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Ten Moderate Hikes

Mt. Diablo State Park
Text by Frank Valle-Riestra

You are invited to explore ten of the mountain's most attractive environments, some not all that well known, along trails that are not particularly difficult. The hikes outlined in this brochure are no more than half-day walks, from two up to four hours or so long. However, you may face some stiff climbs - none of them long - and good boots are strongly recommended, for some of the trails are a bit rough.

With a few exceptions, there is no potable water on these trails. You should carry drinks with you. Many of the trails are narrow and you may run across poison oak. If you think you are susceptible, it is best to protect your limbs with appropriate clothing. Such protection also comes in handy in keeping away ticks which, let's face it, are around. Keep in mind that in summer the mountain gets pretty hot in the sun, so carry some head gear. In other seasons, carry at least a light jacket to ward off chill winds which can arise suddenly.

The Trail Map Mount Diablo State Park and the new Hikers Guide to Mount Diablo State Park are now available available here at the MDIA Online Store as well as other interesting publications and items related to Mount Diablo. The trail map is also available at either the North Gate or South Gate Entrance Stations, the Summit Visitor Center, and the Mitchell Canyon Visitor Centers.

Trail Name Scenic
Views
Wild
Flowers
Riparian Flora Birds History Fauna Butterflies Geology Interest
Falls Trail Loop X X X
Mt. Olympia via North Peak X X X
Twin Peaks - Mitchell Rock X X  X X
Black Point X X X
Balancing Rock
- Knobcone Pt
X  X X X
Chase Pond - Hidden Pond X X X
Dan Cook Canyon X  X X
Eagle Peak X X X X
Sycamore Canyon Loop X  X X
Olofson Ridge X X X X

FALLS TRAIL LOOP

Trailhead:
From direction of Concord, drive through Clayton to Regency Woods. From Marsh Creek Road, turn right on Regency Drive and drive to the dead end, with parking on the street beyond the last houses. Walk-down to the trail below, the park gate is a short distance toward the mountain. No facilities. No dogs.

Trail Statistics:
5.9 miles via Donner Canyon Road up Cardinet Oaks Road to the Falls Trail; return loop on section of Middle Trail and Meridian Ridge Road. 1300 ft. climb (includes canyon crossings). In winter and early spring, roads at lower elevation may be muddy.

Description:
In winter (rainy season) and throughout spring, the Falls Trail offers fine views of the mountains most spectacular attraction, several waterfalls up to 100 feet high. Spring also brings astounding displays of wildflowers, and the colorful rock formations are worth the trip at any time. Kindly refrain from scrambling down to the falls; it is dangerous and damages the landscape.


MT. OLYMPIA VIA NORTH PEAK

Trailhead:
At roadside parking area. Devil’s Elbow, on Summit Road, just below the summit. Facilities at summit.

Trail Statistics:
4.6 miles round trip on North Peak Trail and Road. Round trip involves total climb of 1670 feet, mostly on way-back. Descent (and climb back) from North Peak to Mt. Olympia is very steep, on slippery scree.

Description:
This is a trip for those who enjoy an unlimited sky above and views into distant depths below. The one-track path to Prospector’s Gap is a show place for wildflowers in the spring. Mt. Olympia. itself. is like a little throne. high above the encircling landscape, where you can sit and observe the puny world below you, and beyond, the great plains of the Central Valley. In wintertime, the mists rolling up from the depths of Donner Canyon put on a great show of landscape hide-and-seek.


TWIN PEAKS - MITCHELL ROCK LOOP

Trailhead:
End of paved part of Mitchell Canyon Road, north entrance to park, near the town of Clayton. Park in staging area (water and toilets) - parking fee.

Trail Statistics:
A 4-mile loop incorporating Coulter Pine, Eagle Peak, Mitchell Rock Trails. Take Mitchell Canyon Road to Oak Road to Coulter Pine Trail to find the Eagle Peak Trail; its beginning may be a little faint, leading uphill opposite a downed oak tree. The trail parallels Back Creek and climbs gently up toward Twin Peaks. Climb of 1100 feet.


