Mt Diablo: Ransom Point-Summit Trail Hike

Thursday, August 25, 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. 

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. *1

This hike goes for a counter clockwise loop from the Regency Gate Trailhead in Clayton up to Ransom Point and the Summit. Begin this hike at the end of Mountaire Pkwy-descend the steep trail to the Regency Gate Trailhead. At the first Donner Canyon Rd junction: turn right onto Back Creek Trail and head up the low hill through the oak grasslands. The trail climbs 2.6 steady miles up to Murchio Gap.

At Murchio Rd junction: go straight to stay on Back Creek Trail. The trail winds along Back Creek through the dense foothill woodlands, riparian habitat and creek crossings.

At Tick Wood Trail junction: go straight to stay on Back Creek Trail, it narrows as it continues along the creek.

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 on rocky terrain and dense manzanitas towards Murchio Gap.

Arrive at Murcho Gap at 2330 feet-enjoy the views!

Go right on Meridian Ridge Rd followed by an immediate left onto Bald Ridge Trail. The trail begins with a steep climb through rocky terrain and dense brush.

It reaches a high point at Bald Knob-2645 feet. 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.

Stop and take in the fabulous valley vistas and mountain peaks!

The trail continues along the ridge through the dense chaparral and rocky terrain.

About half way along the trail, look for an open spot through the dense brush and scramble your way up towards Ransom Point through thick vegetation. There are spots where you have to kind of bushwhack your way through and crawl on your hands and knees. Do your best to stay along the ridge.

Continue scrambling out to the open slope and make your way up to the top of the rock outcroppings.

Look around and enjoy the stunning panoramic views!

Continue the upward scramble along the rocky ridge.

The path opens to grand views of the mountain peaks, ridges and canyons!


Climbing up Ransom Point is quite do-able, it’s a easy scramble to the top-3485 feet. RANSOM POINT (F4) Leander Ransom (1800-1874), a U.S. Deputy Surveyor General, selected the summit of Mount Diablo as the base point to survey central California and western Nevada in the summer of 1851. He was born in Connecticut and while still a young man, went to Cleveland, Ohio. A few years later, he became President of the Public Works of Ohio, and moved his family to Columbus. Leander was a man of imposing build weighing 235 pound, standing over six feet tall. He died at the age of 74 as the result of an accident. As a fitting memorial to the pioneer work of Leander Ransom, the Society of Engineers dedicated “Ransom Point” near the Mount Diablo summit in October 1926. A few recent historical references, including previous editions of the “Trail Map of Mount Diablo State Park”, spell Leander¹s last name “Ransome.” However, the more authoritative historical documents of his day spell his last name without the “e.” *2

In July 1851, Col. Leander Ransom, General Land Office Deputy Surveyor, labored to the top of Mt Diablo in oppressive summer heat. Under instructions from the Surveyor General for California, he was to establish an initial point at the summit, through which the new Mt Diablo base and meridian lines would run. Arriving at the top of the mountain, he chiseled a hole in solid rock on the highest point and erected a flagpole to be used as a sight to establish monuments on the base and meridian lines.

Enjoy the phenomenal vistas!


Descend Ransom Point and circumvent the point.

Look around for the somewhat clear path and follow the unmarked trail uphill through the dense brush. There are a few sections where you still need to crawl but overall, the scrambling is much easier along this section.

Enjoy the magnificent views!

The trail exits out to the rocky slopes before cutting back into the brush.

Follow the clear open trail up to the the telescopes at the Mary Bowerman Trail.

Continue the scramble uphill to the parking lot at the Summit-3849 feet!

Descend Summit Rd to the Lower Summit parking lot.

Take the Summit Trail at 3600 feet to Devil’s Elbow. Enjoy the fabulous valley and canyon views!

At Devil’s Elbow-3480 feet: turn left onto North Peak Trail towards Prospectors Gap. The single track traverses along the mountain side with expanded views of its rugged outcrops and rock formations.

Enjoy the splendid panoramic valley views!

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

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

North Peak Trail drops down on a gravelly slope to Prospectors Gap at 2960 feet.

Turn left across Prospectors Gap and continue on Prospectors Gap Rd. Descend the wide fire road with caution-the loose terrain provides unstable footing on the steep downhill for the next 0.8 mile.

The trail drops down to Big Springs at 2073 feet. Continue through the woodland up towards Middle Trail.

When you reach the horse trough, turn right at the junction onto Middle Trail.

The narrow trail winds down the mountain with the occasional glimpse of the valley and mountain peaks towards Meridian Ridge for the next 1.49 miles.

At the Falls Trail junction: go straight to stay on Middle Trail for another half mile, it descends through dense woodlands to Meridian Ridge Rd.

At Meridian Ridge Rd junction: turn right onto Meridian Ridge Rd for a short .07 mile.

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 and continues north through the lower foothills. Arrive at Regency Gate Trailhead; exit gate and turn left for the short steep pitch up to Mountaire Pkwy.

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. Scrambling up to Ransom Point and to the Summit is a great way to immerse yourself around the park’s back country and enjoy the natural beauty of the mountain! Bring food and plenty of water! Stop at the many vista areas along the hike to enjoy the spectacular panoramic views! Oh, bring a pair of gloves for the uphill scramble!

*1 *


10.5 Miles with 3559′ of elevation gain
Max elevation: 3840′
Time: 6.5 hours with multiple stops
Hike: Strenuous with steep grades and an uphill scramble to reach Ransom Point
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-Water & restrooms at the summit & lower parking lot

Weather: Sunny & warm. Temps ranging from the high 60’s to the low 80’s with NW 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 such as REI, Sportsbasement and on-line at MDIA’s Store.

Directions: Regency Gate > R-Back Creek Tr > