The easiest route to the summit of Buck Mountain South is probably the Southeast Ridge via Lake Diana. This is a class 2 route and is fairly easy, though steep in sections.
Lake Diana can be reached from the Diamond Park Trailhead southeast of the mountain, which is probably the shortest route to the lake. Even so, the climb is about 17 miles round trip.
Lake Diana can also be reached from the north and via the Encampment River Trailhead. Either the West Fork Encampment River or the Encampment River Trails can be used. The approach is a bit longer than the one from Diamond Park, but gentle for most of the distance.
Approaches to Lake Diana from the east from around Big Creek Lakes are possible, but these are longer routes and have more elevation gain.
This page will describe only the shortest and easiest route.
Lake Diana in a cirque of Buck Mountain.
The Slavonia Trailhead and Diamond Park Trailhead are the two main trailheads and which one you use is dependent on what vehicle you have.
The Slavonia Trailhead can be reached by passenger cars, but road to the North Fork Elk River Trailhead is considered to be a 4wd road. A 4wd is preferable, but the road, at least of August 2013 is barely passable for AWD vehicles such as a Subaru Outback.
From Steamboat Springs head two miles NW on US 40 to CR 129 (Elk River Road) and turn right at the stoplight. Head 17.5 miles, past Clark, to Glen Eden, and turn right again at Seedhouse Road (a.k.a. CR 64 and FR 400) and follow the road and signs about 90.2 miles to the trailhead. Seedhouse Road is passable for passenger cars to the trailhead.
Diamond Park Trailhead
Follow the directions above to the Seedhouse Trailhead. Just past the Seedhouse Campground there is an intersection with FR 433 (a.k.a. Lost Dog Road).
Turn north on FR 433 and follow it 3.9 miles to the junction with FR 44.1. To this point, the road is good for most vehicles, but the rest of the route to the trailhead is considered to be a 4wd road. Turn left (west) here and and descend 2.1 miles to the bridge. Continue North on FR 431 and follow it 1.5 miles to the trailhead.
Buck Mountain South as seen not far from the trailhead.
Purple = Buck Mountain South via Lake Diana.
From the Diamond Park Trailhead, instead of following the road beyond the gate, follow the trail just to the north of the road which is used by ATV's. Soon after beginning, the trail crosses Trail Creek on a bridge.
After 0.3 miles, there is a junction with the Wyoming Trail. Go straight and follow the Main Fork Trail (the road visible below crosses private land).
The trail traverses the hills on the north side of North Fork Elk River, but is sometimes lost in the numerous sheep trails (sheep grazing can be heavy along this part of the trail). Usually, minor variations in the route don't matter so much as long as you stay in the hills north of the creek.
After 2.7 miles you will reach the boundary of the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area and there shouldn't be any more problems with confusing sheep trails. The trail curves east and climbs some hills before leveling out.
After 4.8 miles, the trail leaves the North Fork Elk River and begins climbing to the Continental Divide. Between the trailhead and the Continental Divide, campsites are surprisingly hard to find, but small marginal ones can be found with some searching, especially late season when the ground begins to dry.
The trail switchbacks north at a steady, but not overly steep grade to the Continental Divide. The trail to Lake Diana can be hard to find since the junction is marked with nothing but a few sticks (maybe). There are no signs or cairns, but the junction is right near the Continental Divide (about 6.9 miles from the trailhead).
Look for a rock on the right side of the trail looking like the photograph:
Important! The trail junction for Lake Diana can be hard to find and is not well marked. Look for this rock on the right side of the trail just before the trail junction.
Just beyond the rock and to the left is the trail junction. The trail to Lake Diana used to be a good one, but has since fallen into disrepair due to decreased usage. The trail is still pretty good, but you have to climb over fallen timber and through some wet meadows (if doing the traverse of both Buck Mountains, be aware that the trail is easier to find to
Lake Diana rather than from
Lake Diana). The trail to Lake Diana is about 0.75 miles from the junction.
Beautiful Lake Diana sits in a cirque and is 10,268 feet in elevation.
From Lake Diana, you want to aim for the minor saddle between Point 11,004 and Buck Mountain South. There is no trail, but the route is obvious and not too difficult.
Once on the saddle, climb the Southeast Ridge of Buck Mountains South to the summit. There is scrambling, but no major obstacles. The summit is a pile of rocks in the southern portion of the summit area. A register was placed in a crevice at the summit in August 2013.
The Southeast Ridge of Buck Mountain South.
Playing on a boulder east of Buck Mountain South.
A good pair of boots and a good map, and the knowledge of how to use it.
The summit of Buck Mountain South. The weather started to get cold, windy, and spit some rain and snow, so we didn't spend much time on top.