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Length: 5 miles round-trip
Why we love it: One of the most accessible hikes in the Indian Peaks, this out-and-back starts at 10,000 feet, delivering you straight into the heart of the subalpine zone—and an aspen forest cloaked in vibrant fall color—with minimal effort.
When to go: Mid-June through mid-October
Pre-hike fuel: Grab a flaky croissant and a peppermint patty latte at the mountain-chic New Moon Bakery in downtown Nederland.
Post-hike buzz: Stop by Kathmandu Restaurant for a cold mango lassi—a creamy, fruity concoction made with fresh yogurt—and authentic Nepalese fare. We recommend the chicken momo appetizer and a platter of traditional steamed dumplings to start).
Dogs: Allowed on leash
Diamond Lake is one of Nederland’s greatest hiking hits—and for good reason. You’ll follow a perfect ribbon of singletrack through the dappled shadows of coniferous forest before emerging from the trees into a sweeping mountain cirque. There, you’ll be rewarded with 360-degree views of snow-stippled peaks and the hike’s crowning glory: the clear waters of Diamond Lake.
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You’ll need to get an early start on this hike: If you’re planning this pilgrimage for the weekend, arrange to be at the Fourth of July trailhead before 7:00 AM to snag parking. If you arrive later, consider taking the Hessie Trailhead Shuttle, which departs from the downtown Park-n-Ride on Fridays and Nederland High School on Saturdays and Sundays. Of note: The shuttle will drop you off at the Hessie Trailhead, which is about four miles down the road from Fourth of July, so you’ll need to commit to a longer hike.
From the Fourth of July Trailhead, pick up the Arapahoe Pass Trail going northwest. After about a half mile, you’ll cross into the Indian Peaks Wilderness, where the vegetation grows denser and a profound quiet settles in between the trees. Here, the dark evergreens provide a striking contrast against the brilliant gold of the aspens.
About 1.2 miles in, veer left at the intersection to gain the Diamond Lake Trail. Pick your way through pine forest, over burbling streams, and past tumbling waterfalls for another 1.3 miles of serene meandering, until you can spot the glimmer of Diamond Lake through the trees on your right. This is your cue to pick up the spur trail toward the Diamond Lake Campground (a primitive camping area open June 1 to September 15) to reach the shore. There, the glittering lake holds court. Come fall, golden grasses gleam in the autumn sunlight, and the glassy surface reflects the cirque’s rocky peaks—a treat when they’re dusted in early-season snow. Once you’ve had time to dip your feet and soak in the views of the Continental Divide, take the spur back to the Diamond Lake Trail. Then, retrace your steps back to the parking lot.
Getting there: From Denver, navigate to Nederland, either via Golden (take US-6 West to CO-93 North and CO-72 West), or via Boulder (take U.S. 36 West to CO-119). Take CO-119 to the western edge of Nederland, following signs toward Eldora. There, you’ll turn north on Eldora Road at the small intersection just across from the Nederland Veterinary Hospital and International Lodge. Follow this road for about 8.8 miles total—which, admittedly, can feel more like 800 miles given Eldora’s endearingly slow speed limit. Pass the Hessie Trailhead and continue on to the terminus at the Fourth of July Trailhead. Keep in mind that the last four miles are unpaved and fairly rough. If you have a low-clearance, two-wheel-drive vehicle, consider parking at Hessie Trailhead and committing to a longer hike.