|Waterfall at bottom of trail before going uphill|
The Fourth of July trailhead is known for it's waterfalls, wildflowers and snow! It's been said that you can't hike the Fourth of July trail until July because of the deep snow that doesn't melt until the middle of the summer; or because the trail looks like fireworks on the 4th with all the wildflowers lining the trail. Either way, the trail is beautiful and it's worth the drive up the bumpy road to reach this unique area.
Getting there: It took just under an hour and a half to reach the trailhead from my home near Golden, Colorado. Drive toward Nederland and just outside of Nederland take a left turn at Hwy 130/Eldora Road west toward the Eldora ski resort (also toward High School); continue on this road for 3 miles to the town of Eldora. Do not take the fork in the road which takes you to the ski resort. Drive through the town of Eldora, (watch your speed) to the end of town, where the road turns to dirt. This is Fourth of July Road; continue on this road for 5 miles when it dead ends at the parking lot for the trailhead.
|Runoff from Diamond Lake & hike destination|
Specs: There is a pit toilet at the parking lot, which is also parking for Buckingham Campground, a primitive campground with just a few sites.
The trail to Diamond Lake is stated as 2 miles per the sign, however I estimate it's closer to 2.5 miles after hiking it and reading some other information regarding the trail.
The Journey: I was ready to hit the trail when I made it to the parking lot before 8am; I quickly used the pit toilet, put on my pack and got the dogs leashed up. It was just 44 degrees as I started up the shady trail and I was glad that I had brought mittens and my headband ear warmer, as well as the 4 layers of shirts that I quickly began to shed. The sun hadn't risen above the mountains yet and it was a little dark under the canopy of trees, but I really enjoy hiking early in the morning and it felt great. The trail has a path of boards to walk on in numerous places, I thought it must be really wet here in the early summertime. Walking on the boards reminds me of hiking in Michigan near the shores of the Great Lakes.
|Looking back at Diamond Lake, wildflowers line the trail|
Along the trail there are numerous other waterfalls that were still running fairly high in mid-August and the wildflowers grow rampantly beside the waterfalls making the photography shots pretty amazing! The trail continues gradually up the mountain until you reach a trail split with a sign pointing left toward Diamond Lake. Shortly after the sign, the trail starts downhill and you hike all the way to the bottom of the valley to the main river, before regaining this elevation to hike up to the lake. When you reach the bottom of the trail at the river, look to your right and see a very large waterfall (top photo above), I stopped here and took several shots before continuing up the trail. There is one bridge that is broken, but still usable, once you reach this bridge the trail splits again with no sign, keep left here and follow the main trail up the mountain. Due to the scenic area, there are many small side trails that can distract from the main trail; the main trail is wide and rocky with numerous bridges and boards, keep this in mind if you find yourself on one of the scenic trails.
|Diamond Lake from above|
There are 10 back-country campsites and signs direct the camper where to camp, only camp in designated areas. I had my dogs off the leash as we hiked past the lake so that I could snap photos along the way and happened to run into a forest ranger who apparently patrols the lake-shore. He scolded me about the dogs being off-leash, but fortunately didn't give me a ticket, and I noticed he patrolled the lake the entire time I was there, so be aware of this if you are in the area.
If I thought there were lots of wildflowers along the trail, it was nothing compared to the fields of flowers surrounding the lake; sunflowers, daisies, orange paintbrush, snapdragons, parry's bellflower and lots more.
I continued to hike beside the lake to the far end of the lake, and then hiked up the trail above the lake to the wilderness beyond. There is another high altitude lake past Diamond Lake, but I wasn't able to find it, so I turned around to go back to the lake for some lunch. I picked out a bluff overlooking Diamond Lake and ate my cheese and crackers with the dogs while we checked out the scenery. It was only about 10:30am at this time, so I decided to continue to hike around to the other side of the lake to a great viewpoint where I snapped some more pics and then decided to call it a day around 11am when I started back down the trail.
|Views along the trail on hike back|
It was a fairly easy trail to hike with some elevation gain and loss but nothing major with no shortage of beautiful scenery along the way. I highly recommend coming to this trail in late July when all the flowers are in bloom and waterfalls are at their peak.
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