Distance: 11 miles
Type: Lollipop loop
The Emma Matilda Lake Loop is a moderate 11 lollipop loop taking hikers around the serene Emma Matilda Lake in northern Grand Teton National Park. It’s nearly twice as long as its neighbor, Two Ocean Lake, but also offers roughly twice the solitude.
Emma Matilda Lake Loop Trail Description
From the Two Ocean Lake Trailhead, begin hiking at the south end of the trailhead and at the immediate fork, head left. After wandering through dense woods that are signature of the area, you’ll gradually climb over the moraine separating Emma Matilda Lake from Two Ocean Lake. Pass through a series of meadows interrupting the forests and you’ll soon see the large lake peeking into view above the trees. The junction connecting with the loop trail is just a short distance beyond and down a quick descent. Feel free to head in either direction, but due to the way it gradually unfolds, I prefer counterclockwise, aka, right.
Emma Matilda Lake sprawls out below large open meadows that the trail gently wanders through, Mount Moran rising above the hills ahead. You then veer away from the lake and drop into another large meadow, lush with wildflowers early in the summer season. Keen eyes will notice Grand View Point in the distance ahead before the trail reenters a dense forest, snaking and climbing through the thick brush.
Once through, the lake becomes visible through the trees as the forest begins to thin out. Gorgeous views of the lake open up below lush open meadows and roughly 50 year old fire regrowth, creating sparse forests and meadows. It’s shortly after that the trail begins to wind along a ridgeline high above Emma Matilda Lake, providing beautiful vistas of the lake far below. You finally emerge at a jaw-dropping vantage point of the lake with the Teton Mountains and even Jackson Lake visible in the distance above Jackson Lake Lodge a relatively short distance below.
Enjoy the view and take it in, because from here the trail drops quickly into the forest, winding through at a gradual descent. You’ll pass through a small meadow where you’ll then reach a junction. Heading left will continue the loop where it resumes the pattern of winding through forest and meadows, and up and over small rises. Afterward, you’ll reach another fork with a sign on the right side saying that the trail is not maintained. You’ll want to go left regardless where another junction quickly comes into view. Continue straight and after a descent through a forest you’ll drop into a meadow, yet another junction waiting on the opposite end of a small footbridge. Head left once again where another beautiful view awaits.
Lookout Rock is a popular destination for visitors staying at Jackson Lake Lodge. As a result, if you are to see other people on the loop, this is most likely the area you’ll see them in, and for good reason. The steep but quick climb brings hikers up to a calm and tranquil view of the western side of Emma Matilda Lake. Sharp eyes will likely see a few different bird species as well patrolling the lake and its shores. It’s a fantastic spot to relax and take a break before moving.
When ready, backtrack just a short distance back down and pick up the main trail heading around the backside of the small hill. You’ll drop into a small meadow and then enter a lengthy stretch of dense woods, the trail occasionally bobbing up and down for a short distance. Glimpses of the lake are seen here and there, primarily through the trees, and the only real interruption in the thick forest is an area of downed trees. Aside from that, it’s the kind of stretch where the beauty’s there if you look for it, but it’s likely the least interesting stretch for most hikers.
Soon the density opens up and you drop into a small drainage, a footbridge guiding you across. You’ll make a brief jaunt through the woods again before the trail opens up into a large meadow. A junction awaits in the middle of the meadow where you’ll head left to continue the loop. After passing through a large aspen grove, you’ll make a gradual climb through sparse forest and meadows once again, the trail winding peacefully through the meadows and trees. Though the views are minimal through this area, it’s completely tranquil, and you’ll likely have a welcomed sense of solitude and wilderness while hiking through.
After passing a small seasonal watering hole, you’ll begin ascending up a hill where the Tetons become visible through the trees on the left. Shortly thereafter, Emma Matilda Lake comes into stunning view thanks to Mount Moran rising high above. It’s a scene well worth taking in, and some may even see an uncanny similarity to Oxbow Bend, the only difference being that this view is much grander. In beautiful fashion, this part of the trail provides a fantastic grand finale before it resumes a bit more wandering through meadows and trees, ultimately reaching the original junction that began the loop. Head right to head back to the Two Ocean Lake parking area.
From the Moran Entrance Station, continue north on Highway 89 for 0.9 miles, then taking a right onto Pacific Creek Road. Follow that for 2 miles before taking a left onto Two Ocean Lake Road. The will dead-end at the trailhead after 2.4 miles.