The drive to the lake is a worthy trip on its own, the country through here is magnificent. Lake Emma is not visible from the main road, so keep your eye out for a signposted vehicle track leading off the road about 5km or so after the road turns to gravel. This vehicle track is in good condition and takes you to a carpark near the lake edge. In summer, it's possible with a 4WD to drive round the lake to the hut, but access is not allowed in winter.
The track around the lake is an easy one, and it only took us an hour to reach the hut - an hour of easy paced strolling, plenty of exploring, and taking photos - so if you were really in a hurry you could probably reach the hut in half that time. In my opinion, you would be missing out if you rushed it. We discovered swan's nesting/sleeping areas at the lake edge, something the kids would have missed had we been rushing along.
Lake Emma Hut is now listed as an historic site. The hut's construction dates back to somewhere around 1860, although the exact date is unknown and could be more towards the 1880's. Inside are 2 rooms, one as living quarters and one as a bunkroom, while attached on the outside of the hut is a tack room, which according to date stamps on the iron was added later. The sacking from the bunks has been removed, to discourage overnight use of the hut - note that staying overnight is NOT PERMITTED, as the hut is listed as an historic site.
The original purpose of the hut appears unclear, but could well have been an out-station for workers on the very large Mt Possession run. The layout of the hut is quite different from the numerous mustering huts in the area so it is unlikely that it was built for this purpose, nor is it likely that it was built for a boundary keeper as the old station boundary was nowhere near the huts' location. There were few other reasons to build a hut in those days - all that is for sure is that the hut is extremely old!
We spent a pleasant few hours at the hut, cooking up some lunch and just simply lounging around and enjoying a glorious high country day, before it was time to head back to the car.
To return, you have a couple of options. The obvious, and considerably easiest, one is to return the same way. If you're wanting to extend your day then you can continue on round the lake on the track that hugs the foot of the Harper Range. This track takes you all the way to Lake Camp, which makes it a reasonably strenuous exercise. I considered this option, or a variation of it, hoping to cut back through directly to the car once round Lake Emma. It was be feasible, but on the map the land between the track and the carpark is marked as swamp, so it could be a wet exercise. From what we could see, it did look wet underfoot but probably manageable for capable adults - I certainly wouldn't attempt it with the kids in tow!
|Start of the track around Lake Emma to the hut, which is located directly below the snow summit at the lake edge|
|Abundant bird life on Lake Emma|
|Looking across Lake Emma to Mt Harper (1829m), the snow capped summit visible|
|Crossing the bridge across the lake outlet|
|After a few false starts, Yogi made her way across|
|Expansive views into the Rangitata headwaters|
|At 2875m, Mt D'Archiac is the highest mountain between Aoraki Mt Cook National Park and the Kaikoura Ranges|
|Rounding Lake Emma|
|Julia & Toby beneath the Taylor Range|
|Emma & Lincoln striding out and enjoying the scenery|
|Mt Potts (2184m) centre, and Cloudy Peak (2403m) to the left|
|Nearing Lake Emma Hut|
|Lake Emma - a beautiful spot on a calm day, but rather exposed if the weather was bad|
|Relaxing at Lake Emma Hut|
|Yogi looking statuesque|
|Lake Emma Hut|
|Family shot at Lake Emma Hut|
|Enjoying lunch at the hut|
|Lake Emma Hut again, Mt Potts is directly above Lincoln in the orange hat|
|Lake Emma and the view to Mt Potts and Cloudy Peak|
|Bunks inside Lake Emma Hut|
|Interior of Lake Emma Hut|
|Tack room at Lake Emma Hut|
|Julia and I at Lake Emma, Mt Guy on the right|
|Emma in front of Lake Emma Hut|
|The chef tending to lunch|
Access: Drive to Mt Somers village and take Ashburton Gorge Rd inland. Look for a marked vehicle track leaving the main road about 5-6km after the road turns to gravel, which takes you to the Lake Emma car park.
Time: Car park to Lake Emma Hut 1hr (at a leisurely pace)
Map: BX19 Hakatere
Hut: Lake Emma Hut (historic, day visits only)