Trailhead: Fourth of July Trailhead
Distance: 5.3 miles (moderate)
Logan and I got up early for this hike - like, breakfast eaten and already driving by 5:30 early. This trailhead was just about 2 hours away from our apartment, and we had a concert at Red Rocks this night, so I wanted to make sure we would have plenty of time to complete the hike and be able to shower. And even though we got to the trailhead lot by 7:30, it was still already full. I snagged a spot along the road about a tenth of a mile from the actual trailhead.
Also, the whole reason it was 2 hours away is because of the last four miles of the road - it took at least 30 minutes for me to drive it. Online it said it was easily accessible for small cars, so in good faith, I took my little Toyota Corolla. And I did make it, but I would definitely take away the word "easily." I broke a hubcap & definitely ran over a rock or two, but it was definitely doable (as long as it hasn't rained recently). I was anxious the whole hike about taking my car back down, too, which wasn't much fun.
Despite the nerves and the horrendous smell from the trailhead bathrooms, we ended up on our way. Logan and I joked all day that we got started in the wrong heat. The hikers that are around our pace typically leave at like, 9:00. We were an hour and a half earlier and these new people were way too fast for us! We ended up faking a camera moment so we could let almost a dozen people pass and could hike our hike.
As we worked our way up the trail, I grew more and more enchanted with this wilderness. Last weekend I had been so unimpressed with the trail to St. Mary's Glacier that this was a welcome surprise.
I love mud and splashing in water (Logan does not like these things). So I was unbelievably excited when I realized our trail would cross not one, but TWO waterfalls. As in, we walked directly over the waterfalls, there weren't bridges or logs or anything. I was stoked about the first one, but quickly got nervous of the second. I am afraid of falling (not of heights, there's a difference), and the second one was much bigger and faster. Logan is always a trooper, though, and he held my hand as we crossed.
The bigger of the two waterfalls. Don't be decieved by this picture, the water was coming fast and was fairly deep - also, those rocks weren't as easy to walk across as they look.
From the big waterfall, it's only a few tenths of a mile until the trail splits. I was expecting a lot more people to be going down the Diamond Lake trail, but most of the people we started with headed up towards Arapaho Pass (overachievers...). This meant we had the trail virtually to ourselves, and we only saw three other people until we had almost reached the lake. The trail also started going downhill at this point, which we loved at that moment but knew we would hate on the way back.
The final uphill stretch was definitely the most brutal.
The meadow just before the lake is stunning. Logan and I were in awe of our surroundings. Treeline is pretty close to the elevation of the lake, so we could see the tops of all the surrounding mountains and make plans for future adventures. Also, the ground was wet enough that it felt like we were walking on the rubber stuff they put on playgrounds - it was super weird!
I was obsessed with Diamond Lake itself. It is almost alpine (just a few hundred feet below), huge, and just all around beautiful. The wildflowers were crazy the whole hike, but felt like they had just exploded around the lake. We walked around a little bit, crossed a sketchy wooden "bridge" over yet another waterfall, and sat in the shade to eat some snacks and apply our sunscreen before heading back down.
Knowing we had the Avett Brothers concert that evening, we headed back down the trail. We weren't that much faster going back, because there was a pretty big uphill section right in the middle. We also passed everyone who should have been part of our "heat" and were hiking our speed instead of basically running up the trail. Eventually we made it down, gave our parking spot to someone desperately searching for one, and slowly began our way back down to the main road. My car held up fine and I held up fine and we made it back in home to shower AND take a nap before heading to red rocks.