OverviewThis is a beautiful route, passing through an extensive meadow and past the ruins of an old homestead. The work begins after the homestead and a rugged ridge is climbed the area north of the VABM summit.
The VABM is one of the many summits of Diamond Mountain and is located at 8384 feet elevation. Many other peaks can be climbed from this same general route as well.
Getting ThereThe route taken to the Chokecherry Draw trailhead depends on if you are approaching from Utah, Wyoming, or Colorado.
From Colorado, you will travel from Maybell on Highway 40 and onto Highway 318. According to CDOT, this is the least used and most remote highway in Colorado, so take plenty of supplies. Browns Park has a small store and fuel available most of the time. From Maybell, drive Highway 318 west for about 60 miles to County Road 83. This is only a couple miles short of the Utah border.
From Utah or Wyoming, the route is more complicated and remote. There are two main routes.
The first route is via Clay Basin. You will actually begin the trip in Wyoming, along Highway 191, but just north of the Utah border. A good county road leads from there to Browns Park, but since it has been many years since I’ve been there, I can’t comment on the county road number.
The second route is shorter, but has a rougher road. From Vernal Utah, drive north on Vernal Avenue to Fifth North, then drive east 25 miles to the Diamond Mountain and Brown's Park signed turnoff, then drive 16 miles north on an infrequently maintained dirt road to Browns Park.
As stated above, whether approaching from Utah, Wyoming, or Colorado, the goal is County Road 83. Turn south on County Road 83 and cross the interesting Swinging Bridge over the Colorado River.
Right after crossing the bridge, turn east (left) and follow the road for 1.6 miles to another turnoff to the right. Turn right and drive a short distance to a gate. Park here and this is the trailhead. The road beyond is part of a WSA and closed, but some are driving it illegally. Please don’t do this.
Route DescriptionFrom the trailhead and locked gate (5520 feet elevation), follow the old road (closed) southeast for 0.8 mile to a junction just after crossing a wash. Turn west (right) here. This old road is closed to vehicles (though some use it illegally-I hope they like all the big cairns I built in the middle of the road) and climbs to the big meadow in Chokecherry Draw.
After two miles from the junction, and at the south end of the meadow are the ruins of an old homestead (6320 feet elevation). The old house has collapsed and various artifacts such as fences and an old stove lie scattered about, plus some very old fruit trees.
There are some nice campsites in this green meadow. Two small spring-fed streams meet at the old homestead, providing water. Presumably the southern creek flows year round, but the flow rate is relatively small so it may take time to fill water bottles in the hot and dry summer or in the fall. The best flow seems to be 0.25 miles south of the homestead. Treat the water as it is heavily used by wildlife and their signs are very obvious.
This is the end of the gentle part of the hike. Although this route can be done in a long day, there are many nice campsites around, so spending the night is pleasant.
From here, the real work begins. Follow the creek south from the homestead a short distance. Climb up to the west and onto the ridge (this is the ridge just south of the “31” on the Swallow Canyon topo map). This ridge is rugged and several cliffs must be passed, along with some boulderhopping. Our route was class 3, but lot’s of elk use the area, so a class 2 route can be found if you look hard enough. Follow the ridge until it flattens out and more or less fades away. Several elk trails can be of help along the way.
What you are aiming for is the spring marked on the map just southwest of the spot elevations 7568 and 7536 on the topo map. This spring is composed of a few old watering tanks, one of which holds water after rains or snow, but is filled with dead chipmunks. Don’t count on getting any water from here! There are some nice campsites in the big valley west of the “spring”, but plan on carrying all water unless there is snow around.
From the “spring” area, don’t be tempted to climb up the VABM peak too soon. We made this mistake and the brush is rather time consuming to penetrate. Follow the old road/trail west until the open slopes leading to near the summit of VABM/Peak 8384 can be seen.
We came down the west face, which was a mostly brush free route, but this route is longer. It appears that you can climb the slope not far west of the indistinct north spur of the peak and avoid much of the brush. Either way, if you do get caught in the brush, head west until you are out of it.
Climb up to the summit of VABM 8384 and enjoy the fine views. This is about 2.5 miles from the homestead, but since there isn’t a trail, it may take longer than expected to get here. On the VABM summit are an old tripod that has fallen down, a cairn, and a benchmark dating 1950. Our original plan was to comeback via the ridge east of Chokecherry Draw, but closer inspection from the summit of the peak makes it appear that it is a bushwhack. Returning the same way is recommended.
The highest summits of all of Diamond Mountain are located along the same ridge southwest of the VABM peak. It appears to be a real bushwhack to Peak 8625 and beyond, so this isn’t the best route to the highest of all the summits of Diamond Mountain (to climb the highest summits, it’s probably best follow the old road/trail west from the “spring” and climb from there rather than to try and follow the brushy ridge over the VABM).
After enjoying the nice views, return the same way. The round trip distance to the VABM is about 11 miles.