Mount Diablo Summit Hike

Thursday, March 26, 2015

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At the eastern fringe of the San Francisco Bay Region, Mount Diablo, elevation 3,849 feet, stands alone on the edge of California’s great Central Valley. At this point, the Coast Range consists only of low hills, none high enough to block the view from the upper slopes of the mountain. As a result, the view is spectacular. (http://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/517/files/mtDiabloBrochure.pdf)

Mount Diablo is a popular place to view the truly stunning scenery of coastal and central California-a kaleidoscope of deep bays, agricultural plains, and rugged mountains. To appreciate the physical aspect and spirit of Mt Diablo, explore it on foot and come into close contact with the plants and wildlife, the unique geology, even traces of forgotten history. An excellent system of trails is available to the adventurous ad to those who simply seek moments of peace and solitude to revitalize their spirit. (Mt Diablo trail map)

This hike climbs up to the summit of Mt Diablo from the Regency Gate Trail head in Clayton. Take Back Creek Trail to Murchio Gap and continue to climb up Bald Ridge Trail to Prospectors Gap. Ascend N Peak Trail and take the Summit Trail to the summit of Mt Diablo State Park. Descend the summit and rock climb up to the top of Devil’s Pulpit for the panoramic views of the entire Diablo area. Scramble down the mountain slope to Prospectors Gap and start the descent on Prospectors Gap Rd to Middle Trail and Meridian Ridge Rd. Continue on Donner Canyon Rd back to the Regency Gate Trail head.

Begin this hike at the end of Mountaire Pkwy; descend the steep trail to the Regency Gate Trailhead.

At the Donner Canyon Rd junction: turn right onto the Back Creek Trail and head up the low hill through the oak grasslands.

Mile 0.3-at the Murchio Rd junction: go straight to stay on Back Creek Trail. The trail winds along Back Creek through the dense foothill woodlands to a couple of creek crossings.

Mile 1.0-at Tick Wood Trail junction: go straight to stay on Back Creek Trail. The trail narrows as it follows along side the creek with the constant hum of bees in the background.

Mile 1.5-at Meridian Point Trail junction: go straight to stay on Back Creek Trail. The trail continues through the dense woodlands and opens out along the side of the mountain on a rocky gravelly road.

The trail cuts back through the woodlands and dense manzanitas towards Murchio Gap.

Mile 2.7-arrive at Murcho Gap-Eagle Peak Trail junction at Meridian Ridge. Enjoy the views of Eagle Peak and the chaparral covered slopes!

Mile 2.7-turn left onto Bald Ridge Trail. The trail begins with a steep climb through rocky terrain and dense brush to the top of Bald Ridge.

Stop and take in the views of Ransom Point, Mt Olympia and Twin Peaks-WOW!

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The trail continues along the ridge through the landscape of junipers, pines and yellow sunflowers.

Enjoy the fabulous valley vistas!

Bald Ridge Trail exits the ridge and continues up through the shaded woodlands towards Prospectors Gap.

Mile 4.2-arrive at Prospectors Gap.

Mile 4.2-across from interpretive panel; turn right onto N Peak Trail. The narrow trail  hikes up to the ridge and winds along the slope of the mountain.

Every turn opens up to dramatic views of North Peak and the expansive valleys below!

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The trail continues along the exposed slope lined with a scattering of poppies and lupines towards Devil’s Elbow.

Mile 5.2-arrive at Devil’s Elbow.

Mile 5.2-turn right onto Summit Trail. The trail continues up the mountain above Summit Rd to the Lower Parking Lot.

Mile 5.5-cross Summit Rd and go straight to stay on Summit Trail. The trails cuts through the dense woods and make its way up to the transmission tower before exiting out onto the Upper Parking Lot at the Summit.

Mile 5.7-arrive at Mount Diablo Summit!

To the summit:
5.6 Miles with 3328′ of elevation
Time: 3 hours with a couple of stops

Many visitors to Mount Diablo head straight for the summit to enjoy the famous view. Summer days are sometimes hazy, and the best viewing is often on the day after a winter storm. Then, you can look to the west, beyond the Golden Gate Bridge, to the Farallon Islands; southeast to the James Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton at 4,213 feet elevation; south to Mount Loma Prieta in the Santa Cruz Mountains at 3,791 feet elevation; north to Mount Saint Helena in the Coast Range at 4,344 feet, and still farther north to Mount Lassen in the Cascades at 10,466 feet. North and east of Mount Diablo, the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers meet to form the twisting waterways of the Delta. To the east beyond California’s great Central Valley, the crest of the Sierra Nevada seems to float in space. 

