Mt Diablo: Falls Trail Hike & Wildflowers

Thursday, March 17, 2016

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*Mount Diablo has a forbidding image to many, in part because of its name. While creeks may dry in summer, the reality is that there are always cool canyons, and even on hot days cool breezes cross upper elevations. On the north side of the mountain are three large, wooded canyons. Because they’re protected from the sun most of the day, Donner, Back and Mitchell Canyons have among California’s best wildflower shows. The waterfalls in the upper reaches of Donner Canyon are icing on the cake. Save Mount Diablo worked with the State to preserve most of the three canyons in the mid 1970s, and helped acquire North Peak’s summit in 1980.

*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. The waterfalls dry up during summer and fall before the winter rains. the hike is not difficult, but some stream crossings are steep and slippery. In winter and early spring, roads at lower elevations may be muddy.

Begin this hike from the end of Mountaire Parkway in Clayton to the Regency Gate Trailhead at the north side of Mt Diablo.

At the first trail junction, stay on your left to Donner Canyon Rd; this fire road takes you across the lower oak studded foothills along Donner Creek.

At Clayton Oaks junction, go left onto Clayton Oaks Rd. Cross the creek and head up through the oak studded hills to the open grassland.

At the next trail split, go right to stay on Clayton Oaks Rd > Bruce Lee Spring Tr. The trail continues uphill towards the park boundary.

Turn right at the junction to stay on Clayton Oaks Rd. The trail turns southward through riparian woodland and expansive grasslands.

The moderate climb takes you across the lower hills with gorgeous views of the mountain.


At the next trail post-go straight to stay on Clayton Oaks as it winds around the woodland to the upper meadow.

At the Bruce Lee Spring Tr junction: turn right onto Bruce Lee Spring Tr > Heatherington Tr. The single track trail travels through chaparral brush for a short 0.3 mile before coming to a T junction.

At Donner Trail junction: turn left onto Donner Tr > Wassermann Tr. Donner Tr winds up around the wooded grassland to the next trail split.

At Wasssermann Tr junction: go left onto Wassermann Tr > Cardinet Oaks Rd. Wassermann continues uphill through the woodland on a single track trail.

Wassermann cuts across a beautiful field of wildflowers!

The single track continues back through the woodland on rocky terrain up to the next trail post.

Stay on Wassermann as it leads you through dense brush to the next trail split.

Follow the sign post to stay on Wassermann, it continues uphill to Cardinet Oaks Rd with fabulous valley views!

At Cardinet Oaks Rd junction: turn right onto Cardinet Oaks, the broad fire road travels for a very short distant towards the Falls Trail.

Enjoy the wonderful display of wildflowers along the way!

At Falls Trails junction: turn left onto Falls Tr. The single track trail heads southward into Wild Oat Canyon with superb views of the chaparral covered mountain.

Views of the waterfalls!

Stop at the small grassy knoll and enjoy the gorgeous views!


Falls Trail continues through the canyon with views of some geological features of uplifted rocks of around Mt Diablo.

Follow the sign post to stay on Falls Trail, it continues into the canyon with fabulous views of the fast flowing creek.

Mini waterfall-watch your footing at the creek crossing!

Gorgeous cascades!

Falls Tr continues through the dense brush on a single track.


The trail leads you further into the canyon to the next creek crossing.

Falls Tr gently climbs out of the canyon area with open views of the valley-look behind your shoulder to see the waterfall!

Beautiful Checker Lilies!

The trail winds down to the next creek crossing-use caution!

Falls Tr merges onto Middle Tr as it continues through the dense brush to its end at Meridian Ridge Rd.

More wildflowers!

At Meridian Ridge Rd junction: turn right onto the broad fire road for a short .07 mile to the next junction.

At Donner Canyon Rd junction: turn right onto Donner Canyon Rd > Regency Gate. The wide fire road drops down from the ridge out to the oak grasslands. The steep downhill follows along Donner Creek towards Old Donner Cabin Site.

At Donner Cabin Site junction: turn right and follow the trail along the creek to the Cabin Site. The trail merges back onto Donner Canyon Rd.

Continue north through the lower foothills on Donner Canyon Rd.

Arrive at Regency Gate Trailhead; exit gate and turn left for the steep pitch up to Mountaire Pkwy.

Now is a great time to hit the trails to view the waterfalls around the mountain’s rugged canyons with a challenging hike from Clayton Canyon up to Cardinet Oaks Rd. Follow the single track Falls Trail along the exposed mountain slopes and enjoy the sounds of rushing water and magnificent views of the falls as well as sweeping panoramic views of Clayton Valley! You’ll also love the different varieties of beautiful wildflowers along the way!


6.16 Miles with 1534′ of elevation gain
Max elevation: 1672′
Time: 3 hours with a couple of stops
Hike: Moderate-challenging
Parking: Free street parking at the end of Mountaire Parkway in Clayton.
No facilities & no water. Descend steep trail to the park gate below.
Bring water & food/snacks-No amenities along the trails

Weather: Sunny & warm with temps ranging from the low 60’s to the mid 70’s-NE winds

*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.

Click here for the Falls Hike app for your smart-phone

Directions: Regency Gate > Clayton Oaks Rd > Bruce Lee Spring Tr > Donner Tr > Wasserman Tr > Cardinet Oaks Rd > Falls Tr > Middle Tr > Meridian Ridge Tr > Donner Canyon Rd > Regency Gate

Falls Hike


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