Categories: Recreation

Trip Planner: Diamond Lake

The Plan for a Diamond lake visit

written by Ben McBee | photos by Tess Freeman


My nose was pressed against a chilled pane, the heat from my breath fogging the glass. I wiped away the film to reveal a glowing winter landscape lit by a full moon. Twinkling points of light in a murky sky resembled jewels strewn across rolling snowdrifts by the lake shore. I knew it was out there somewhere, Diamond Lake, buried beneath several feet of ice. Two figures ventured out on its surface. Their breath and laughter hung on the air as they chucked snowballs at each other. From the warmth of my family’s cabin rental, it felt like a dream.

I have many fond memories of family trips to Diamond Lake. In the winter, Diamond Lake Resort becomes a bustling hub for snow adventures, where rosy cheeks and good times abound. Snowmobile trails zigzag across the surrounding Umpqua National Forest. Dedicated ice fishermen sit in camp chairs, their lines sunk into dark circles cut in the ice. The rainbow trout are renowned statewide. If the cold doesn’t take your breath away, the views will. The jagged spire of Mt. Thielsen rises in the east, and Mt. Bailey’s rounded top juts above the western horizon. It’s a panorama that rivals nearby Crater Lake, earning Diamond Lake the nickname, “Gem of the Cascades.”

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Day 1: Downhill Fun | Cabin Relaxation | Burgers

Put gravity to good use on your first day at Diamond Lake. Rent a couple rubber inner tubes at Hilltop Shop Snow Tubing Slide Hill and spend a few hours racing to the bottom. The lift runs only on weekends, so if you’re not interested in making the trek to the top on your own two feet, plan ahead. On the other hand, a weekday pass is only $5 and is good for a full day of fun. Packing lunch is a good idea, but good luck getting the kids off the slopes long enough to scarf down a PB & J.

For those in search of a more advanced (and less crowded) downhill experience, Cat Ski Mt. Bailey offers just that. Similar to heli-skiing, cat skiing gets enthusiasts out into the thick of the alpine terrain, but instead of flying through the air, the transportation crawls along the snow surface to get you to your remote destination. For this reason, this guided adventure is recommended for expert skiers and snowboarders only.

When the tips of your fingers and toes start to get numb, it’s time to warm up with some hot cocoa. A variety of cabins and motel rooms are available to rent around the lake, offering a cozy haven to nestle in a pile of blankets, play board games with the family, or delve into a good book.

Occupants of the Marina View Cabins can blaze their own path to the neighboring resort restaurant when dinner hunger rolls around. Growling bellies have no fear, sizzling burgers and other victuals can satisfy the hunger. Dig in to your food and watch the sun paint the lake pink as it sets through the café’s large glass windows.

Day 2: Snowshoes | Backcountry Trails | Pizza

You will find an equally hearty breakfast at the lodge as well. Whether you choose to indulge, one thing is certain. You’re going to need some calories to burn. Seven miles of groomed trails and 35 miles of backcountry trails provide a vast playground for eager cross-country skiers and snowshoers alike. Equipment can be checked out for $10 an hour or $25 for the whole day. Snowmobiles offer turbo-charged entertainment for the thrill seekers.

After you’ve drained the tank, it’s time to refuel, not with gasoline but with pizza. South Shore Pizza remains open in the winter despite the roads being closed, so park your snowmobile, pop out of your bindings, or store your snowshoes and begin to ponder your next decision. Lucky Angler, Mosquito Bite, Woodsey Owl—all of these add to the character of Diamond Lake. They are also delicious pizzas.

As the afternoon sun begins to lose its distant hold on the winter wonderland, make your way back to your abode and throw some logs on the fire. With the warmth building inside, enjoy family play in the fading light. Build an igloo. Any good ice castle will need three-tiered snowmen as sentry. Icicles hanging from the eaves make fitting noses.

No matter what you choose to do during your time at Diamond Lake, you will find plenty of options for outdoor recreation, especially because of the freezing temperatures. Just make sure you bundle up and start collecting those memories.

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