Diamond Peak and Craters of the Moon National Monument 08/13/2022

Diamond Peak

Diamond Peak (12197 feet) is located in Southeastern Idaho near the Montana border. It is the 4th highest mountain in Idaho and the 2nd most prominent. With 5377 feet of prominence, it is one of only 57 ultra-prominent (peaks with 5000 ft of prominence) peaks in the contiguous United States. I had driven in the night before and slept at the trailhead. From Idaho State Route 28, I went west on Pass Creek Road for about 4 miles, and then turned right onto Forest Road 796. I continued on this road for another 3 miles or so and parked at the bottom of a steep hill at 8000 feet. Most vehicles stop at the bottom of this hill but is possible for 4WD vehicles to continue up to 8500 feet. Pass Creek Road was in good condition and should be okay for most vehicles. Forest Road 796 gets pretty rough and has a few steep inclines, so 4WD/AWD and high clearance recommended. I started this hike at 5:42am from 7986 feet above sea level. Diamond Peak was visible only 3 miles to the west but over 4000 feet above me.

An SUV pulled up and parked near me just as I began my hike. 3 hikers got out and started only a few minutes behind me. I hiked up the steep road to about 8500 feet where I saw another vehicle and a tent pitched next to it. There was a dog leashed to the vehicle which started barking its head off as I walked past. I thought for sure that would have woken them up, but I heard loud snoring from the tent as I walked by. The road ended here and turned into a narrow trail. I likely could have driven up the steep hill to get to this point, but I really didn’t mind hiking the extra half mile.

The sun began to rise above the mountains behind me.

I continued heading west up the steep ridge as the trees began to thin out.

I hit the tree line around 10000 feet. The trail became very steep and loose at this point.

At 10373 feet the trail curved to the north as it followed the ridge.

The ridge curved back to the west a short while later.

At 11000 feet the trail ended. It would be mostly class 2 scrambling from this point with a few easy class 3 moves here and there. It also started to rain lightly on me but thankfully it never downpoured.

I found this section to be a lot of fun. Most of the class 3 moves were pretty easy, and there was no significant exposure.

The different colored rock was very cool to me as well.

I reached the summit at 8:29am at 2.9 miles!

I signed the register which had been placed in 2021. The most recent entry was from August 8th. The peak gets some visitation since it is an ultra, but the remote trailhead certainly helps to keep the crowds away. The views were awesome despite the clouds. I could see Bell Mountain to the north:

I could see the Lost River Range to the west, including Leatherman Peak, Mount Idaho, and Mount Borah:

Looking south:

Scott Peak to the northeast (the hills beyond Scott Peak are in Montana):

After a little while I noticed some jagged looking peaks in the distance to the east. It took me a minute or 2 to realize I was looking at the Grand Tetons!

I began descending after a 25 minute break. I had no issue climbing down the class 3 sections.

I passed the other 2 groups on their way up. I made very good time down the steep ridgeline.

I reached the car at 10:47am. Stats for this hike were 5.85 miles, 4203 feet elevation gain, and 5:05:20 total time.

Inferno Cone

I had the whole afternoon free, so I decided to visit nearby Craters of the Moon National Monument on my way to Borah Peak. Craters of the Moon, located in south-central Idaho near Arco, contains many volcanic features such as cinder cones, spatter cones, and lava flows. I actually had camped there for a night 4 summers ago while on a 2 week road trip through the western United States. I only had had time for a short hike or 2, so there was still plenty left for me to explore this time. My plan was to spend a few hours driving the park road and doing as many short hikes as I could. First up was a small cinder cone called Inferno Cone. Inferno Cone can be summitted via a short, easy path from the parking lot.

I had a nice view of the park from the top. Big Cinder Butte is pictured below:

This hike was 0.55 miles, 154 feet elevation gain, and 19:56 total time.

Dewdrop Cave and Indian Tunnel

Next up was the Caves Trail, a short trail in which you can walk through 4 different lava tubes. Unfortunately, Boy Scout Cave and Beauty Cave were closed due to hazardous conditions, but I was still able to walk through the other 2. The paved trail began heading away from the parking lot across a large lava flow.

I had fun exploring Dewdrop Cave.

Indian Tunnel was also very impressive.

Indian Tunnel is a massive lava tube with various holes in the roof that allowed natural light in.

This hike was 1.47 miles, 49 feet elevation gain, and 51:29 total time.

Devils Orchard

Next up was Devils Orchard. This was a short paved trail through an area with limber pines and interesting rock formations.

This hike was 0.57 mile, 7 feet elevation gain, and 20:17 total time.

Spatter Cones

Next up was the Spatter Cones Trail, a very short trail where you can look inside 2 spatter cones.

The 2nd spatter cone is called Snow Cone because there is snow inside of it that doesn’t melt despite the 100+ degree weather on the outside. I think because of the narrow opening the interior of the cone receives almost no sunlight.

This hike was 0.29 mile, 26 feet elevation gain, and 11:30 total time.

Tree Molds

Last but not least was the Tree Molds Trail. This trail was slightly longer and ends at a couple of tree molds, which are formed when lava flows through a forest and forms hollow “molds” where the trees once stood. The trail was nice and gentle and continued for about a mile. It started to rain on me and I heard thunder off to the east.

There were 2 tree molds at the end of the trail.

I hustled back since the weather was starting to look threatening. This hike was 2.17 miles, 177 feet elevation gain, and 50:05 total time.

I stopped at the visitor center and then made my way to the Borah Peak trailhead where I spent the night.

To be continued…

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