Strolling Around The Stockade Lake Trail
The Stockade Lake Trail is a 1.5 mile loop trail with about 400 feet elevation gain (it seemed like much more when we were hiking it though). The trailhead is located on the southeast side of Stockade Lake in Custer State Park. Leashed pets are allowed on trail.
The lake and trail were built by the men in the Civilian Conservation Corps Camp Dorran in the 1930’s. Previously named Dorran, after the original homesteader in the area, it was later renamed for the Gordon Stockade located on its western shore. At 130 acres, Stockade Lake is the largest of the five lakes located in the park.
We did so many hikes in Custer State Park during our four day visit. Even though we did some with more elevation gain than this particular one this one felt more difficult to me. Also I was quite disappointed when we arrived and the hike wasn’t actually around the lake it was named after. It’s across the road and travels through a ponderosa pine forest and continues on a ridgeline.
Though I was disappointed the trail didn’t actually go around the lake the views from the ridge top are quite excellent. Stockade Lake, the Needles and the surrounding area can be viewed. On a clear day Black Elk Peak and Crazy Horse Memorial can also be seen.
The beginning trek requires a steep climb. When you do reach the top you are rewarded with a bench to take a little break on before continuing along the ridgeline. Besides dense pines you will also travel among aspen and birch trees. Keep an eye out for wild raspberries, because they were growing everywhere and were quite yummy.
The trail is well maintained and easy to follow, just keep an eye out for the blue diamonds. We saw plenty of wildlife during our hike including multiple bird species, chipmunks, squirrels and even a deer.
Once you finish walking the ridgeline you will start your descent down the loop and eventually you will see Stockade Lake again. It seems so close and I thought for sure our hike would be over in five minutes…I was wrong! It’s so deceiving.
Just when you thought the climb was over up a hill you will go again and the lake view quickly disappears. After a short climb you will start your descent back down to the trailhead. Around fifteen minutes pass and the lake will come into view again. Moments later your hike will come to an end.
The lake has a beach so if you feel like taking a little dip to cool off after your hike jump on in. Take a drive around the lake and stop to look at the dam that forms this water oasis.
All in all it’s not a bad little hike. We were trying to do as many of the hikes in the park as we could in the time we had so we tried to stick to ones under 3 miles. The lake is quite pretty as well and if hiking isn’t your thing it’s still worth a stop to admire. You can also fish, kayak, canoe and paddleboard here if that’s more your style.
Also, don’t forget to stop by the Gordon Stockade historical landmark located right off US 16 on the west side of the lake. It’s a neat little place.