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Buffalo, WY: Willow Lake

Trek to a pristine lake tucked under the shadow of the legendary Bighorn Mountains on this 8.4-mile out-and-back.

Rating

Serving up prime fishing, solitude and stunning scenery at the foot of Wyoming’s awe-inspiring Bighorn Mountains, this 8.4-miler through the Cloud Peak Wilderness links the Circle Park trailhead to Willow Lake. Begin by heading west through dense lodgepole pine forest on South Fork Trail 182. After pushing up a steep ridgeline, you’ll pick up Trail 46 as the grade becomes more gradual. Pass by the tree-lined Sherd Lake and cross Oliver Creek as the trail begins climbing the ridgeline leading to Willow Lake. While continuing straight through the four-way junction at Rainy Lake, you’ll nab revealing views of the Bighorn Range looming to the west.
From the top of the ridge and the hike’s highest point (9,573 feet), you’ll gain your first views of the boulder-bordered Willow Lake before dropping down almost 800 feet in elevation to shoreline. Camping is permitted, but flat spots in the rock-strewn terrain are sparse. Willow is loaded with grayling, but the holding pond just above the lake offers the best fishing. Return to the trailhead via the route you hiked in on, or make your hike into a loop by heading south at Rainy Lake to link Trails 46, 95 and 183. 

-Mapped by Brian Williams

To Trailhead

From Buffalo, follow US 16 W for 14.8 miles. Turn right at Circle Park Rd. After 1.8 miles, turn left onto the dirt road. Parking and trailhead are at end of road in 0.3 mile.

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