Emerald Lake Trail near Bozeman is an extremely popular trail, not only among mountain bikers, but even more so among hikers and horse riders. Once at the top of this trail at Emerald Lake you will know why this trail is so popular. The mountain lake and meadows are absolutely stunning, there is no doubt about that. But, is this trail really what it is made out to be?
Trail Stats & Information
Nearby City: Bozeman
Length: 9 total miles
Trail Type: Out & back
Skill Level: [ What the books say ] Aerobically: Moderate to strenuous. Technical : very difficult
Skill Level: [ My opinion ] Aerobically: Moderate to strenuous. Technical : easy / moderate
Duration: 2-3 hours
Trailhead Elev: 7,300 feet
Top Elev: 9,100 feet
Located 17 miles southeast of Bozeman, about 4 miles south of Hyalite Reservoir in the Hyalite Peaks high country. Highlights: This is the singletrack stairway to heaven. It has roots, rocks, and water bars but always offers a rideable line. Intermediate riders will enjoy looping through the many switchbacks, all relatively easy to ride, up and down. Plus you get a babbling creek, wildlife, spectacular alpine scenery, and a “gem” of a lake.
Tread: Outrageous singletrack.
I had heard and read alot about this trail and one thing became very clear, it is a very popular trail, which of course means it is a very busy trail. Another thing that became clear to me was, that you either love this trail or you hate it. I like most Mountain Bikers do not like crowds, luckily though I can ride whenever it suits me, so to avoid the crowds I set my alarm for 5.00am on a tuesday morning, hoping to ride at about 6.30am. When I arrived at the trailhead, there were already 3 cars there ( luckily they must have been campers, ‘cos I did not see anyone later on)
The first 2 miles is pretty easy going, and non eventful. After the 2 mile mark, the trail starts the real climb, nothing really serious, and definitely manageable, some places are pretty rough with rocks and root carpets, but again, nothing too serious. At about the 3.5 mile mark, the scenery opens up and you enter the basin. Once in the basin and near Lake Emerald, you can see why this trail is so popular, it is an absolutely stunning place to be. I arrived at the lake at 7.30, the ky was deep blue, and there was a layer of mist hovering over the lake, and the sun was just hitting the surrounding peaks, turning them red. No matter what happened on the downhill, it was worth it just spending 40 minutes enjoying this spot.
The downhill is fast and furious, and the buzz factor could easily reach 100% if it was not for the fact that, in the back of my mind I knew that there could be someone just a few feet ahead of me. I was lucky, I did see about 10 friendly hikers, but they were all on the last mile near the trailhead… and it was still only 8.15am
To be honest, I think that this is a “Destination Trail”, and you would probably enjoy this trail just as much if you walked it, cos it really is all about the lake and the scenic surroundings. As a mountain biker this trail is far too busy for my liking, in the weekends it is simply over crowded, and week days it is just too busy. The potential is definitely present, ‘cos the trail is sweet
Would I recommend this trail?… Definitely!!.. Emerald Lake is a very special place, and I would highly recommend it, either mountain biking or hiking, it i just worth the trip
Traffic on Trail : about 10 hikers ( all near the Trailhead )
Wild Life : lots of deer
Scenery : Emerald Lake is absolutely beautiful
Other : Weekends are over crowded, and week days are very busy
My Trail Rating : 7 / 10
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