Mount Diablo State Park
Ten Demanding Hikes
Here are ten hikes for the experienced hiker and outdoors person. Each one represents a physical challenge, but the ultimate purpose of inviting you to try them out is not to test your endurance nor to ask you to establish timing records, but to open up for your pleasure some of the hidden beauty spots on the mountain. Indeed. the length of the trails allows the exploration of areas far removed from access roads, and most of the suggested hikes are loop trips which are facilitated by the longer distances.
There is no potable water on these trails, and you should carry drinks with you. Many of the trails are narrow and may not have been recently cleared, 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. And keep in mind that in summer the mountain gets pretty hot in the sun, so carry some head gear. In all other seasons, carry at least a light jacket to ward off chill winds which can arise suddenly.
The Trail Map of Mount Diablo State Park and the Hikers Guide to Mount Diablo State Park are available 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.
10 Demanding Hikes
Burma Road Loop
Not long after your car starts its climb on North Gate Road, you will note a distant ridge that comes in from the right to meet the winding road. After a particularly sharp curve, the highway rises steeply toward the ridge, access to which is provided by two bright aluminum gates on opposite sides of the road, just after the white 3.0 mile marker. Limited parking is available in front of the lower (western) gate or at a pullout just beyond. The trail starts at the upper (eastern) gate. No facilities.
Follow Burma Road beyond Moses Rock Spring, then descend on Mothers Trail, which ends at Angel Kerley Road. This shortly joins Burma Road, which takes you back to the trailhead. A 4-mile loop, 1300-foot climb.
DESCRIPTION: After a short but astoundingly steep climb, Burma Road (named for the World War II mountainous supply route) gradually traverses Long Ridge and crosses a broad band of serpentinite and peridotite with its weird rocks and stunted plants, a wildly barren stretch which contrasts with the lush grasses on the slumpy slopes. This is also a great birding area; rough-legged hawks, ash-throated flycatchers, horned larks. At Moses Rock, a biblical spring issues from a crevice. Scramble to the top of the rock and find a little rock throne from which to lord it over the encompassing domain of beauty.
Oyster Point via Riggs Canyon
On Morgan Territory Road heading toward Livermore, about four and-a-half miles from Marsh Creek Road junction, just 0.4 miles beyond the two narrow one-lane bridges. There is an old corral on the left side of the road, opposite the State Park pedestrian gate. There is a scant little space to park, but do not block the private driveway gate -- it is used by inholders. No facilities.
At the entrance, take the road that goes straight
ahead, Morgan Creek Road. Continue up to Highland
Ridge (the Trail Map is essential!). turn left, and then
right onto Crestview Road, descending into Riggs
Canyon along Amphitheater Trail and Old Finley Road.
Take Oyster Point Trail at the Old Yellow House to the
destination. Round trip is 11 miles, with a total climb of 1300 feet.
DESCRIPTION: This is an exploration of some of the least visited parts of the park. Riggs Canyon is a mysterious Shangri-La, a deep valley of unspoiled wilderness, ringed by sandstone walls and weirdly eroded spires. The final climb to the Oyster Point ridge and its wonderful vistas is cross-country; watch out for poison oak. On the return trip, take a right on the Highland Ridge Trail and take the right-hand road back to the trailhead along the crest of grassy hills offering splendid distant views of Mount Diablo.
Oyster Point from Curry Point
Parking pull-out at Curry Point, South Gate Road. No facilities.
Follow the Knobcone Point Road to the Black Hawk Ridge Road. Turn right onto this road, descend into Sycamore Canyon, and then climb again until you reach Oyster Point Trail. Follow this until it almost fades away and you'll come across a trail post; seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Climb cross-country to reach the obvious Oyster Point summit (there is no trail). The round trip is about 8 miles, and the total climb is 1750 feet on up-and-down terrain.
DESCRIPTION: This hike is not difficult, except for the last mad
scramble up Oyster Point, around sandstone barricades and avoidable
lush groves of poison oak. The summit is a Miocene sandstone hogback, where you may perch on a rocky throne of your choice to view the glorious panorama of San Ramon and the Bay Area beyond, and, in the opposite direction, the wilderness of Jackass Canyon far below. The scenery along the way to your destination is constantly changing and is a source of unending delight -- meadow wildflowers in the spring, fall colors in the depths of Sycamore Canyon, and the fantastic Domengine sandstone formations to the east of Knobcone Point at any time.
