OverviewDiamond Peak is located in the Elkhead Mountains of NW Colorado. It is not far below timberline, and receives heavy winter snows. In a normal year, the snowbanks on the mountain stay until sometime in late July or August despite its relatively low elevation. The peak is climbed somewhat frequently by Elkhead Mountain standards and the summit register logs 0-2 signatures year (we were the 10th to sign the register since it was placed nine years ago). Diamond is not climbed as often as nearby peaks such as Hahns Peak, Sand Mountain or Bears Ears, but is climbed much more than nearby peaks such as Mount Oliphant, Sugarloaf or Buck Point. The peak isn’t technical by any means, but the downed timber and steep scree make it a little more strenuous than otherwise might be expected. because of the mostly bald summit area, Diamond Peak has some very good views.
Several aspects of the Elkhead Mountains make this a rather unique mountain range in Colorado. It is certainly possible that the Elkhead Mountains are the least known of the major mountain ranges in Colorado. This is partially because the range is a long way from any metropolitan area, and partially because the Elkhead Mountains are fairly low by Colorado standards, as there are no peaks reaching 11,000 feet. There are also few lakes, so the range isn’t visited by fishermen. Despite their low altitude, the Elkhead Mountains receive much snow, and snow lasts into July or later on the higher peaks. Most of the peaks in the Elkhead Mountains see very few ascents, but Hahns Peak, the eastern-most peak in the range is a popular climb for residents of Steamboat Springs. The Bears Ears see quite a few ascents by Elkhead standards, because of their prominent shape and visibility from the Yampa River Valley. Black Mountain is also climbed fairly often because it is the highest point in Moffat County, and the popularity is on the increase with more county highpointing interest. Sand Mountain must be a fairly popular (by Elkhead standards) climb as well, as there is a trail to the top, and as it is the first and only mountain in the range where I have ever met anyone. This was on Labor Day weekend, 2005, when we saw 3 other hikers. Most of the rest of the peaks see few ascents, and one ranger has told me some of the peaks only have a few names in the registers since 1980. So, there are few hikers around, but hunting is another story. The Elkhead Mountains are very popular for hunting in the fall and contain large populations of deer, elk, bear, etc.
One thing unique about the range is that hiker use is overall actually decreasing, rather than increasing as it is in most places in Colorado. The summit registers (which the Forest Service keeps record of) on most peaks indicate that they have had more ascents in the 1960’s and 1970’s than they do now. Even before that, there were many summit logs from the 1930’s and 1940’s from sheepherders.
The Elkhead Mountains are made of old volcanic rocks 17-25 million years old. One thing unusual is that the Elkhead Mountains run west to east as opposed to north and south as most of the ranges run in North America. It is impossible to describe the general forms of the peaks because they are all so different, but most of the peaks are isolated rises from a huge plateau which forms the bulk of the Elkhead Mountains.
Diamond Peak is the 10th highest ranked peak in the Elkhead Mountains.
Elkhead Mountains-10,000+ Foot Peaks with 300+ feet of Prominence
Getting ThereVIA STEAMBOAT SPRINGS
From Steamboat Springs, drive to the north end of town and to where County Road 129 leaves Highway 40. A sign marks "Clark" and "Hahns Peak". This is the same road heading to the airport. Drive north on CR 129 for approximately 26 miles. Pass Steamboat Lake and turn left on County Road 62. Drive County Road 62 west and south for about 3.5 miles to FR 42 on the right. Turn right on FR 42 and drive for 0.6 miles to the forest service gate. This gate is locked until July 1st each year. Drive County Road 42 for 1.5 miles to where FR 480 (east loop) takes off to the left. The road here is bumpy, but still passable to 2wd’s if you go slowly. Rather than turning left, continue straight along County Road 42 and follow the bumpy road for another ~4.5 miles (approximate) to a prominent saddle. A rough 4wd track heads north from here for ~0.2 miles so you can drive slightly father, but there isn’t much parking at the end of the track.
From Walnut Street in Hayden, turn north on Walnut, a.k.a. County Road 76, and follow it north for 0.7 miles to County Road 80. Turn right on (gravel) County Road 80 and follow it for 27.3 miles to FR 42. Turn right on FR 42. The first 2.5 miles of FR 2.5 are pretty good, but it quickly turns into a 4wd road after that. The rough section lasts for 1.4 miles and ends at a saddle. This is the best place to park. A rough 4wd track heads north from here for ~0.2 miles so you can drive slightly father, but there isn’t much parking at the end of the track.
The topo maps available don’t show the roads or trails around this mountain accurately. The closest one that bears resemblance to reality is the Forest Service Map-Routt National Forest, but it is of a small scale. The USGS maps don’t show many of the roads in the areas, but seem to show roads and trails that don’t exist; at least not any more.
The USGS has (finally) updated the 7.5 minute maps. They were scheduled to be produced for Colorado last year, but I’m not sure when they will hit all the stores. Right now you can get/see/print/buy the new 7.5 minute maps on My Topo.
The good news is that all the roads and trails are FINALLY accurate for the Elkhead Mountains (and undoubtedly other areas as well). After receiving the new maps, I am very pleased to see that the roads and trails are in the right places. I am also very pleased that the USGS has a new agreement with the US Forest Service and within the national forest service areas, the private land holdings are shaded (but only in USFS areas, land ownership is not shown outside FS lands) on the 7.5 minute scale maps.
Routes OverviewSoutheast Ridge via South Diamond/Peak 10,149
This is the route we took to climb the peak. It begins at the saddle near spot elevation 9836 and follows the ridge over South Diamond/Peak 10,149, down to a saddle and up the steep Southeast Ridge of Diamond Peak itself. There are no technical difficulties, but the main obstacles are downed timber and steep scree so the ascent takes longer than might be expected. This route takes half a day to most of a day. See the route page for details.
Diamond Peak is steep, but not rugged so it could be potentially climbed from all directions. A route from the west and FR 481C (closed) might work out, and is perhaps the most direct route to Diamond Peak itself. FR’s 491 B and C approach the north ridge of Diamond Peak, but are gated at the junction with FR 49.
Red TapeThere is no red tape here (other than the area around California Park is closed to visitation between May 1 and July 1 each year), so make sure to tread lightly.
When to ClimbJuly through early September could be considered the normal season to climb the mountain. The access roads do not open until July 1 (or later in heavy snow years). These roads could certainly be walked, snowshoed, or skied before then (the roads are always closed to all travel between May 1 and July 1), though it would be a two day trip or more. A snowmobile would make this a one day climb in the winter. The Elkhead Mountains are a very popular hunting destination in late August, September and October (until snow closes the road), so use extreme caution at this time of year.
CampingThere are many informal campsites along the road to the trailheads after you reach the forest boundary, including some nice ones right at the trailhead.
Also in the same general area to the east are the campgrounds at Pearl Lake and Steamboat Lake State Park. These are crowded on summer weekends, and reservations are recommended. Hahns Peak Lake is a Forest Service Campground in the area. All the campgrounds are fee-use areas.
Mountain ConditionsCLICK HERE FOR THE DIAMOND PEAK AREA WEATHER FORECAST
Below is the National Weather Service Climate Summary of Steamboat Springs. The data is from 1908-2005. This is the closest long term weather station, but be aware that higher elevations will be much wetter and colder. Steamboat Springs is at 6695 feet elevation, so expect the temperatures on Diamond Peak to be 10-20 degrees colder than in Steamboat (except for cold winter nights).
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