Although not technically adjacent to the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, Diamond Lake is a short drive north of the northern most section of the road and is in the shadow of two volcanic peaks – Mt. Thielsen and Mt. Bailey. It resides within the Umpqua National Forest in Douglas County, Oregon just to the north of Crater Lake National Park. Glaciers covered much of the area starting with the Great Ice Age over 1 million years ago. At one time, the landscape that is now occupied by Diamond Lake was a giant ice field! As the glaciers eventually started to melt and recede, the shallow lake was left behind. I came across a National Park Service publication that directly speaks to the geology of the Diamond Lake area. For a detailed analysis of this special place, visit here!
We decided to make the road trip up to Diamond Lake because I had read that there was an 11.5-mile bike trail that circumnavigated the shores of the lake. I was getting itchy to get back on the bike for an extended ride and the reviews of the trail were all positive. The trail, known as the John Dellenback Trail, is paved and is considered a multi-use trail for hikers, bikers and, in the winter, cross-country skiers. Part of the trail winds through the national forest service campground on the east side of the lake with the remaining sections traversing through forest and along the lake affording excellent views of the two volcanic peaks that rise above the lake.
We started our ride from the amphitheater parking lot at the Diamond Lake Campground operated by the national forest. I chose a clockwise route that would take us around the south end of the lake first. At the south end of the lake is a great little picnic area called the South Shore Picnic Area. After our ride, we drove to this spot and had a snack before getting back on the road to Lava Beds NM.
We rode to about the half-way point of the trail of the western shore and stopped for a snack. Our impromptu rest area had an awesome view of Mt. Thielsen across the lake.
I read an interesting fact in the NPS publication that I referenced above. Mt. Thielsen is also referred to as “the lightening rod of the Cascades” due to the frequency of lightening strikes that it endures. This results in the formation of fulgurites – a glass-like substance that is created when silica sand and rock are fused together as a result of a lightening strike. Wow! I’ve never heard of that! Apparently most of the fulgurites formed on Mt Thielsen are within the top 10 feet of the summit – so get hiking all you fulgurite seekers!! There is a trailhead for Mt. Thielsen accessible from Rt. 138 east of Diamond Lake! Maybe next time…
After leaving our rest stop, we rode through a pretty cool fir/pine forest with masses of fireweed growing in the understory of the sparsely spaced trees.
There’s a nice little beach area on the north end of the lake but since we were not prepared for swimming we did not stop. The trail climbs a bit on the east side rising high above the lake before descending once again to the campground area.
As we got back into the north end of the campground, I spotted these ducks lazing around on this log. Too cute! Worth posting again!
This concludes my tour of the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway! There is much, much more to see and do along this “All-American Road” so I encourage you to explore the website and create your own journey!