Description:

This is a wonderfully scenic loop at any time of year. passing through several distinct habitat zones - meadow lands, oak savannah, chaparral, rocky summits. and a fine stand of Coulter pines. The Eagle Peak Trail climbs steadily to meet the Mitchell Rock Trail at the crest of Twin Peaks. Visitors have forged a maze of informal trails, but stick to the crest to descend, to the lower Twin Peak, and you won't have any trouble. Pause to admire the brilliantly colored rocks at the and the venerable Great-Berried manzanita, survivors of many fires, with exquisite blooms in January and February. Take care - Twin Peaks have dangerous vertical drop-offs! When Mitchell Rock Trail chances into a fire road entering the bottom meadows, veer left back to the trailhead.


BLACK POINT LOOP

Trailhead:
End of paved part of Mitchell Canyon Road, north entrance to park, near the town of Clayton. Park in staging area (water and toilets) - parking fee.

Trail Statistics:
The Black Point Trail proper starts about one half mile along the Mitchell Canyon Road trail, on the right just beyond the creek crossing. It ends on Red Road and the loop is completed by taking Mitchell Canyon Road back to the trailhead - or better yet by taking the small trail which parallels the road. The loop is 4.8 miles long, and the climb is 1190 feet.

Description:
An outstanding journey through a hidden. Little known corner of the park, spanning several life zones, culminating at the chaparral-covered summit of Black Point. From here a truly unique perspective of central Contra Costa is obtained. Watch for trailside "glory holes" during descent from Black Point. The return trail paralleling Mitchell Canyon Road in spring, shelters fine displays of the endemic Mt. Diablo globe lily in good years. Wear light-colored protective clothing to combat ticks.


BALANCING-ROCK AND KNOBCONE POINT

Trailhead:
Paved parking pull-out at Curry Point, South Gate Road. No facilities.

Trail Statistics:
4.5 miles round trip, level except for a few ups and downs. Easy walk. I ,

Description:
Knobcone Point Road follows the crest of the tilted strata of Domengine sandstone, culminating with the teetering wall known as Balancing Rock. This feature has been faithfully reproduced on a full scale and forms the display focus at Walnut Creek's Lindsay Museum. Beyond Balanced Rock, and just before the park boundary gate, follow the spur road to the right; this takes you to a most interesting display of the beneficial effect of fire (this one in 1981) upon the regeneration of knobcone pines. A controlled burn of underbrush was done in 1995. At the end of the spur, to the right of the transmission line pylons, stop to admire the incredibly complex eroded sandstone landscape and the resident turkey vultures perched there or soaring overhead. Do not attempt to scale the dangerous cliffs, tempting as that may be - respect the privacy of the ticks and rattlesnakes.


CHASE POND AND HIDDEN POND

Trailhead:
Paved parking pull-out at Curry Point, South Gate Road. No facilities.

Trail Statistics:
5.8 miles mostly on dirt roads, but about 0.8 miles cross-country. Total climb of 1170 feet.

Description:
The trails up to the twin Chase Ponds are well marked at intersections. The first section down Curry Canyon Road passes through a beautiful, shaded strip of riparian vegetation. A turn onto Frog Pond Road opens up rolling grasslands with some of the finest display of massed wildflowers in the spring. Just beyond Chase Pond, the road turns uphill and becomes quite faint - follow it until it meets Mountain Springs Creek, where and old cow-crossing facilitates the climb up the opposite bank. Now turn back and walk cross-country in the general direction of Hidden Pond. Easily spotted among the grassy knolls, Hidden Pond is one of the mountain’s beauty spots - a peaceful, lonesome pond, the quiet waters reflecting overhanging branches, the great mountain looming up behind. A short cross country jaunt brings you to Frog Pond Road for the trip back.