The Visitor Center is located in the historic stone building atop Mount Diablo’s highest peak. The tower was constructed during the late 1930’s of fossiliferous sandstone blocks quarried in the park. The Visitor Center highlights the cultural and natural history of the park.

Telescopes are mounted on the deck to help visitors enjoy one of the finest views in the world. On the walk up the circular stairway to the observation deck, visitors are treated to a look at ancient marine fossils embedded in the sandstone walls of the Summit Building. In the rotunda they are reminded of Mount Diablo’s importance as a survey point. Above the rotunda is a beacon, historically important to aviators and now lighted once a year on December 7 in memory of those who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor. (http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=517)

Views from the Observation Deck:

Summit views

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Mile 5.8-descend Summit from the path off the restroom steps. Follow the unmarked trail towards Devil’s Pulpit.

Mile 5.9-Devil’s Pulpit-climb to the top and enjoy the 360 views!

Mile 5.9-Shortcut back to Prospectors Gap by scrambling down mountain slope through brush and dense greenery with no trace of a trail.

Mile 6.4-arrive at Prospectors Gap. Turn left and continue on Prospectors Gap Rd. Descend the wide fire road with caution-the loose terrain provides unstable footing on the steep downhill.

Mile 7.2-turn right onto Middle Trail. The narrow trail winds down the mountain with the occasional glimpse of the valley and mountain peaks.

Mile 8.0-at the Falls Trail junction: go straight to stay on Middle Trail. The trail descends through dense woodlands to Meridian Ridge Rd.

Mile 8.5-at Meridian Ridge Rd junction: turn right onto Meridian Ridge Rd.

Mile 8.6-at Donner Canyon Rd junction: turn left onto Donner Canyon Rd. The wide fire road drops down from the ridge out to the oak grasslands.

Mile 9.9-at Hetherington Trail junction: go straight to stay on Donner Canyon Rd. The road follows Donner Creek to the Old Donner Cabin Site and continues on through the lower foothills.

Spring turkey mating season is here-the wild turkeys are thriving around this riparian area! The giant colorful male gobblers are calling out and strutting around while displaying their tail fan feathers. The brown females are running around yelping to attract the males. It’s quite interesting to watch and hear the action!

Mile 10.1-arrive at Regency Gate Trailhead; exit gate and turn left for the steep pitch up to Mountaire Pkwy.

Wildflowers seen along the trails: california buttercups, fiddlenecks, miners lettuces, blue withches, cobweb thistles, mild maids, baby blue eyes, blue dicks, pitchers sages, silver lupines, ithuriel’s spears, woolly sunflowers, purple veitches, virgin’s bowers, indian paintbrushes, fremont star lilies, western wallflowers and scarlet larkspurs.

Look back and view the mountain in all its glory- we were just up there a few hours ago! Buy a detailed Mt Diablo State Park Trail Map from the Visitors Center at the Summit or at Mitchell Canyon and start planning. Condition yourself and work up to hiking to the summit-you’ll love it!

Mount Diablo State Park has an extensive network of trails and unpaved fire roads. The trails/road conditions vary, with some being broad and gently sloping and others narrow and steep. Hiking up to the Summit of Mt Diablo is a great way to immerse yourself around the park’s backcountry and enjoy the natural beauty of the mountain! Bring food and plenty of water-there is no water on the trails! Stop at the many vista areas along the hike to enjoy the spectacular panoramic views-WOW!

PS: Hiking downhill is just as hard as hiking uphill! Your quads are the brakes on the way down and if your shoes don’t fit right, your toes will end up jammed against the front of your boots. 

Please Conserve Water – Every Drop Counts
California is still experiencing a drought.  The majority of the water used by park visitors at Mount Diablo State Park is produced through a series of springs that is fed to various water storage tanks.  Please conserve water and make every drop count. (http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=517)

Total Stats:
10.6 Miles with 3724′ of elevation gain
Time: 6 hours with a few stops
Sunny and warm with temps ranging from the mid 60’s to the low 80’s and NE winds

Parking: Street parking at the end of Mountaire Parkway in Clayton. No facilities & no water. Descend steep trail to the park gate below.
Hike: Extremely challenging
No Dogs Allowed

*The current edition “Mount Diablo Trail Map” is available for purchase at the park entrance stations, Summit Visitor Center and Mitchell Canyon Visitor Center in Mt.  Diablo State Park. They are also available at selected retail map distribution stores and on-line at MDIA’s Store.

View the interactive RGPS route map & profile

Mt Diablo Summit

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One Comment

  1. Congrats! Nancy and Michael! The summit hike from Regency Gate is one tough day hike.!! I remember wishing I had a car ride down after having lunch at the top. jim

    Thank Jim! The hike up to the summit was phenomenal-I loved it! The summit views are absolutely stunning! Nancy

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