The wooded hills bordering Jackson Lake on the east side of Grand Teton National Park hide a pair of smaller lakes (Emma Matilda
and Two Ocean
), which can be reached by short paths starting from several different trailheads. Although the scenery in this part of the park is rather less spectacular than the mountainous west side, the lakes are still quite pretty, and the whole area is quiet and peaceful, without the crowds often present at some of the more popular sites.
The easiest way to see Emma Matilda Lake is by a fairly level trail starting along US 191/89 near Jackson Lake Lodge
, a route that also passes a shallow, reflective pool (Christian Pond
) that is made particularly photogenic by small tufts of grass growing in the water, creating a nice pattern. The path arrives at the west edge of the main lake after 1.8 miles and so a round trip to this point makes an easy hike of 90 minutes or so, though the path does continue all around the shoreline (another 9 miles), linking both to an alternative trailhead near the east edge, and with paths to Two Ocean Lake
, one mile north.
Parking for the hike is either at Jackson Lake Lodge or along the highway next to the bridge over Christian Creek; from here a short walk down a slope reaches a junction with a trail on the left that heads northwards towards Two Ocean Lake. Turning right, the path crosses a grassy, marshy area around the creek then ascends to an overlook of Christian Pond, which has a scenic setting bordered by pine trees on one side, fields on the other, and mountains in the distance. In the middle of the pond are several dozen isolated clumps of grass that take on red-yellow colors in late summer and on a calm day produce pretty reflected patterns. The shallow waters soon warm up once winter is over, attracting many types of birds and other wildlife, including moose.
Emma Matilda Lake
The path winds around the south side of Christian Pond and moves away through alternating patches of woods and meadows, on occasions climbing and descending a little while remaining fairly level overall. A faint noise of traffic persists for half a mile but eventually the surroundings are silent. Two more junctions are passed; the route to Emma Matilda Lake is left at the first (right is to Oxbow Bend Overlook along the main road) and right at the second (left is another path to Two Ocean Lake). The target lake appears soon after, and is quite large though not particularly special, enclosed by unbroken pine forest and with low, rounded hills rising above to the north and east. A good view of the landscape can be had from the top of a rocky outcrop after a few hundred feet, after which the trail stays close to the shore for a while before moving away into the forest for a mile, returning to the shore towards the east edge of the lake.