Mt Diablo: Grand Loop Trail Hike

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

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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. 

This hike is a circumambulation of the summit along some of the park’s most attractive hidden trails. 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, Meridian Ridge and then Deer Flat Roads to Juniper Campground, and back up on the Juniper Trail. 

Begin this hike from the Lower Summit parking lot off Summit Rd.

Descend Summit Trail at 3600 feet to Devil’s Elbow.

Wildflowers!

Grand valley and canyon views!

Wildflowers!

At Devil’s Elbow-3480 feet: turn left onto North Peak Trail to North Peak Rd. *The North Peak Trail has fantastic displays of wildflowers in the spring, including the rarely seen wind poppies. 

Gorgeous display of poppies!

Wildflowers!

The single track traverses along the mountain side with expanded views of its rugged outcrops and rock formations.

Enjoy the splendid panoramic valley views!

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Wonderful poppies!

Wildflowers!

The trail cuts in and out of the scattered woodland area.

Beautiful explosion of wildflowers!

Wildflowers blanket the hillside!

The trail continues up and around the mountain with stunning views of North Peak.

Wildflowers!

Summit Trail drops down on a gravelly slope to Prospectors Gap.

Turn left across Prospectors Gap at 2960 feet.

Turn left at Bald Ridge Trail to Meridian Ridge. *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.

Wildflowers!

The trail cuts through the dense chaparral-covered hills with superb vistas!

Wildflowers!

The trail continues on rocky terrain through the woodland brush.

Wildflowers!

The rolling terrain leads you out along the open ridge.

Enjoy the ridge top panoramas!

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Wildflowers!

The trail continues along the ridge towards Bald Knob at 2645 feet.

Wildflowers!

Enjoy the mountain vistas!

Bald Ridge Trail drops down from the ridge on rocky terrain through dense brush and beautiful manzanitas to Murchio Gap.

Wildflowers!

Wildflowers-Murchio Gap at 2330 feet.

At Murchio Gap, turn left onto Meridian Ridge Rd. This broad fire road travels southward as it rolls down from the gap with glorious views of the mountain peaks and ridges.

Wildflowers!

Cross the seasonal creek and continue uphill to Deer Flat at 2120 feet.

Wind Poppies!

At the trail split, go straight to stay on Meridian Ridge Rd to the picnic area.

Wildflowers!

Wander around the picnic area to Murchio Spring.

Retrace steps on Meridian Ridge Rd to Deer Flat Rd junction. Turn right onto Deer Flat Rd; the fire road cuts through the scattered oak and pine woodland.

Meadow wildflowers!

The trail continues SW as it rises towards Rock Ridge.

Wildflowers!

The trail levels out along the upper meadows with wonderful views of the mountain ridges and peaks.

Wildflowers!

The trail continues uphill through the scattered pines to the beautiful open grassland meadows.

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Deer Flat Rd climbs up to Rock Ridge at Burma Rd junction.

Wildflowers!

Deer Flat Rd stays along the ridge with stunning panoramic views of Diablo Valley!

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Wildflowers!

The trail continues SE towards Juniper.

Go straight at the Juniper Trail junction to Summit Trail, the trail cuts through the Juniper Campground Area to Laurel Nook Picnic Area.

Turn left through Laurel Nook to stay on Juniper Trail; it continues uphill through the gorgeous woodland to Moses Rock Ridge junction.

Go left on Moses Rock Ridge Trail to End of Trail; it’s a scenic .41 stretch along the top of the ridge.

Enjoy the glorious panoramas of Diablo Valley and beyond!

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Wildflowers!

Retrace steps back to Juniper Trail junction; go straight to continue on Juniper. The trail climbs eastward through dense chaparral with glimpses of the valley and the charred brushes from the 2013 wildfire. *The Juniper Trail has its own set of rock gardens featuring tundra like stunted plants.

The trail rolls up along the mountain through dense brush and rocky terrain to the Trail Through Time information panel.

Juniper Trail continues uphill to Summit Rd.

Turn right on Summit Rd followed by an immediate right onto Juniper Trail. The trail continues along the hillside towards the transmission towers.

The trail exits onto the SW end of the Lower Summit parking lot.

Enjoy the grand views!

This “Grand Loop” around Mt Diablo is simply wonderful! The scenery and landscape changes as you circumvent the mountain; from the stunning displays of wildflowers and rocky outcrops to the ever expanding views of the surrounding valleys, canyons, and peaks! It’s a very satisfying hike with many rewards! Watch for all the different varieties of wildflowers and keep an eye out for poison oak-they’re everywhere! 

Stats:
7.33 Miles with 1829′ of elevation gain
Max elevation: 3735′
Time: 4 hours with multiple stops
Hike: Challenging with steep climbs
Parking: Mt Diablo Lower Summit parking lot off Summit Rd
Parking Fee Apply-pay at entrance kiosks.
Currently $10, Senior 62+ is $9
Water & restrooms available
Bring water & food/snacks
NO DOGS ALLOWED

Weather: Partly cloudy and warm. Temps ranging from the low to high 60’s with W winds

*http://www.mdia.org/site/park-information/activities/hiking/ten-demanding-hikes

*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 such as REI and on-line at MDIA’s Store.

View the interactive RGPS route map & profile

Grand Loop Hike

Direction: Lower Summit parking lot > R-Summit Tr > L-North Peak Trail > Prospectors Gap > L-Bald Ridge Tr > Murchio Gap > L-Meridian Ridge Rd > S-Picnic Area > U-Meridian Ridge Rd > R-Deer Flat Rd > S-stay on Deer Flat Rd > L-Juniper Tr @ Laurel Nook > L-stay on Juniper Tr > L-Moses Rock Ridge Tr > U-Moses Rock Ridge Tr > S-Juniper Tr > R-Summit Rd > L-Juniper Tr > Lower Summit parking lot

Grand Loop

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