Just south of Alma, there’s a long, bumpy, dirt road that takes you up to Kite Lake (aptly named for the lake’s shape when viewed from above). From the lake, there’s multiple trailheads that leave from there, including Lake Emma and the Decalibron. While the Decalibron Loop is a grueling, long, difficult hike, Lake Emma is shorter, and while still of moderate difficulty, is a much easier option while still featuring great views and an alpine lake. It should be noted that the lake’s orientation doesn’t allow for much sunlight, leaving the lake and its ascent snow and ice covered well into hiking season.
Hiking Lake Emma
The Lake Emma hike is short and sweet and the trail is established enough that it’s easy to follow. There are a couple of social trails here and there, but most re-convene with the main path within a short distance. Don’t forget to look behind you, as the views just get better and better down valley as you ascend. On the way up, there’s a couple of collapsed mine entrances with geological markers. Also keep an eye out for some mine vent shafts that have been barred over. Once at the lake, enjoy some beautiful views and crystal clear water before heading back down the parking area.
From Breckenridge, take Hwy 9 south towards Alma for about 15.5 miles. Continue into the town of Alma and take a right onto County Road 8/Buckskin Rd. Follow this dirt road for about 5.5 miles. Towards the end of the road and near the trailhead, the road does get rockier and bumpier, so keep in mind you vehicle’s clearance and capabilities. If you reach a point where you feel like you can no longer continue, pull to the side and park as far off the side of the road as possible and continue on foot. That being said, most vehicles can make it to the trailhead. When approaching the main parking area, there will be a vault toilet on the left. Just on the far side of that structure, you’ll find the beginning of the trail for Lake Emma. The trail to the right of the parking area is for the Decalibron Loop so do not attempt that trail unless fully prepared and physically fit.
This trail is only rated as moderate because there’s a decent amount of elevation gain in a short distance. There are certain points that are quite steep, making ascending and descending while upright a bit of a challenge – there were times when I felt more comfortable assisting with my hands.
Otherwise, the Lake Emma trail is short and quite do-able. That being said, it is at a high elevation (the entire hike is above 12,000 ft) so we recommend acclimating to being at altitude and taking your time to help prevent altitude sickness.
Check out some other awesome Breckenridge hikes in the area like Blue Lakes (easy), Hoosier Pass and Crystal Lake (easy-moderate), McCullough Gulch (moderate), Mohawk Lakes (moderate), and Quandary Peak (difficult).