Diamond Lake, Fourth of July Trailhead, Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, Colorado

Diamond Lake - 5.3 miles

Fourth of July Trailhead

Diamond Lake (10,940') in the Indian Peaks Wilderness

Diamond Lake (10,940') in the Indian Peaks Wilderness

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
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Diamond Lake - 5.3 Miles Round-Trip

Diamond Lake (10,940') is located 2.65 miles from 4th of July Trailhead in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. The route follows Arapaho Pass Trail up flower-covered slopes to the Diamond Lake Trail, which drops and rises steeply across the valley to the lake. This popular hike is known for abundant flowers, excellent fishing and postcard landscapes.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

Social trails circle the lake with panoramas of the basin and Continental Divide, and a moderate x-country route follows the inlet to its source at a tarn.

Diamond Lake is stocked with rainbow, brook and cutthroat trout. Camping is only permitted at designated, high-demand sites. Contact the Boulder Ranger District (303.541.2500) in advance to secure a permit.

The road is rough between Hessie and the 4th of July Trailhead. High clearance vehicles are recommended:

The Arapaho Pass Trail rises past the Indian Peaks Wilderness Boundary (.4 miles : 10,385') with a good look at Diamond Lake's outlet-waterfall across the valley. 

It narrows across the midsection of a steep cascade (1 mile : 10,650') to the Diamond Lake Trail split (1.15 miles : 10,752').

The Diamond Lake Trail turns south to cross the valley and drops to a bridge over North Fork Middle Boulder Creek (1.7 miles : 10,602'). A few steps upstream lead to good views of a rumbling cascade.

It levels through a damp, rooted area just past the creek (1.85 miles : 10,585') and turns sharply uphill in a north-facing forest. This steep, twisting segment may be obstructed by deadfall and snow well into summer.

The .65 mile, 350' climb abruptly levels in a damp meadow on the NE side of Diamond Lake (2.5 miles : 10,937'). The trail arcs around the meadow to the Devils Thumb Trail split (2.55 miles : 10,939') and north shore of Diamond Lake (2.65 miles : 10,940').

Campsites are clearly marked, and hikers can use these access spurs to reach different parts of the lake. Large, stream-crossed meadows on the far-west side offer a measure of privacy and are fun to explore.

Read about an exciting cross-country route to Upper Diamond Lake here.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N39 59.714 W105 38.052 — 0.0 miles : Fourth of July Trailhead
  • N40 00.036 W105 38.346 — .55 miles : Begin switchbacks
  • N40 00.197 W105 38.616 — 1.0 miles : Cross mid-section of steep falls
  • N40 00.252 W105 38.785 — 1.15 miles : Arapaho Pass Trail junction
  • N40 00.191 W105 39.234 — 1.7 miles : Bridge over N. Fork Middle Boulder Creek
  • N40 00.102 W105 39.142 — 1.85 miles : Marshy travel beyond creek crossing
  • N39 59.859 W105 38.979 — 2.25 miles : Steep climb to lake
  • N39 59.701 W105 38.898 — 2.55 miles : Devils Thumb Trail junction
  • N39 59.649 W105 38.945 — 2.65 miles : Diamond Lake
  • N39 59.648 W105 38.876 — Diamond Lake : Backcountry Campsite #9
  • N39 59.616 W105 38.861 — Diamond Lake : Backcountry Campsite #10

Worth Noting

  • The Fourth of July Trailhead is named so for the purported silver lode discovered by C.C. Alvord on July 4, 1872 in a mine along the south flank of S. Arapaho Peak. While the story details are disputed, the Fourth of July theme has taken on a more colloquial meaning for hikers - specifically that the lakes and high passes it accesses are typically not clear until after The Fourth of July. Some also attribute the name to brilliant wildflowers reminiscent of fireworks on The Fourth of July. No matter the origin, hikers should anticipate lingering snow through early-summer, and bar-none wildflowers once it clears.
  • Diamond Lake is reached by a heavily used trail artery. Get an early start to secure parking and avoid crowds, especially on weekends.
  • Road conditions between the Hessie Turnoff and 4th of July Trailhead can be rough. 4WD or all-wheel drive and high clearance is recommended.

Camping and Backpacking Information

  • Permits are required for backcountry camping in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, June 1 - Sept. 15. Permits are limited.
  • Permits are $5 per party. Contact the Sulphur Ranger District (970.887.4100) or Boulder Ranger District (303.541.2500) in advance to secure a permit.
  • Permits must be picked up in person at either Ranger Station, or ordered in advance by mail. There is no online reservation system for permits.
  • Permits are required year-round for day and overnight use by large groups (8+) or organizational groups such as scouts, churches, schools and hiking clubs. Group size is limited to 12 people or people+stock combined.
  • Camping is permitted only at designated campsites in the Diamond, Jasper, Crater and Caribou Lakes Travel Zones.
  • Campfires are prohibited east of the Continental Divide in the Indian Peaks Wilderness (including Diamond Lake), as well as Caribou Lake, Columbine Lake, Gourd Lake, Crater Lake and in the Cascade Creek drainage above Cascade Falls on the west side of the Divide.
  • Camping is prohibited in the 4 Lakes Travel Zone (Mitchell, Blue, Long, Isabelle) May 1 - Nov 30.
  • Camping is prohibited within 100' of lakes, streams and trails.
  • Pets must be on a handheld leash at all times.
  • Packstock is prohibited in the Four Lakes Backcountry Zone, in the Cascade Backcountry Zone above Cascade Falls and on the Diamond Lake Trail #975.

