Round-Trip Length: 5.3 miles
Start-End Elevation: 10,172′ – 10,940′ (10,957′ max elevation)
Elevation Change: +768′ net elevation gain (+1,222′ total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate
Trailhead Location: Highway 130 through the town of Eldora. 4.8 miles past Eldora to Trailhead.
In June, Lisa and I decided to take a hike up to Diamond Lake in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. This was big for me because you have to know that I am a person who rarely hikes to the same place twice. It’s not that the places (whether it be lakes, peaks, or forests) I have hiked to in the past are not worthy or beautiful enough to warrant hiking to again, but because there are so many places in Colorado to explore that I would always rather take the opportunity to check out some place new.
We had last hiked to Diamond Lake in 1989 when my Swiss exchange student brother from high school and his girlfriend were visiting us. Lisa finds it amazing that I can remember exactly when we have last hiked someplace in the past no matter how long ago it was. I figured 23 years was a sufficient time span since we had last hiked to Diamond Lake and that it was OK to hike there again! I was glad we did as this trail and lake are truly amazing!
We left Littleton and drove up to the Fourth of July trailhead near Eldora, arriving around noon. The Fourth of July Trailhead is named so because the lakes and high passes it accesses are typically not clear of snow until after The Fourth of July. Locals have played on this name and claim its origin is tied to magnificent wildflower displays reminiscent of fireworks on The Fourth of July. Both interpretations are valid: anticipate lingering snow through mid-summer, and bar-none wildflowers once it clears.
Lisa loves photographing wildflowers and, as mentioned above, this trail certainly has it share. She was taking pictures right in the parking lot area before we even hit the trail!
The signpost at the official start of the trailhead had the following posted:
I thought this quote from Charles Lingbergh was fitting to describe the beauty of hiking in the Colorado Rockies!
We started up the trail on another beautiful bluebird sky day in Colorado. After 0.8 miles beautiful views came into sight looking southerly towards Mount Neva (12,814’).
A close up of Mount Neva:
Wildflowers were everywhere along the trail including Columbine, the state flower of Colorado.
There were several waterfalls and stream crossings along the trail. This waterfall was at 1.7 miles up the trail on the North Fork of South Boulder Creek.
After hiking uphill through a forest for another 0.85 miles, Diamond Lake came into view. I had forgotten how beautiful this lake was! It was stunning with its panoramic views of the Continental Divide.
Near the lake there was still quite a bit of snow. Of course, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take a slide down one of the huge snowbanks!
I always feel the need to explore just a little bit beyond our destination as I need to see what is “over the next hill” or “around the next corner”. You never know, THAT view could be even more spectacular than our current view and I wouldn’t want to miss out! This waterfall was “over that next hill”!
More wildflowers around the lake:
After lunch at the lake, we started back down the trail around 4:00pm. It’s just as fun hiking back down a trail as going up. First of all it’s usually easier because you’re going downhill and secondly, the views are different and you see the trail from a different perspective.
We were back to the car around 5:30pm and headed back to Littleton. I’ve made a mental note to myself to not wait another 23 years before hiking to Diamond Lake again! I would recommend this hike for its beauty, wildflowers, waterfalls, stunning lake, and relative closeness to Denver.