Emerald Lake via Edelman Trail

MODERATE 1 reviews
#5 of 5 trails in

Emerald Lake via Edelman Trail is a 11.3 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Buffalo, Wyoming that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from June until October.

11.3 miles
2,253 feet
Out & Back













Starting from the Coffeen Park Trailhead, the Edelman Trail winds its way through a remarkable Wyoming valley. Following and occasionally crossing small streams and rivers, this trail offers simply remarkable tranquility and solitude. Towering peaks and jagged cliffs provide the backdrop for a section of this hike. Near the end, you walk through a celestially beautiful valley before climbing some 200ft to Emerald Lake. The route is trafficked primarily by backpackers en route to Golden, Emerald, or Shell Lake. The trail may disappear or become difficult to follow periodically due to snow cover and/or low maintenance. A topographic map and foundational trail-finding skills are more than enough for a safe trek. Often, particularly towards the end, the trail is unmistakable. Due to the relative remoteness of the Bighorns and the wish to retain natural scenery, bridges are few and far in between. Trail 025 (Edelman Tr.) crosses Edelman Creek shortly after branching off of Trail 038 (Solitude Tr). The creek requires some care to cross though an individual crossing isn't particularly hazardous. There are periodic small stream crossings throughout the remainder of the hike. The last creek crossing is aided by a bridge, which was peculiar insofar as it appeared to be the least demanding crossing. There are many raw campsites near Emerald Lake. Water sources are, obviously, abundant. A mountain to the South, titled "Spear" by USGS Topo, provides an appealing, easy ascent for a layover day. Thunderstorms are common at this location. The fly fishing at this location was unparalleled even by Mead Lake. We caught well over 20 cutthroat trout; three of the unlucky guys were served for dinner. Emerald Lake is in a group of lakes collectively called "Lakes of the Rough." Any of these lakes should provide ample fishing on a halfway decent day. The trail shown for this route is an out-and-back originating/culminating at Coffeen Park Trailhead. However, the Edelman Trail continues past Emerald Lake down to Upper Medicine Lodge Lake (ends at Paint Rock Lake Trailhead). Either route offers remarkable scenery. One can camp at any of Golden Lakes, Emerald Lake, Shell Lakes, etc. Bring bear spray.

11 months ago

My group of four waves goodbye to our NOLS instructors, just a few moments after we complete breakfast. They're heading off on an ambitious route, aiming to scree up some of the peaks surrounding Edelman Pass before meeting us at our predetermined camping spot. I sit down on my bag, a tennis ball in hand, and study the topographic map laid out on the forest floor.

Our route for the day was a moderate climb from Coffeen Park Trailhead to Edelman Pass. We had been resupplied with food the day before, swelling our packs to a touch over fifty pounds. We're entering the last week of our monthlong course, and we are all ecstatic to be hiking on our own. Our instructors, who stayed by our side for the first three weeks, graciously allow us independence for the day.

We throw our packs on, exaggerating our groaning due to the weight, and make our way past the trailhead. The trail begins as an established 4x4, a welcome sight that shields us from the perils of off-trail travel. The forested scenery passes by quickly as we engage in conversation about our lives and what we would do when we finally returned home. We are carefree. The seriousness of the group returns as we come up to the first river crossing. It's roughly a dozen feet wide and slightly below our shins, swelling from the above-average Wyoming snowmelt.

Lucas and I scout downstream (after a confluence, oddly enough) for a better place to cross. Grant and Sara remain upstream, grabbing a quick snack and testing the current of the waters. Lucas and I find marginally safer options to cross, but we ultimately decide to ford the river where we first saw it, for we don't want to risk losing the trail. Grant and I cross safely, albeit eventfully, as Lucas and Sara follow suit. Our boots are wet and socks drenched, just as they are usually. It was a rather wet summer in Wyoming.

We begin the ascent about one, one and a half miles in to our hike. We ascend on an established trail through both forested and rocky terrain before deciding to break for a snack. Wary about our location, I pull out the topographic map to see where we are. Grant scales a minor boulder to get a viewpoint. 15 minutes pass before we accurately pinpoint our location. We conclude that, if we were correct in our location, we would soon enter a grassland.

Shortly thereafter, we were met by a swarm of mosquitoes, a product of the marshy grassland we had entered into. We hiked at a brisk pace until the mosquitoes subsided. We are met by an open alpine meadow, with Edelman Creek trickling softly through the landscape, and we peer at Edelman Pass in the distance. We cross a bridge over the creek- peculiar, we thought, this creek would have been the easiest crossing yet- and take our final break. Sara closes her eyes and leans back on her pack. Lucas disappears in the woods, complaining about the Giardia he had contracted a week earlier.

Grant and I sip our water and throw some rocks into the stream. We engage in a hilarious conversation, the contents of which I'd rather not share, and continue to rest for fifteen minutes. Sara is woken up and we put our packs on, eager to hike the remaining mile to the top of Edelman Pass. The trail up is no more than a footpath cut through the grass, but it's thankfully easy to follow.

Grant and I drop our packs at the top of Edelman Pass. Sara and Lucas head to camp to rest. I greet our instructors, who had managed to arrive before us, and chat briefly with the other hiking group. Expending the last of my energy, I run with grant up to a point where we can see Emerald Lake. I take a few pictures before heading off to camp, eager to hike down into Medicine Lodge Valley the following day.