Fishing Information

  • Fishing is permitted at Diamond Lake with a valid Colorado fishing license. Rainbow, Cutthroat and Brook Trout are stocked.

Rules and Regulations

  • Dogs must be leashed at all times in the Indian Peaks Wilderness.

Directions to Trailhead

Diamond Lake is accessed from the Fourth of July Trailhead in the Indian Peaks Wilderness near Nederland, CO.

From downtown Nederland, go south on Highway 72 for .5 miles to County Road 130 and make a right. You will see a sign for Eldora Ski Resort at this junction. Continue on Highway 130 through the town of Eldora, just past which it becomes a dirt road (4 miles).

Continue on the dirt road (past the Hessie Trailhead) another 4.8 miles and take the right fork at the Buckingham Campground up into the designated parking area. Though suitable for most 2WD cars in good condition, the road between the Hessie turnoff and Fourth of July Trailhead can be rough. High clearance vehicles are recommended.

Contact Information

Boulder Ranger District
2140 Yarmouth Avenue
Boulder, CO 80301
303.541.2500

Comments

"Hi Ken, thanks for the feedback. To be sure, distances will vary - sometimes greatly - between just about every GPS unit and app. A variety of technical and environmental factors influence the outcome, from simple settings to topography to available satellites. Our team uses at least two devices when measuring trails - in this case two Garmin GPS Units as well as the Motion GPX app. Incidentally, we just had a writer up there refining the route to Upper Diamond Lake and can confirm the numbers we have here to Diamond Lake. Of course there can be some subjectivity to field measurements - e.g. when do you actually 'reach' the lake - is it when in sight, or is it at the water's edge? It's also worth pointing out that the sign at Fourth of July Trailhead says Diamond Lake is 2 miles - that's definitely short! We adhere to a strict methodology and data collection process to achieve accuracy and consistency; still, we see variances between units/apps and each field trial for the same destination(s). Thank you for sharing your observation - we'll review our multiple sets of raw data alongside yours and revise accordingly."
ProTrails Admin  -  Boulder  -  Date Posted: July 17, 2017
"I just hike the trail today and I'm having trouble believing that it's only 5.2 miles to the lake and back. I was expecting a 2 hour hike, though I ended up getting back a little after 3 hours. I know I'm slow but still...... My hiking app on my phone showed a total distance of 6.5. Did I miss a turn somewhere? "
Ken  -  Boulder  -  Date Posted: July 17, 2017
"The trail was totally clear to Diamond Lake, though there were still some big snow drifts that covered a few campsites (not sure which ones). I went early on Monday and saw very few people, but on the way down seemingly hundreds were streaming up the trail. I was surprised at how many were in sandals and flimsy looking shoes - the trail is really rocky and worn. It's a short hike, but you still need 'real' shoes for it! Also, the road is pretty rough in a few places, particularly the middle of the drive between Hessie and Fourth. A few 'regular' cars seem to have made it, but you really need high clearance for this one."
Rob Zwerlein  -  Denver  -  Date Posted: July 11, 2017
"There is still a lot of snow on the last mile or so. Route finding was very difficult. I think we were the first (only?) to make it up to the lake that day, we ran into several others who had turned back and there weren't any visible footprints through much of the snow. We were happy to have a GPS -- wouldn't have found the lake without it. We definitely weren't on the trail for long portions. Lots of post holing too -- bring your gaiters or maybe snowshoes. "
Alexandra  -   -  Date Posted: June 19, 2017
"Still too much snow to hike. You can follow footprints about a mile in, and then the trail disappears. It's still pretty impossible to find the lake. We encountered several groups of hikers who had the same experience. Road up to the trailhead is clear - no snow. "
Bria Schecker  -  Boulder, CO  -  Date Posted: May 23, 2016
"I've hiked this trail a couple of times, but never this time of year. Didn't make it to the lake due to snow and unclear trail. Pretty sure we were within a half mile or so, but trail was covered with snow and when we tried to find our way, snow was too deep for just hiking boots. Had I had snowshoes and poles, I probably would have explored more and found my way up. Trees are not maked in this area along the trail, so as more snow falls it will be extremely hard to know you are on the trail to the lake. The day was sunny and mild- perfect for a November hike. We stopped on the way back down and had lunch by the large waterfall, which was still running somewhat. I love this hike and highly recommend it during wildflower season. And yes, best if you have true 4x4 vehicle for the road up to the trailhead. AWD cars can make it, but the road will be hard on them."