Mitchell Canyon to Summit (Loop)
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.
The suggested loop follows Mitchell Canyon Road to Deer Flat, Deer Flat Road to Juniper Campground, and Juniper Trail to the Lower Summit Parking Lot and finally along the uppermost leg of the Summit Trail. The summit itself is inside the Visitor Center rotunda, a short distance uphill. Return from the Lower Parking Lot along the Summit Trail to Devils Elbow, then to Prospectors Gap via North Peak Trail to Murchio Gap via Bald Ridge Trail, down Back Creek Trail to the Coulter Pine Trail via the Bruce Lee Rd, at the base of the mountain, and back to the trail head. The loop is 13 miles long, and the total climb is 3200 feet.
DESCRIPTION: This is the definitive Mount Diablo hike -- the total mountain experience. It encompasses all of the park's life zones, from meadow lands to rocky summit, and the ever-changing views are simply stunning. A major portion of the loop consists of intimate single-track trails, in close encounter with the wilderness -- including some poison oak which invites a cautious eye. Make no mistake -- this is a challenging hike, with some astoundingly steep stretches, but the result is exhilarating. In winter time the meadow trails can be very mucky.
Mount Olympia via Middle Trail
From direction of Concord, drive through Clayton along Marsh Creek Road to Regency Woods. Turn on Regency Drive and continue 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.
Follow Donner Canyon Road to it's end and a short
distance up Meridian Ridge Rd you'll find Middle Trail,
which takes you to Prospectors Gap Road. Turn left and
climb steeply to Prospectors Gap (a junction of several
hiking paths), here follow the North Peak Road, then North Peak Trail to Mt. Olympia. Complete the loop down Olympia Road then west (left) Olympia Trail (avoiding private property), and finally down Clayton Oaks Road, returning to the previously traversed Donner Canyon Road and retracing your steps back to the trailhead. The complete loop is 8 miles, with a climb of 3,000 feet.
DESCRIPTION: Mount Olympia is one of the park's prime destinations, a rugged outcrop with fantastic views of dizzying canyons, particularly with the mists of winter. Middle Trail is a nature lover's delight, and the climb toward Prospectors Gap and descent from North Peak are -- let us say -- challenging.
Be sure to sign the log attached to the Mt. Olympia Summit trail post!
Wall Point - Pine Canyon Loop
Macedo Ranch Staging Area, at the end of Green Valley Road. Green Valley Road may be reached from Stone Valley Road (Alamo) or Diablo Road (Danville). (Both are freeway 680 exits.) Toilets, but no drinking water.
The 9-mile loop follows Wall Point Road to its junction with the Summit Trail in Rock City, which is followed in turn up to the Barbecue Terrace Road. This then descends into Pine Canyon and eventually joins Stage Road. Dusty Road, on the left side of Stage Road, will take you across Pine Ridge back to the Wall Point Road and the trailhead. The total climb is 1300 feet.
DESCRIPTION: Rolling meadow lands, oak savannas, fine views of the main peak, hogbacks and sandstone fantasy, riparian habitat and great birding -- this pleasant day hike has everything.
Pine Pond - Frog Pond Loop
Parking pull-out at Curry Point, South Gate Road. No facilities.
Start in a northwesterly direction along South Gate
Road from the pull-out to the Summit Trail after the
cross-walk. Just before the trail crosses the road again,
make a sharp left onto Ridge View Trail, that climbs up
to the crest and then descends to Wall Point Road. Go
west until you reach a saddle before the climb to Wall
Point itself -- look out for Secret trail on the right that
descends to Barbecue Terrace Road. Then take this
road downhill (it eventually becomes Stage Road), and
beyond Pine Pond carefully look for a trail on the right
that crosses the creek -- Sunset Trail. At this trail's northern end, turn right to get eventually onto Burma Road. Follow this all the way up to Deer Flat Road, and just before Juniper Campground take the Juniper Trail, Summit Trail, and Green Ranch Road to the site of the former Green Ranch. Continue your descend, with a side trip to Frog Pond. Return to trailhead via Frog Pond Road and Curry Canyon Roads. A total climb of 5500 feet and 17 miles of hiking await you!