DAN COOK CANYON

Trailhead:
At south park boundary on Mt. Diablo Scenic Boulevard, a little beyond the Athenian School in the hamlet of Diablo. Beyond the park gate, the road is called South Gate Road. Just beyond the boundary gate, there is space for about four cars at the right hand side of the road -.the trail begins on the other side. Water only at Live Oak Camp Ground.

Trail Statistics:
3.2 miles round trip to Live Oak Campground on first part of the Summit Trail. 730-ft. Climb.

Description:
A trail for tree lovers and rock lovers, and a great favorite of mountain bikers. The environment varies from a dry oak savannah to a shady canyon of maples, sycamores, alders, and bay trees. Farther up Dan Cook Canyon, some fascinating vistas of grotesquely eroded sandstone pinnacles open up. It will be hard for you to resist exploring the maze of Rock City beyond the Live Oak Campground with its huge coast live oaks. Here Sentinel Rock is only a few hundred feet away (see Short Walks brochure, No. 10 walk).


EAGLE PEAK

Trailhead:
At far end of Juniper Campground loop road. There is a parking area just at the point where road begins its turn at the far end of the loop. Facilities in campground.

Trail Statistics:
6.3 miles round trip via Deer Flat Road, Meridian Ridge Road, Deer Flat Creek Trail, and Eagle Peak Trail. Total climb of 1490 feet.

Description:
This hike, has everything, starting with the flower-strewn meadows going down to Deer Flat. Deer Flat, itself. with its symphony of bird song, is one of the mountains memorable beauty spots. Deer Flat Creek Trail (watch for it on the left, just after you cross Deer Flat Creek) opens up an astounding world of serpentinite minerals and rare plants. Eagle Peak Trail is an exciting hogback, often only a few feet wide, with sharp drop-offs on each side. Eagle Peak is a rocky belvedere from which to admire the expanse of Contra Costa’s "Central Valley" before you - a good place to pause for lunch.


SYCAMORE CANYON LOOP

Trailhead:
Paved parking pull-out at Curry Point, South Gate Road. No facilities.

Trail Statistics:
3.4-mile loop using Knobcone Point, Black Hawk, and Sycamore Creek Roads then connector trail back to Knobcone Point Trail. 580-ft. climb on return loop..

Description:
A hike to savor the colors of fall or the fog softened mysteries of winter. The passing scene is endlessly surprising and refreshing. Initially you walk through rolling meadows with magnificent views of the Mt. Diablo massif above Curry, seen through the branches of stately oaks, which, in foggy weather assume a wonderful ghost-like appearance. On clear winter days, the snowy crest of the Sierra Nevada may he admired, far beyond the great expanse of the Central Valley: The colorful leafy carpets under towering sycamore trees, deep down in Sycamore Canyon, are unforgettable. Once you find the return connector trail, about one-quarter mile beyond the junction of Black Hawk and Sycamore Creek Roads, bear to your right at two small canyon junctions, but stop to explore the peculiar sulfurous streams at the junctions.


OLOFSON RIDGE

Trailhead:
End of paved part of Mitchell Canyon Road, north entrance to park, near the town of Clayton. Park in staging area (water and toilets) - parking fee.

Trail Statistics:
5.3-mile round trip. 1010-ft, climb.

Description:
After just one mile along beautiful, Mitchell Canyon, turn right on Red Road which, incongruously, climbs White Canyon. In springtime, this is the site of rarer wildflower species such as the Mt. Diablo Globe Lily and Wind Poppies. Take sharp left onto Olofson Ridge Trail. and shortly before that starts turning toward the park boundary, follow a faint trail on the left toward the summit marked "1609" on your trail map. Find yourself a perch on one of the cherty outcrops. whitewashed by the presence of fellow raptors, and lose yourself in the world of hawks, kestrels, and turkey vultures. With the awesome chasm of Mitchell Canyon and the massive walls of Eagle Peak as a background, admire the aerial acrobatics of these magnificent fliers - with luck, you may even spot a golden eagle.