Mount Diablo: Little Giant Loop Hike

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

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Mount Diablo State Park is one of the ecological treasures of the San Francisco Bay Area. Every season in the park has its special qualities. Discover them for yourself, from the mountain’s 3,849-foot summit to its beautiful wildflowers, extensive trail system, fascinating wildlife, and distinctive rock formations. There are over 150 miles of hiking trails and fire roads within Mount Diablo State Park.  Hiking is a great way to explore the park’s backcountry. (

This clockwise loop heads south from Regency Gate to Back Creek and Tick Wood Trails. The steady climb continues on Donner Canyon Rd to Middle Trail and turns westward on Prospectors Gap Rd to Murchio Gap. It winds along Meridian Ridge Rd to Deer Flat and descends Mitchell Canyon Rd towards the Mitchell Canyon Staging Area to Oak Rd. Cross the foothill meadows and return to Regency Gate on Murchio Rd Rd to Back Creek Trail and Donner Canyon.

Begin this hike from the north side of Mt Diablo at the Regency Gate Trailhead off Mountaire Pkwy in Clayton.

At the first trail junction at Donner Canyon Rd: turn right and go uphill at the unmarked Back Creek Trail. The single track trail goes through the oak studded hill out to the open grasslands with views of Diablo.

Mile 0.2-at the Back Creek Trail/Murchio junction: go straight-stay on Back Creek Trail to Meridian Ridge Rd. Trail. The trail winds along Back Creek through the dense foothill woodlands to a couple of creek crossings.

Mile 1.0-at the Back Creek/Tick Wood Trail junction: Turn left onto Tick wood Trail; the single track trail goes uphill through the woodland with dense poison oak covered slopes.

Mile 1.2-at the Donner Cabin/Tick Wood Trail junction: go straight to stay on Tick Wood Trail. The trail continues uphill through the thicket before exiting out into Donner Canyon.

Mile 1.6-at Tick Wood Trail/Donner Canyon Rd junction: turn right onto Donner Canyon Rd. The wide fire road quickly leads to the next trail junction with views of Mt Olympia.

Mile 1.7-at the Hetherington Trail/Donner Canyon Rd junction: go straight to stay on Donner Canyon Rd. The fire road steadily climbs up to Meridian Ridge.

Mile 1.8-at the Cardinet Oak Rd/Meridian Ridge Rd junction: turn right onto Meridian Ridge Rd towards Middle Trail.

Mile 1.9-at the Middle Trail/Meridian Ridge Rd junction: turn left onto Middle Trail. This trail snakes along the side of the mountain on a narrow single track through dense brush and partial open views of Diablo’s peaks. Some wildflowers are in bloom-look for the Mt Diablo globe tulips and red ribbon clarkias!

Mile 2.4-at the Middle Trail/falls Trail junction: go straight to stay on Middle Trail. Middle Trail continues winding uphill along steep stretches through the brush and rocky terrain to Prospectors Gap Rd.

Enjoy the gradual expanding views of Clayton Valley and the chaparral covered mountain peaks!

Mile 3.2-at the Middle Trail/Prospectors Gap Rd junction: turn right onto Prospectors Gap Rd. The broad fire road curves westwards below Bald Ridge with fantastic views of Mt Olympia, North Peak and Ransom Point!


Prospectors Gap Rd continues uphill along the manzanitas to Murchio Gap-enjoy the open views of Clayton Valley!

Mile 3.7-at the Eagle Peak Trail/Meridian Ridge Rd junction: turn left onto Meridian Ridge Rd. Meridian Ridge Rd comes to a high point of the hike at 2361 feet before gently rolling down along the ridge.

Take in the wonderful Diablo peaks view!

Glorious wildflowers along the trail!

Meridian Ridge Rd kicks up for a short uphill to Deer Flat at 2125 feet.

