The Diamond Creek Trail – Trail #40 is a 20 mile trail that begins at the Diamond Creek Trailhead off Forest Road 150 and ends at the Continental Divide Trail – Trail #74 near Diamond Peak.
Trail Condition: Good to Moderate
The trail begins on a two-track in a larger grassy floodplain interspersed with ponderosa pine. It follows the middle of the valley after passing into the Wilderness within the first steps from the parking lot.
On a hot day, this section of trail offers little shade, so try to get an early start. It also offers extremely easy walking, although that could be said for almost the entire trail.
After about a mile, the trail passes by a stock pond after crossing the dry creek bed. When we did it, there was only a couple feet of water left in the man-made pond despite the fact that it was at least 20 feet deep.
At about the 2 mile mark, the canyon narrows considerable and oak start to join the ponderosa. Shortly thereafter, the trail crosses by another stock stock and at 4 miles, it reaches the junction with Trail #67. This trail is marked by a larger, 4 foot cairn, but not trail is discernible.
A short ways after this trail junction, Diamond Creek Trail passes through a small private inholding where there’s a corral and two small buildings. A surprising sight 4+ miles into a Wilderness, but a good explanation for the two-track, which ends here.
By this point, the canyon has narrowed considerably. The vegetation is much denser and grass is no longer the sole ground cover. Other small shrubs have joined and the occasional spruce and fir emerge as well. Still, the trail remains flat throughout this entire section.A short ways after the inholding, the trail passes by a dilapidated series of corrals nestled against a pretty cliff on the north side of the creek. There are a few small caves and some beautifully gnarled oaks.
For the first 8 miles, the trail was completely dry except for a few puddles, suitable for Sadie, but not for us. The first short stretch of flowing water emerged at mile 8 followed by two other short bursts at miles 9 and 10. None of these temporary spring-fed oases lasted long, but if you’re running short on water, there is enough to fill-up.
NOTE: The biggest factor making this hike possible is the availability of water. Our trip followed the second driest year on record, so it is likely most other years see more consistent flows. However, by judging the vegetation in the creek bed, it is possible that many of the dry stretches of creek we saw had not seen water in many years.
Around mile 10, the canyon widens again, grass becomes the sole ground cover again, ponderosas pines dominate the tree cover, and the creek dries up for another 3 miles.
Eventually, the canyon narrows again, oak join the ponderosa, and as long as you’re able to calm your nerves about the lack of water, this section of trail (still flat) is quite lovely.
Once again, the canyon narrows, fir becomes the dominant tree cover and the creek starts to produce water for what proved to be its longest stretch – about 3 miles.
Around mile 14, the trail climbs uphill along the north side of the creek – a first in the entire trail. Shortly after this climb begins, the Caledonia Trail – Trail #42 comes in from the left. Stay straight, going upstream.
For the next two miles past this junction, the trail remains relatively flat and the forest becomes considerably lush with ferns joining the ground cover.
From the junction with the Fisherman’s Canyon Trail – Trail #48, the Diamond Creek Trail crosses to the west and southside of the creek and begins climbing at a slightly steeper clip.
This was the roughest section of the trail. It had been cleared recently but still contained enough debris from rotting trees, loose rock and other obstacles to make for tenuous footing. This section of trail, which cuts through a burn area, is mostly easy to follow despite there not being an obvious tread for the last 2 miles to the junction with the Continental Divide Trail – Trail #74.
To read more about the Diamond Creek Trail, see my trip report from Diamond Creek and Diamond Peak.