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Pushed to Our Limits

We set out to do a pretty moderate hike for our level: a 5 miles, 1,200-foot elevation gain hike to Diamond Lake. We made it to our destination but decided to keep hiking to the upper Diamond Lake based on a recommendation from some other hikers at the (lower) Diamond Lake. They told us that it was worth at least hiking up to see the wildflowers halfway to the next lake, so we continued on the hike. What was planned to be an extra mile to see the flowers turned into us hiking all the way to the Upper Diamond Lake which nearly doubled the mileage and elevation gain from the (lower) Diamond Lake.

Our day started out like any other hiking day - waking up somewhat early and heading to the trailhead. We left by 8:30 and started on the 2-hour trip to the 4th of July Trailhead just outside of Eldora. We had no idea to expect the road to be closed at Nederland Highschool, and we were told the parking lot was full. However, we were told we could wait in line for parking spots that become available as hikers left. Thinking that there would be a wave of early-morning hikers finishing up around now, we decided to get in line. It was around 10 am, and we waited about a half-hour for the 5 cars in front of us to be allowed up to the trailhead before we were allowed to drive up as well. We got to the trailhead much later than we expected - around 11:30 - but I can't complain since we got a parking spot. Overall, that was one of the best parking experiences I've ever had when parking at an incredibly busy trailhead.

It's not often that our hikes take up the entire day. We typically have some time in the evening to do some chores or relax a little bit. And because of this, we had many other plans for our afternoon and evening other than just this hike, but since this hike was a 2 hours drive each way (plus waiting for a parking spot) and hiking for nearly 6 hours, this took up the entire day with us not getting home until 7:30.

So far, I've only complained about this hike. Obviously, if this hike wasn't that great we wouldn't have continued on from the first lake. The weather was a little warm in the 70s but overall that's pretty acceptable for a hike in mid-July. Besides seeing 4 alpine lakes on this hike, we also saw quite a variety of wildflowers flourishing everywhere. It's not really wildflower season anymore so it was nice to see this many wildflowers on a hike. In addition, we saw many cascades and waterfalls much larger than anything we've ever seen in Colorado before. There aren't many waterfalls in Colorado, so to have gotten to see so many - including hiking across one - made this hike pretty special. Additionally, the hike wasn't all that bust considering that we had to wait for parking. We same a few other groups of people from the trailhead to the first lake, but then we saw almost no one beyond that. This is important to how much we like a hike because we hike to get away from people. So this hike checked all of our boxes and then some. There are other hikes in this area that we definitely want to come back and do, but there's a pretty large barrier with the parking situation that we might wait a little bit before attempting another in this area.

Because of how difficult this hike felt, I decided to pull some statistics about our hiking, as well as, my all-time statistics. Comparing this hike to other hikes, I found the following:

  • Katie and I have only done 2 other hikes with more elevation gain than this one (Gray Rock: 2,421ft and Crosier Mountain: 2,162ft).
  • This is the second longest mileage that Katie and I have ever done during a single hike, only second by a mere 100 feet (0.02mi) to Button Rock Mountain.
  • This is the longest time we've spent hiking before.

I'm not quite sure that this being our longest hike is a good thing. That mostly shows that we were slower today than some of the other similar distance and elevation gain hikes. But even If I look at my all-time records, this hike still fairs pretty well as one of the hardest hikes I've ever done:

  • 12th for elevation gain.
  • 4th for distance.
  • 2nd for time.

Although apparently, I've done quite a few more hikes with lots more elevation gain in my life than this one. But it's still impressive based on distance and time.

Trailhead Location
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9.15 mi 5.7 hrs 11,397 ft 1,955 ft
View Graph
Waterfall From Diamond Lake
Flowing Water
Meadow of Wildflowers
Elephant Head
Diamond Lake
Lunch View
Water Runoff
West End Of the Lake
Wildflowers Part 2
Looking Back
Second Lake
Nearly There
Upper Diamond Lake
Mount Jasper
Green Mountainside
Snow Tunnel
First Cascades