Hiking to the Mt. Diablo peak
As soon as you drive into Contra Costa County on Highway 24 the first thing that you will immediately see is the far reaching slopes of a large mountain. A mountain that completely dominates East Bay San Francisco. Mt Diablo is a unique place in all of California.
Located only 45-60 min from San Francisco is one of the best hiking grounds in all of Northern California, an amazing state park with some of the most un-replicated feature and a history worth learning about. The park offers tons of trails, has camping sites and paved roads for insane biking. The only thing to keep in mind is driving and sharing the road, which extremely dangerous!
Tip #1 drive VERY slow on the slopes of Mt Diablo, since almost every time we drive on that tortuous mountain road we witness a near-miss accidents.
If you a mountain bike aficionado you will be in for a treat with all the off road trails to zoom though. There are several entrances to the park and highly recommend to explore them all. The best way to understand how huge this park is by hiking the Summit Trail all the way to the top of Diablo Peak.
How far can you see from Mt. Diablo?
Panoramic views opening from the top of the mountains are beyond breathtaking. Especially if you plan to hike early in the morning you might just rise above the low hanging clouds and drift on an island of Mt. Diablo peak in a surreal sea of fog.
At the very top you’ll be in for a teat, the observation deck overlooks the Bay area as far as: the Golden Gate bridge, Napa, Sonoma, San Francisco Peninsula, and sierra mountains to the east. I was genuinely surprised on how far you can see on a clear day. In fact you should check out this post where you will find distant shots of the surrounding topgraphical and man-made features.
Description of View, Mount Diablo elevation.
Brewer estimated that the view embraced 80,000 square miles, 40,000 “in tolerably plain view – over 300 miles from north to south, and 260 to 280 miles from east to west”. The view includes 60% of California, 35 counties and an area equal to the six New England states. Brewer’s party calculated the height of Mount Diablo at 3,876.4′ (actual 3,849′).
“Almost every Californian has seen Monte Diablo. It is the great central landmark of the state. Whether we are walking in the streets of San Francisco, or sailing on any of our bays and navigable rivers, or riding on any of the roads in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys, or standing on the elevated ridges of the mining districts before us – in lonely boldness, and almost every turn, we see Monte Diablo”. J.M. Hutchings, from Scenes of Wonder and Curiosity in California.
Long Hiking trails at the Monte Diablo State park
There are several places where you can begin the ascent to the top. Some are more apparent than others, so let’s go over the two most popular ones (easily accessible from the town of Walnut Creek):
1. North Gate Road Approach to Mt Diablo Peak
Technically you can drive all the way to the top of mount Diablo on the north gate road. However, if you’d like to hike the peak you might want to start from one of these locations from the town of Clayton:
– Mitchell Canyon Visitor Center trailhead (pay for parking)
– Regency Gate Trailhead (parking is free on residential streets) via Donner Creek road, which then connects with the Meridian ridge trail that should take you all the way to the top of Mt Diablo or the North peak
You can take the waterfalls trail to see some tiny, yet refreshing waterfalls during the spring month, following the California’s rain season.
The northern routs lay mostly in the shadow of the mountain. The trail is also partially shaded by the numerous oak and juniper trees. Thus, you might want to really dress up for this hike since the chances are that you will be cold even during the summer months.
2. South Gate Road Approach to Mt Diablo Peak
The Summit Trail Trailhead start in the middle of no-where and is completely misleading, since there is NO PARKING anywhere near-by, only residential properties. Thus the best starting point to walk all the way to the top of Mt Diablo from South gate road would be if you start from the Rock city park. The area is designated for rock climbers and day-users.
You will find plenty of parking at the Rock city park on the slope of Mt Diablo, and believe me, you will spend at least 4-5 hours hiking on the summit trail if you planning to go all the way up to the peak and back.
At this point the summit trail will run parallel to drivable South gate road pavement. The hiking trail is mostly open to the sun on the entire length and I would highly recommend hiking it in the afternoon and try to avoid is on the scourging summer days, simply because you might get overheated.
3. Bonus semi-long hike to the North Peak:
You can easily hike the North Peak from the Lighthouse on top. it’s an approximately 30 min experience one way to the top of the North peak, which in my opinion was totally worth the time. You will have to take a Summit trail downhill for a 5 min walk and then loop around Mt Diablo via North Peak trail. The hike is pretty straight forward afterwards and will have a couple of signs on the way to help you navigate.
