhead at beautiful Lewis Lake, in a quarter mile the trail passes the junction of Lost Lake Trail to the right, which is another fabulous hike. The trail climbs a few hundred feet higher to reach a small and beautiful pond teeming with fish before meeting South Gap Lake. The trail skirts this lake across talus fields and climbs steeply to the 11,000-foot gap with views of both Gap Lakes and beyond. The trail drops steeply to the shore of North Gap Lake and crosses another talus field to the junction with the Shelf Lakes Trail. It is another climb up to the broad, high valley encompassing Shelf Lakes 1 through 4. The trail is fairly flat through here, and the views both ahead and back are great. About a half mile past the second Shelf Lake the trail drops into a little valley and disappears, but at this point the third Shelf Lake is just a short hike due east over a wildflower-strewn hill. Most people don’t take the Shelf Lakes spur, so enjoy the solitude and beauty of this moderate alpine hike.