ApproachFirst drive to the town of Duchesne, which is along US Highway 40. From Duchesne, turn north onto State Highway 87. Follow State Highway 87 until it joins with State Highway 134 (this is where state Highway 87 heads due east instead of continuing north) between milepost 15 and 16. Follow State Highway 134 north to the little town of Mountain Home. Where State Highway 134 begins to head due east at Mountain Home, Continue north on the Moon Lake Road. After five miles, turn east on the Yellowstone River Road and to the Yellowstone River Power Plant. From the Yellowstone River Power Plant, drive north along the Yellowstone River Road to the first major road heading east (right). With a map in hand, follow this gravel road east to Dry Gulch. From Dry Gulch, turn left and follow the road north through Dry Gulch to its end.
Route DescriptionThis route is very seldom used and the trails marked on the map bear no resemblance to reality. The area has several long faded trails and a few old logging roads, but no marked trails. To complicate things, sometime before 1997, a huge storm caused a blow-down of several of the trees around the area south and east of Bollie Lake, which obscured what old trails there were. If you enjoy total solitude and cross-country travel, this is an excellent route. If you are not good with a map and compass, this is not the route for you. The route description will be rather brief as you must be able to route-find on your own to follow the route. A GPS comes in very handy in the forest.
There are several possibilities, but I will describe the route we took in mid-August 1997.
From the trailhead at 8800 feet, follow the old track to Heller Lake. Rather than trying to find any of the old trails marked on the map, we found it easier to route-find over into the drainage that is west of Jefferson Park. Just head up the drainage through the forest and meadows to its head and a minor saddle at 10,402 feet. If you can find a good route, the saddle is about 5.5 miles from the trailhead. From the saddle, follow a route west along the trail marked on the 7.5 minute Bollie Lake topo map. The trail is completely covered by fallen trees from a blow-down from a huge storm. The going is pretty tedious because of all the fallen trees. Bollie Lake is reached after 1.8 miles from the minor saddle, but it seems like much longer. The lake is at 10,650 feet elevation and is in a beautiful setting. It makes a really nice base camp.
From the lake, head north to the ridge by any convenient route, and then along the rocky ridge to the Flat Top Benchmark (12,194 feet), where a large cairn is located. This is 2.2 miles from the lake. Mount Emmons summit is reached in another 6 miles along the ridge. You will climb over several highpoints along the way. All are un-named and two are sometimes known as Owl Peak at 12,826 elevation and South Emmons at 13,170 feet elevation. This is a very, very long day from Bollie Lake, so you might want to consider taking a pack and finding a place to drop off the ridge to camp. The disadvantage is that you have to climb back up to the ridge in the morning. The total round trip distance from Bollie Lake to the summit is about 16.4 miles, all without a trail and with much boulder-hopping.
The total round trip distance from the trailhead to the summit of Mount Emmons is about 31 miles.
From Bollie Lake, we took an alternate route back to the trailhead. We followed the route shown as a trail over the ridge and down to Lily Pad Lakes and down to near Heller Lake. There were scraps of trail down to Lily Pad Lakes, but the trail was totally lost further down beyond the lakes. A compass and map is necessary and a GPS recommended if you wanted to try and follow this route. The very end of the route through the forest was a real test in navigation.