Monday, January 12, 2016
*The Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve is a 6,000-acre park located north of Mount Diablo in Contra Costa County, California. The preserve contains relics of 5 ghost towns, former coal and sand mines. The 60 miles of trails in the Preserve cross rolling foothill terrain covered with grassland, California oak woodland, California mixed evergreen forest, and chaparral.
This hike takes goes around the north section of Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve from Lougher Loop Trail to River View Loop Trail. It also includes the out and back on the Arata Overlook Trail.
Begin this figure eight loop hike from Sidney Flat Staging Area. *Sidney Flat: this area was the original site of the coal mining town of Somersville. The town was located here because of the availability of good drinking water. When the railroad arrived in 866, water could be hauled from the San Joaquin River and the town was moved closer to the mines. A rancher later established a brothel here that included the unusual feature of a tunnel connecting the building’s rear entrance to a nearby ravine, allowing customers to avoid being seen by passers-by.
Cross Somersville Rd to the Lougher Loop Trail gate-go straight along the old Lougher ranch house past the windmill and water tower. *In 1904, the land was sold to coal filed residents Leyshon and Lizzie Lougher whose family remained on the land until 1956. Leyshon used materials salvaged from structures in the abandoned coal mining town of Nortonville to construct the house located across the road. A sheep barn and baseball field were built where the park headquarters now stand. In 1977, Sidney Flat was purchased by the East Bay Regional Park District and became part of the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve. The ranch house is currently used as the park residence.
At the trail post-go straight to stay on Lougher Loop Trail.
At the Lougher Loop Trail junction-go straight to stay on Lougher Loop Trail. The trail gently winds its way up around the hill towards a high point at the transmission tower.
At the Lougher Ridge Trail junction-go straight to stay on Lougher Loop Trail; the terrain levels out as it continues to loop westward around the hill.
At the Park Boundary junction-go straight to stay on Lougher Loop Trail. It continues on flat terrain along a seasonal creek with riparian landscape.
At the next Lougher Loop junction-go straight; the trail curves to the left with a moderate hill climb to a high point.
The trail continues winding around the hill with gentle grades-watch for the ant mounds!
The trail kicks up with another moderate climb up to the Lougher Ridge Trail junction.
Turn right to stay on Lougher Loop Trail; it drops down from the ridge to the Somersville Rd junction.
Go left to stay on Lougher Loop Trail; it continues down hill before cutting across the valley grassland to the Lougher Loop/Park Office junction.
Turn right and return along the ranch house back to the trail gate.
Cross Somersville Rd and make your way behind the Visitors Center and park offices to the River View Loop Trail head.
River View Loop Trail begins with a moderate climb up to a T junction.
Turn left to stay on River View Loop Trail; it snakes around the hill on gentle terrain before dropping down through the canyon.
The trail levels out on as it travels north along a seasonal creek through scattered oak woodland and chaparral dotted hillsides.
River View Loop continues through the canyon area parallel to Somersville Rd with views of the rolling hills.
The trail drops down alongside the main road to the flat valley with open views of an old ranch house and weathered wooden barns.
River View Loop curves to the right towards a water trough and steel covered cattle barn.
At the unsigned trail split-go right to stay on River View Loop; the trail winds southward up through the hills on a moderate grade towards the high point transmission tower.
At the unmarked T junction-go right onto the unsigned Arata Overlook Trail; it climbs up for about a quarter mile to another high point at the marble Arata memorial bench.
Reverse your way back down to the T junction and go right to continue south on River View Loop Trail.
River View Loop winds around the oak studded hills with brush vegetation and beautiful rock outcroppings.
The trail continues on gentle terrain as it butts up aside a massive sandstone wall jutting out from underneath the hill. Watch for falling rocks!
River View Loop cuts across the upper grassland before coming to a split at the junction with Ridge View Trail.
Turn right to stay on River View Loop Trail-the trail drops down from the ridge with expansive views of the surrounding hills and valley.
Enjoy the stunning views!
Go straight at the River View Loop Trail post to continue down hill towards Sidney Flat.
At the Park Office junction-go left and return down hill past the trail gate towards the Visitors Center.
Take a slight detour to check out the old little yellow single room house before returning to the parking lot.
This hike explores the two less-traveled northern trail loops around Black Diamond Mines. Next time around, I’ll be sure to include the cross section hike along Lougher Ridge Trail-the 1100′ ridge top vistas should stunning! On a clear day, it would provide expansive views of Carquinez Strait, Suisun Bay and the waterways around San Joaquin River! So what’s so great about hiking in the fog? It’s the quiet calm and solitude….Remember to bring a change of shoes if you’re up for hiking in mud-the extra weight that cakes up on your boots will give you an extra workout!
6.0 Miles with 1485′ of elevation gain
Max elevation: 1227′
Time: 2.5-3 hours with several stops
Hike: Moderate with a few steep climbs
Parking: Sidney Flat Staging Area parking lot at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve-at the end of Somerville Rd in Antioch just past the first Ranger Booth.
Parking fee: seasonal, weekends & some holidays. $5 (when kiosk is staffed) $2 Dog
Water & pit toilets available
Bring water & food/snacks
Weather: Cloudy & overcast with dense fog. Temps ranged from low to high 40’s with NE winds