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Cirque Meadow and Emmaline Lake

Cirque Meadow

Cirque Meadow

For our first trip back into the wilderness, we drove up Poudre Canyon, then set up a base camp just off Pingree Park Road. Dispersed car camping is allowed in that area, which meant we could choose the spot that suited us best, no permit required.

After erecting the tent, we marveled at the starry night sky. Bright city skies make it easy to forget the enormous quantity of stars floating up there all the time. The sounds and smells of the forest enveloped us, simple but rich. The experience reminded us why visiting wild places is so important.

The next morning, sunlight peeked through the trees and gradually woke us up. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast while watching squirrels play and chatter.

An excited squirrel

An excited squirrel

We drove a short ways to the Emmaline Lake trailhead and headed up the trail with small daypacks. We were in great spirits, happy to be back in the mountains.

The first 3.5 miles of the hike were mostly flat. We walked through an area which burned in 1994. Aspens and young lodgepole pines have eagerly taken root since. Beyond the young trees lay Colorado State University’s Pingree Park campus and the steep bare peaks of the Mummy Range.

Young pines

Young pines

Anna and Chris in Cirque Meadow

Anna and Chris in Cirque Meadow

The trees eventually opened to reveal Cirque Meadow. A creek snaked through vibrant grass in this beautiful place. Layers of peaks provided a stately backdrop. We decided this was the perfect place to stop for lunch.

After a tasty meal, Chris continued hiking. Anna stayed in the meadow where she spotted a beaver darting across the creek. Cloud formations whirled past above.

The trail rapidly steepened as Chris climbed towards Emmaline Lake. Becoming rougher, the trail eventually passed tree line, allowing a long view back towards Cirque Meadow and beyond.

After a good deal of climbing, Chris reached Emmaline Lake. The deep blue lake was mostly surrounded by massive rock walls. Wind whipped across the otherwise quiet lake.

Emmaline Lake

Emmaline Lake

This is an out-and-back trail, so once we thoroughly soaked in the grandeur we headed back the way we had come.

Back at our campsite we cooked dinner, read, and watched birds flitting from one tree to the next. As darkness fell, the sky produced raindrops instead of the previous night’s stars. We climbed into the tent just before a major lightning storm passed through.

On Sunday, we explored parts of the Poudre River’s south fork before heading home. It was a fun weekend and exactly the type of laid back trip we were seeking.


South Fork of the Cache la Poudre River


Trail: Emmaline Lake
Location: Roosevelt National Forest & Comanche Peaks Wilderness (Colorado)
Distance: 11.4 miles round trip (7 miles round trip to Cirque Meadow)
Elevation gain: 2040 ft, moderate (800 ft, easy to Cirque Meadow)
Usage: About 15 people on a Saturday in August

12 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jane Alexander #

    So glad to see you off and running again! Enjoy!

    September 4, 2013
  2. Jan #

    What a beautiful spot, and so close to your new home. I agree with Jane, so nice to see you hiking again near awesome lakes and mountains.

    September 4, 2013
  3. rpullen #

    Glad we meet on this hike.

    September 4, 2013
  4. Suzanne in Berkeley #

    Oh how lovely that you are finding a way to be back in the wilderness. You two look so happy in the photo. All the best for a wonderful autumn among the aspen!

    September 4, 2013
  5. blueberry #

    Great to see you out again! Looking forward to more CO pictures!

    September 4, 2013
  6. Grace #

    I am looking forward to seeing more beautiful pictures and reading about your adventures. After having been away from them for some time, I realize how much they mean to me. Thank you for continuing your work!

    September 4, 2013
  7. I’m so glad you’re out and about in the wilderness again. I’m sure you two have missed it, and I’ve missed experiencing the places you’ve hiked, through your photographs and words.

    September 4, 2013
  8. Photos are wonderful! You have many talents – thanks for sharing. So happy to see you back in your boots, Anna.

    September 4, 2013
  9. Chris #

    As always the photos and comments are wonderful. I too have missed your posts and am happy for you both to be able to return to something you love so much. Looking forward to more. Take care and stay well.

    September 4, 2013
  10. Glad to hear and see that you both are back in the outdoors together. Area looks and sounds wonderfull!!!

    September 4, 2013
  11. margaret #


    What they said…I, too, have missed the posts.

    September 4, 2013
  12. Emmaline Lake is a great experience to hike. I wrote a similar article on the journey through Pingree!

    December 7, 2014

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