If you’ve never ridden the Diamond Lake horse trails, you’re missing out. The trails are fabulous, the scenery is eye-popping, and the accommodations for you and your horse are surprisingly good.
The fun at Diamond Lake is centered around Howlock Mountain Trailhead, located at the north end of Diamond Lake.
The trailhead has only two small campsites with hitching rails, but it offers additional paved parking for 4 to 6 trailers (for either overnight camping or day use). The trailhead has no water or corrals, but you can rent a corral from the adjacent Diamond Lake Corrals horse-rental operation, complete with running water piped into each corral.
The Diamond Lake area offers a wonderful array of trails, many of which run up into the Mt. Thielsen Wilderness. For example:
Ride a fabulous loop up onto the shoulder of Mt. Thielsen and enjoy the panoramic views.
Travel to Howlock Mountain and Howlock Meadows, a loop that takes you to a vast pumice plain at the foot of this jagged volcanic peak named for a notorious 1860s-era Paiute Indian chief.
Do a nice lower-elevation ride on the Spruce Ridge Trail, which affords filtered views of Mt. Bailey and Diamond Lake.
Follow an easy 8-mile loop to the south end of Diamond Lake, stopping off midway at South Shore Pizza to enjoy a fabulous lunch. (When we were there this summer the trails were blocked by downed logs, so check with the Forest Service before you go to make sure the trails are open.)
Explore the extensive network of easy trails created by Diamond Lake Corrals for their rental-horse rides.
While you’re at Diamond Lake, be sure to walk or drive to Diamond Lake Resort for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The food is excellent and they have a full bar.
On a side note, if you would like to try horse camping but you don’t have a camper and you don’t want to sleep in a tent, Diamond Lake Resort may be the answer. You can rent a corral for your horse at Diamond Lake Corrals while you stay in a cozy cabin at the resort, just a mile away.
And for riders who have non-riding family members, Diamond Lake may be the perfect family getaway. Your family can fish or bike at the lake while you ride the fabulous trails. They can circle the lake on a fabulous paved bike path, or they can rent canoes, kayaks, patio boats, paddle boats, or bikes, or even take a guided fishing excursion. Your family will like “horse camping” at Diamond Lake, and so will you!
Getting There: From Roseburg, take Hwy. 138 east for 79 miles. Turn right on Diamond Lake Loop and drive 0.1 mile, then turn left into the trailhead, next to the Diamond Lake rental-horse corrals. From Medford, take Hwy. 62 (Crater Lake Hwy.) northeast for 54 miles, then veer left on Hwy. 230. In 24 miles, turn left on Hwy. 138. In another 4.3 miles, turn left on Diamond Lake Loop. The trailhead is on the left in 0.1 mile.
Fees: A Northwest Forest Pass is required for overnight camping or for day-use parking.
Season: Summer through fall
Camping Facilities: Two campsites with back-in parking, plus paved overflow and day-use parking for 4-6 trailers. The campsites have picnic tables, fire pits, and hitching rails. The trailhead has a vault toilet and garbage can. Large corrals may be rented from the adjacent Diamond Lake Corrals rental horse concession. Corral reservations required: 541-793-3337, www.diamondlakecorrals.com. Diamond Lake Corrals provides stock water for overnight boarders.
More Information: The trails around Diamond Lake are covered in more detail in Riding Southern Oregon Horse Trails, by Kim McCarrel, (Ponderosa Press, 2014).