Ann  -  Boulder, CO  -  Date Posted: November 8, 2015
"Yes, high clearance is definitely necessary on the road up to Fourth of July Trailhead. Another option for reaching Diamond Lake, albeit longer, leaves from the Hessie Trailhead. Check out this link for details! http://bit.ly/1uu4q3o"
ProTrails Admin  -   -  Date Posted: August 14, 2015
"Do you need a high clearance vehicle to get to the trailhead, or can you drive a sedan up there?"
Sue  -   -  Date Posted: August 13, 2015
"Lake view mediocre compared to other lake trails in Colorado. Lots of wildflowers. Wear waterproof shoes because you'll cross a couple waterfalls and streams. Bitten by mosquitoes because we forgot to spray mosquito repellent. Parking was full by 9AM. Rough rocky road driving from Hessie trailhead up to July 4th trailhead. I hike for views, not just to do a hike so overall, it's a nice hike if you want something easy. I wouldn't have gone if it wasn't for the fact that I needed something easy to hike with my son. Crowd on trail wasn't bad. Views not worth the following reasons: difficulty finding parking, rocky driving terrain (unless you have a beat up car or truck), traffic and distance from denver to trailhead. I wouldn't go again. "
Susi  -  Denver  -  Date Posted: July 22, 2015
"The hike was gorgeous! Lots of wildflower in bloom, though one more week or two would've probably been best for peak blooming. There were very sporadic patches of snow at the lake (easily avoidable- we're talking little patches), and the entire trail was completely free of snow. There seemed to be a lot of runoff this year, so the waterfalls were heavier than normal, but just made for a more beautiful hike. Definitely going to put this on my list of all time favorite hikes in CO! Absolutely beautiful!"
Jazz  -  Arvada  -  Date Posted: July 12, 2015
"The trail was dry and rocky until a certain point. Then mushy and even snow. The last 1/4 mile is all snow until the Lake. Still worth doing just dress with closed toe shoes. Absolutely beautiful. "
Stacy  -  Denver  -  Date Posted: July 4, 2014
"Hey there Willa - I snowshoed it last weekend. Without snowshoes, I can imagine some post holing and slippery/snowy conditions. It's do'able but will require some good effort. - Eric in Denver "
Eric  -   -  Date Posted: October 24, 2013
"Planning to hike to Diamond Lake tomorrow, 10/25/13. Has anyone hiked there since the flood? I'd like to know what the trail conditions are. Thanks"
Willa Pendergrast  -  Boulder  -  Date Posted: October 24, 2013
"Great hike. Got out early and saw very few people on the way up. The way down (noonish) there were a lot more people out and heading up to the lake. Be aware that the trip lengths (seems to be for all hikes) on this site are listed as shorter then the actual hike. I believe they base the length off of the GPS coordinates which gives a straight point A to point B distance, yet with hiking there is always turns and switchbacks that add to length. Total Length of this hike: 7.25 Miles Roundtrip"
Chris  -  Colorado  -  Date Posted: September 4, 2013
"When I first moved to Colorado I lived up in Nederland. This was the first trail I hiked. I will be doing it again Saturday. It is worth the trip up the mountain. Be ready to see some wild life (at least I saw some). I usually bring a pack with water, protein bars and for sure a camera. :) This is such a beautiful view once you reach the lake!"
Jenni  -  Littleton  -  Date Posted: August 30, 2012
"This trail was picked for 5280's "Top of the Town" this year, so my wife and I decided to check it out. Though it was a little crowded, there was plenty of parking on the road if you don't mind walking a quarter mile or less to get to the trailhead. The hike was gorgeous and had a ton of variety. You do go over a number of streams, so be prepared to have a little water on your shoes, but you'll be relatively dry as long as you don't fall in. Overall, great combination of forest, valley views, waterfalls, streams, and of course, the lake."
 -   -  Date Posted: July 15, 2012
"We arrived to the parking lot at 7:20 am and snagged one of the last few parking spots. So FYI, arrive early on busy weekends! Saw very few people on the way up but way down was very, very crowded. Extremely beautiful and fun hike though!"
 -   -  Date Posted: July 5, 2012
"Just hiked this yesterday on a whim and it was gorgeous! I didn't expect the "road" between Hessie and and the 4th of July trailhead to be as rough as it was, very rocky. Minimal people, minimal bugs (I forgot any kind of spray and I wasn't bitten at all!) and for this time of year the weather was perfect. Note to self: wear shoes with actual traction next time. Crossing some streams mean you're bound to get wet and a bit muddy, and the trails are covered with rocks so be careful!"
Ken  -   -  Date Posted: July 5, 2012

 

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