DESCRIPTION: This is a long, tough hike for expert map readers who have good instinct for following faint trails, and is an exhilarating scramble up and down the flanks of the mountain!
DESCRIPTION: This is a circumambulation of the summit along
some of the park's most attractive hidden trails. The North Peak
Trail has fantastic displays of wildflowers in the spring, including
the rarely seen wind poppies. The Bald Ridge Trail has a new surprise every few yards -- a tiny rock garden, an unexpected vista, perhaps a sighting of the elusive California thrasher and an exploration of the geology and rare botany of serpentine soils and rocks. The Juniper Trail has its own set of rock gardens featuring tundra like stunted plants.
Lower Summit Parking Lot. Facilities at Summit.
Start by descending the Summit Trail to Devils Elbow. For the complete loop, take left turns at each junction: North Peak Trail to Prospectors Gap, Bald Ridge Trail to Murchio Gap, and Meridian Ridge to Deer Flat Road to Juniper Campground, and back up on the Juniper Trail. 6 miles with a total climb of 1600 feet.
Mount Olympia from Three Springs
Wide pull-out on right side of Marsh Creek Road about two miles beyond Regency Drive in Clayton. There is an emergency call box with a big blue
sign. No facilities.
Start by finding the slightly hidden auto-gate and head up Sharkey Road. Turn right at first road junction and soon there after right onto Olympia Trail. The trail briefly joins an old road and at its end make a short left jog to locate the posted
continuation of the Olympia Trail. Follow it until you reach the exhilarating East Trail, straight up to the summit! A stiff 2,000 ft climb in 2.5 miles!
DESCRIPTION: This is arguably the steepest trail in the park. The first part is gentle enough, but things get a lot more challenging when you get to the flanks of Mount Olympia -- the total rise occurs in a little over a mile. There are many things to attract your attention on the way and to let you catch your breath -- wildflowers well into summer, grotesquely eroded rock formations reminiscent of the American Southwest, the sequence of gradually expanding views. The climax view, of course, is from the summit itself.
Be sure to sign the log attached to the Mt. Olympia Summit trail post to memorialize your accomplishment!
Eagle Peak from Mitchell Canyon
Mitchell Canyon Staging Area: At the end of Mitchell Canyon Road, at the north entrance to the park, near the town of Clayton. Parking is ample, except on very busy days. Facilities: drinking water, restrooms, park map display, picnic area, visitor center open on weekends, park headquarters nearby.
8.0-mile loop; cumulative climb is 3,101 feet.
This loop is a favorite hike that docents at the Mitchell Canyon Visitor Center often recommend as an introduction to first-time hikers in the park who want great views and a variety of habitats, along with a good workout.
Eagle Peak Trail | Carl Nielson
Follow Mitchell Canyon Road to Oak Road, which takes off steeply to the left where the split rail fencing ends. After you reach the meadowy plateau at the top, look for Mitchell Rock Trail, a single-track trail to your right. This will take you past Mitchell Rock and Twin Peaks to Eagle Peak Trail, an exciting ridge trail, often only a few feet wide, with sharp drop-offs on each side. This trail leads, of course, to Eagle Peak. Eagle Peak is a rocky belvedere from which to admire the expanse of Contra Costa’s "Central Valley" before you, and a good place to pause for a break on several rocks nature has conveniently placed for this purpose. Continue on to Murchio Gap, and take Meridian Ridge Road to the right to reach Deer Flat. At Deer Flat, continue to the right on Mitchell Canyon Road for a short distance to find picnic tables in the shade and a restful place to enjoy Deer Flat, one of the mountain’s loveliest spots, with its symphony of bird song. Mitchell Canyon Road takes you back to the trailhead. Your return via shady Mitchell Canyon offers a welcome relief from the heat of the afternoon sun.