As we descended down a slight incline in the trail, the rush of water greeted my ears. Off to the left, I glimpsed a waterfall cascading down the rocks before settling down into the creek. We take a quick break and snap a couple of photos before continuing on.
We resumed climbing up again, as we passed by Subalpine Fir trees and Spruce. Another half a mile of hiking up the hill brought us to our destination and our first glimpse of snow. The sun sparkled as it reflected off the alpine lake. Granite peaks poked up at the back of the lake, no doubt one of them South Arapahoe Peak, a popular climbing destination.
Blue Chiming Bells and pale yellow Marsh Marigold lined either side of the trail as we wondered down the north side of Diamond Lake. Spur trails cut off to the right, leading to back country campsites. We headed up one to check out the site for a possible future backpack trip. A nice level site surrounded by woody pines and even a log to sit upon.
Deciding to take a break for lunch, we set our packs down and broke out the beef jerky, Luna bars, and trail mix. We were quickly surrounded by clouds of mosquitos buzzing around us, looking for to quickly take bite off my arm. Fortunately for me, I brought my bug spray and commenced spraying so I could actually enjoy my lunch.
Diamond Lake is a worthy day hike or backpack destination. The lake is a mere 2.7 mile hike from Fourth of July trail head in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. This time of year, the trail is filled with wildflowers and all the winter snows have melted out. If you camp there, you can use it as a base camp to explore nearby Arapaho Pass or Caribou Lake. Camping is limited to assigned campsites and has a quota, so consider getting your permit well ahead of time.
The trail head is at the end of Fourth of July road past the Eldora town site, about 15 minutes drive from Nederland. The road is quite rough, with rocks and rots so 4-wheel drive with high clearance is recommended. I made it fine with my Subaru Forester, but wouldn’t recommend anything with less clearance.
Fourth of July trailhead gets its name due to its altitude and location. During most normal winters with average or above average snowpack, the road and trailhead aren’t accessible until 4th of July. This year was different due to the below average snowfall, with Diamond Lake hikeable by mid-June.
If you go on a weekend, plan on getting a very early start. The parking area is quite small, and most end up parallel parking on the road. Unfortunately, there is no designated parking area like at nearby Hessie Trail head, which means things get quite crowded and chaotic on a weekend. On a recent Sunday, there were over 200 cars parked along the road when we left a 12:30 p.m.
Better yet, save your hike for a week day. You’ll find parking much easier and get to enjoy more of a wilderness experience with far fewer people. Find a nice rock or log to hang out on, and enjoy lunch and a great view. But don’t forget the bug spray!