girl and dog at sherd lake

Happy Hiking: Sherd Lake Trail

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Sherd Lake Trailhead is located off Circle Park Road in the Cloud Peak Wilderness of Big Horn National Forest near Buffalo, Wyoming.  Normally the moderate, 3.5 mile roundtrip hike leaves from a small dirt parking area with a pit toilet.

Currently, due to all the precipitation in Wyoming, Circle Park Road is closed at the entrance gate off Highway 16.  The closure adds 4.5 miles to the hike, though much of the additional distance may be covered via a connector trail after walking a mile down the road.

Hike to Sherd Lake

The good news is, wildflowers line Circle Park Road which also affords lovely views of the distant peaks. Additionally, there is large boulder outcropping home to a marmot! So, the added mileage to the hike is not awful.  The bad news is, mosquitoes.  Definitely come armed with deet! Just stopping to snap a photo proves challenging as these blood suckers buzz your face and ears. 

As mentioned, about a mile down Circle Park Road, there is a connector trail.  It is the second one on the left and easily followed with the AllTrails app.  The connector passes through pine forest dotted in lupine, around a swampy meadow, and back through pine forest before ending at a forest service road.  This road provides more breath-taking views as it travels through an open swath of green grasses.

After walking about 4/10 of a mile on the road, you will sees a faint trail to the right.  Follow it a quarter mile through the pines to reach the trailhead with pit toilets, parking, and a wilderness registration box. Honestly, these first 2.25 additional miles might have been the prettiest section of the hike to Sherd Lake.

The trail to Sherd Lake mostly passes through a damaged lodge pole pine forest with no views.  It is probably a good thing there is not much see for the next 1.5 miles because you must stay focused on the rocks that protrude through the pine needle strewn path. Otherwise, it will be a long walk back on a turned ankle.

Lakes on Sherd Lake Trail

Soon you reach a barbed wire gate.  Unhook the post from the wire on the left and fasten it back after passing through as ranchers graze their cattle in the Big Horn National Forest.  From here, you gradually ascend toward multiple lakes.  In fact, the reward for hiking to Sherd Lake is seeing several lakes on the way and thereafter.

The first lake to the left is strewn with yellow lily pads. It’s not that often you see lily covered lakes in the mountains.  Another pretty one is Basin Lakes Trail, near Red Lodge, Montana which coincidentally isn’t too far from Buffalo, Wyoming.

After admiring the lily pad lake hidden in the pine trees, continue to the lovely Sherd Lake. At the trail junction, follow its shore to the left to see the snow-capped granite peaks reflecting in the tranquil, cool waters.

Stopping here results in an eight-mile round trip.  Should you have additional energy, go the extra mile. The path descends to the South Fork Lakes. One was covered in lily pads while the other reflected billowing clouds. 

Overall, after tacking on the extra mileage in the beginning and the end, the hike to Sherd Lake and South Fork Lakes measured just over ten miles with 1,200 feet of elevation gain.  With the extra miles on the roads being exposed to the elements, definitely watch for incoming weather.

While afternoon showers on a Caribbean hike to Boiling Lake may be welcome relief, getting caught in lightning and hail in a Wyoming thunderstorm is a different story! ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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