Short hikes at the top of Mt Diablo
We’ve got a handful of awesome short hikes that you can do with your kids or elder parents. In either case, all the hikes described here are fairly scenic and I guarantee that you will have a good time.
hikes that you can do with your kids or elder parents. In either case, all the hikes described here are fairly scenic and I guarantee that you will have a good time.
1. Fire Interpretive Trail
It’s a pleasant short (approximately less than a mile long) trail around the very top of the peak that is relatively flat with portion of the trail consisting of a wooden observation deck. You will have to drive and park at one of the two vast parking lots and then simply stroll around enjoying the 360 view of the Contra Costa County and beyond.
2. Juniper Trail
Short but sweet hike. Park at the Juniper Campground parking lot and go on a 30-40 minutes ascent. It’s not particularly challenging and is definitely rewarding experience.
3. Hike around the Rock City Park
It’s a hiking/climbing experience. Hop around the rock formations at one of the State Park’s landmarks, such as elephant rock.
4. Eagle peak
A trail from Mitchell Canyon Visiting center is a relatively easy and also rewarding with panoramic views. You will reach a pretty dangerous rock formation at the end of a short hike which probably explains the name – Eagle peak.
Bonus Secret Hike at Mt. Diablo – waterfall trail
Some people live around Contra Costa County and who have never experienced a waterfall hike at Mt Diablo State Park. This rare natural wonder occurs rarely and for a short period of only a few weeks a year. Immediately following the California’s winter rainy season a handful of little cascading streams bless the mountains with vitality display, feeding into the river as tributaries.
First of all it does easily get bellow 32 Frightening (0 Centigrade) during the winter month. From the picture below you can see that there’s ice on the ground and the roughs especially during the winter month. Due to minimal precipitation it’s not that common to see actual snow or experience the snow, although I’ve hear from the locals that they did have a bit of precipitation every now and then.
What I found out more and actually got to participate in one of the local traditions of hiking the peak of Mount Diablo on January 1st. Families gather together for the first health life choise on the first day of the year and gather to scale the summit. For many the hike has turned into an annual tradition and I actually got to participate in this un-official event.
Another rare, yet ultimately spectacular show are the paraglide officianados who occasionally take off of the slopes and gracefully glide over the surrounding grounds. It’s an amazing site to appreciate. The only other place where we’ve seen paragliders was at the Torrey pines in La Jolla.
Why is the mount Diablo was named after the devil?
The most common story that I’ve found with regards to the naming revolves around the Spanish conquistadors chasing the natives into the shadow of the mountain where they would disappear and cross over to Benicia through the Carquinez Strait. Thus the name is derived from the Spanish – monte del diablo which roughly translates to the modern day name of the mountain.
The thicket became known as “Monte del Diablo” and Anglo settlers later misunderstood that the word “monte” can mean “thicket” or “mountain”, and fastened the name on the most obvious local landmark.
A pretty good article talks about the ongoing controversy regarding the region’s nomenclature, which ended up being called Contra Costa (“the opposite coast” to San Francisco).
What else is there to do near Mt Diablo?
After exploring Mount Diablo you might wonder what else is there to check out in Contra Costa. Well, perhaps you can combine the hike with a visit to all you can pick and eat fruit and vegetable farms in Brentwood. You might also want to swing by the Livermore for the newly cultivated wine scene (we found some of their wine quite palatable).
If you are visiting during the summer month – perhaps you’d like to check out Alameda County fair.
If you’re hiking the mountain with the kids they might really enjoy Pixieland amusement park in Concord. Also Heather farms in Walnut Creek has all sorts of events during the Halloween, Thanks Giving and Christmas, make sure to look up their calendar.
For Dads and dudes who love beer – there’s an awesome place called Ol’s right downtown Walnut Creek with a wicked pizza place nearby. Another decent brewery – Califcraft if located right off of Ygnacio Valley road and
Mom’s might really enjoy the shopping scene in Walnut Creek. The little town has grown into a small heaven right in front of our eyes while we lived there. We can easily say that all of the restaurants will leave you satisfied and it’s a very pleasant part of the San Francisco Bay Area.
You might want to check out the Blackhawk plaza if you were taking the South Gate Road Approach to Mt Diablo Peak. There are a couple of nice restaurants at the Blackhawk, however they might appear a bit pricier than down town Walnut Creek.