Diamond Peak Wilderness Area


The Diamond Peak Wilderness area was established by the USDA Forest Service on February 5, 1957. In 1964, Congress made it part of the National Wilderness preservation system. The 52,337 acre area straddles the Cascade Mountains in both the Deschutes and Willamette National Forests and offers many opportunities for outdoor recreation. Elevation ranges from 4,787 feet to 8,744 feet. Diamond Peak was formed as the entire land mass of the Cascades was undergoing volcanic activity and uplift. Great glaciers carved the large volcanic peak, and when they receded, the bulk of the mountain remained, with snowfields near the summit and dozens of small lakes surrounding the peak. Lakes are one to 28 acres in size.

Access: State Highway 58 to the Willamette Pass trailhead; Hwy 58 to Road 5810 to the Yoran Trailhead. Hwy. 58 to Road 60 to the Whitefish, Fawn Lake, and Windy-Oldenburg Trailheads. Hwy. 58 to Road 60 to Road 6010 to the Snell Lake and Summit Lake Trailheads.

High-Use Areas: Marie Lake, Divide Lake, and Rockpile Lake are popular base camps for the climb up Diamond Peak.

Geology: Diamond Peak was formed as the entire land mass of the Cascades was undergoing volcanic activity and uplift. Great glaciers carved the large volcanic peak. When they receded the carved bulk of the mountain remained, with snowfields near the summit, and dozens of small lakes surrounding Diamond Peak near the perimeter of the Wilderness. Many of these lakes (1 to 28 acres in size) fill depressions gouged out by the movement of glaciers.

Forests: Nearly the entire area is covered with mixed stands of mountain hemlock, lodgepole and western white pine, and silver, noble and other true firs.

Wildlife: The Wilderness is the home of black-tailed and mule deer and elk. In winter, the mule deer migrate eastward out of the Wilderness to the sage desert. Black-tailed deer and elk drop down the west slope. Bear and small mammals including marmots, snowshoe rabbits, squirrels, pine martens, foxes, and conies inhabit the area all year long.

Birds: The raven, Clark's nutcracker, Oregon jay, and water ouzel frequent the forest and streams year-round. Bufflehead and goldeneye ducks occasionally nest near the lakes.

Wildflowers: Alpine flowers, including varieties of mimulus, lupine, penstemon, heather, and Indian paintbrush, are common along trails, lake shores, streams and in the meadows.

Trails: Approximately 14 miles of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail pass through this wilderness. In 1968, the Pacific Crest Trail System, including the Oregon Skyline Trail, was designated by Act of Congress as a National Scenic Trail. Approximately 14 miles of this trail passes through the Diamond Peak Wilderness. The trail is regularly maintained and easy to follow. The hiking season generally extends from about July 1 to October 1. Portions of the trail are snow covered and may be impassable early in the season. Information about trail conditions is available at Forest Service offices. Travelers must carry all their food into the wilderness; the closest place to buy food is at Odell Lake outside the Wilderness.

Another 38 miles of trail, including the 10-mile Diamond Peak Trail, stretch the length of the west side of the peak.

Wilderness Permit System: Wilderness registration cards are available at the trailheads; please fill one out.

Hunting and Fishing: The Wilderness is home to many game animals, including deer and elk, and to many fish, such as the various species of trout. State of Oregon Licenses are required for hunting and fishing in the area.

Weather: High altitude weather can change very quickly. Even during good weather, mountain temperatures are always cooler, particularly at night. Several layers of wool are better than one heavy layer of clothing. Feet take time to adjust to boots and trail travel. Laced boots, well broken-in, and two pair of socks will help you avoid becoming foot sore. An extra pair of light shoes for nights in camp will ease tired feet and at the same time be easier on the environment.

Fire Danger: Instead of smoking while riding or hiking, stop at a safe place to smoke, then extinguish the smoke before leaving.

Ten Survival Essentials: Survival in the wilderness depends on careful planning and proper equipment. The ten basic survival items for any camping trip are: map of the area, compass, flashlight, sunglasses, extra food and water, extra clothing, waterproof matches, candle or fuel tablets, first aid kit, and pocket knife.

Water: Only water from developed systems at recreation sites is maintained safe to drink. Open water sources are easily contaminated by human or animal waste. Water from springs, lakes, ponds, and streams should not be drunk without proper treatment. A recommended method of treatment is to bring clear water to a rolling boil for 10 minutes.

Size of Group: Plan your party size to limit groups to less than 20 people and/or pack stock and saddle stock. Large groups can be very destructive to the wilderness.

Mountain Climbing: Diamond Peak, elevation 8,744 feet, is most often climbed from the south ridge. It is not a difficult climb, but climbers should always travel in organized parties, fully equipped, and under experienced leadership. The summit of Mt. Yoran, at 7,138 feet, is low compared with many Oregon peaks, but its steep precipice offers fine rock climbing for skilled mountaineers.

History of Diamond Peak
In October 1853, members of the "Lost Wagon Train" on their way from Allegheny City, Pennsylvania, to the Oregon Territory passed south of Diamond Peak in a desperate struggle to reach the Willamette Valley before winter came upon them.

They had hoped a rough wagon road had been pushed through, but they were disappointed. They camped on the south shore of Crescent Lake at the foot of the mountains and looked for a road. All they found were occasional blazes on scattered trees.

Up through the mountains they came, making a rough road as they went. They were undoubtedly guided by the snow-covered slopes of Diamond Peak, named only the previous year for John Diamond, who had scaled the peak to look for a pass through the mountains.

West of the summit the party was dismayed by the great expanse of timber which lay ahead. One man was sent ahead and brought a rescue party up from the Willamette Valley to meet them. It was the end of October, and the snows of winter were not far behind them. Some of the wagons and household goods were abandoned at Pine Openings. The remaining wagons were forced to cross the river 27 times before reaching safety and the town of Butte Disappointment (Lowell).

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 24 May 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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