Trail name: Lake Emma Trail

Trail length: 1.6 miles, round trip

Trail difficulty: Moderate

Elevation gain: 629 feet

Best time to hike: late-June to October

Dog-Friendly: Yes, but must be on a leash

Starting Trailhead: Kite Lake Trailhead

Looking to hike to an alpine lake but want to avoid the crowds of other popular trails? Lake Emma might just be the hike for you! While other lake hikes might be an all-day adventure, Lake Emma will only take a couple of hours while still offering epic views! Enjoy this moderately challenging 1.6-mile hike for above-treeline, alpine lake perfection. 

Lake Emma Trail is located in Alma near Mount Democrat. In fact, this trail shares a parking area with the popular Democrat-Cameron-Lincoln-Bross fourteener loop. In Alma, you will take a right on Buckskin Road if heading South from Breckenridge. Take this road six miles back into the mountains to reach your destination! This is a rough dirt road, so all-wheel drive and a vehicle with some clearance are recommended. Additionally, due to the popularity of this trailhead, there is a $5 day use fee. You will see a station to pick up an envelope on your way in!

Take the trail on the left behind the restrooms from the parking area. You can expect some elevation gain at the beginning of the hike, to level out in the middle, and a steep finale. Look for the old mining structures along the way! The final portion of the hike is alongside a waterfall. This portion is the steepest and includes some loose rocky portions and talus. Once you reach the top of the waterfall section, you’ll see Lake Emma!

Take your time to explore the shoreline of this beautiful alpine lake! You’ll certainly be taken aback by its turquoise waters and mountainous backdrop. The lake is popular for fly fishing, and you can expect to see trout through the clear waters. Wildflowers line the shore, with pollinators buzzing about. Mammals such as mountain goat, marmot, pika, and more are also often spotted in this area!

Want to help contribute to our National Forest? Visit for a list of all volunteer opportunities. You can also visit to download free individual guides for all the trails.