Mile 4.8-at the Deer Flat/Mitchell Canyon Rd junction: go straight onto Mitchell Canyon Rd through the majestic oaks to the open meadow. Have lunch at the shaded picnic area underneath the mighty oak tree.

Continue north on Mitchell Canyon Rd; the fire road traverses down the mountain on a series of switchbacks with a couple of dips before reaching the lower canyon.

Magnificent wildflowers along the canyon!

Mile 7.5-Mitchell Canyon Rd enters through the lush riparian habitiat along Deer Creek. Sit a spell on the bench and or picnic table and enjoy the quiet calm of the canyon.

Mile 7.9-at the Black Point Trail/Mitchell Canyon Rd junction: go straight to stay on Mitchell Canyon Rd-the road enters through the oak savanna woodland to the end at the Mitchell Canyon Visitors Center & Staging Area. The Visitors Center is open on weekends only. There is water & restrooms adjacent to the parking lot.

Turn around and exit the Staging Area to the Mitchell Canyon/Oak Rd junction: turn left on Oak Rd-the wide fire road goes eastward up through the oak woodland to the foothill meadows towards Back Creek.

Mile 8.8-at the Oak Rd junction: go straight to stay on Oak Rd.

Mile 8.9-at the Mitchell Rock/Oak Rd/Coultier Pine Trail junction: turn left to stay on Oak Rd. Oak Rd cuts across the meadows to the T at Murchio Rd.

Mile 9.0-at the Murchio Rd junction; turn right and continue east on Murchio Rd. Follow the broad fire road across the foothill grasslands to the next junction at Bruce Lee Rd.

Mile 9.4-at the Bruce Lee/Murchio Rd junction: go straight to stay on Murchio Rd and continue across the oak studded meadow.

Mile 9.6-at the Back Creek Trail junction: go straight to the next trail split and veer left onto Back Creek Trail to Donner Canyon Rd.

Mile 9.8-at the Donner Canyon Rd junction: turn left onto Donner Canyon Rd-this road leads back to the Regency Gate Trailhead.

This is a fantastic hike up to the meadow at Deer Flat. Spring flowers are still abound and the views are amazing! Give your hiking shoes a shake and hit the trails-you’ll love it!

Wildflowers seen on the trails: elegant clarkia, coyote mint, mariposa lily, ithuriel’s spear, woolly sunflower, indian warrior, red ribbons clarkia, mt diablo globe tulip, wind poppy, yarrow, morning glory, clarkia, california poppy, dandelion, gumweed, chinese houses, clematis, winecup clarkia, milkweed, bush monkeyflower, california buckeye, yellow wildflowers, california rose and yellow mustard

*The use of a trail map is essential. 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 REI and on-line at MDIAs Store.

10.1 Miles with 2138′ of elevation gain
Time: 4.5 hours with a couple of stops
Hike: Challenging
Parking: Street parking at the end of Mountaire Parkway in Clayton. No facilities & no water. Descend steep trail to Regency Gate Trailhead.
*Bring plenty of water & food/snacks. No facilities/water on these trails.
No Dogs Allowed

Weather: Sunny and warm with temps ranging from the mid 60’s to the low 70’s

View the interactive RGPS route map & profile

Little Giant Loop (2)

Little Giant loop



  1. Hi Nancy

    Are you riding Death Ride this July?

    If so, I hope I will recognize you and we can chat for a bit. I’ve been following you for over a year.

    Cheers! Ray Lepinsky

    Ray, I’m not doing DR this year-Have a great successful ride! Thanks so much for following the blog.
    If you’re ever in the Bay Area, look me up and we can get together and ride. Nancy


  2. Hello again Nancy, That is a beautiful trail. I wish our weather in Northern Utah was like California. it seems that here, good weather is measured in hours, bad weather is measured in days. Oh well……. Seeya, from Michael and Maydene !

    Michael, California living-We definitely have lots of good days here! Come out and visit the golden sunny state-bring water! Nancy


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