There are few places in the world left that you can drive up to and paddle that look like this. Emerald Lake is one of the most scenic places to paddle around Crested Butte, it's name says it all. The vibrant lake is tucked in the Elk Mountains and up one of the most beautiful drives in Colorado, Schofield Pass.
Emerald Lake is only 15 miles from Crested Butte, but with the road conditions, some of it only recommended for 4x4 vehicles, it usually takes around 35-40 minutes to get to the lake. The drive out is not for the faint of heart, but more for adventurous SUP enthusiast. You will pass through the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory on your way, an internationally renowned center for scientific research and education. Stop by and observe scientists at work, and stop for Third Bowl Ice cream, coffee or a snack. If you want to make a full day of your tour, swing by Judd Falls as well on your way up for a beautiful waterfall hike.
Once you pass Judd Falls, the road begins to get bumpier and more narrow. It's still a two lane road, but when you pass the turn off for Rustler's Gulch, expect more of a one lane, rocky situation. Just make sure before you go around a turn, to pull off and make sure a vehicle isn't coming from the opposite direction. Use common sense, and don't be in a rush. The road is also frequented by many bikers en route to the famous 401 trail, so be respectful to not "dust" anyone out!
When you arrive at Emerald Lake, you will be stunned by the clarity and color of the lake. When the sun hits it just right, it truly is Emerald. In the early season, you can still paddle by glaciers on the Lake and watch late season skiers taking advantage of the last of the snow. Bring a picnic lunch, enjoy paddling around the lake, and the abundant wildflower surrounding it. Emerald Lake is not to be missed on your trip to Crested Butte.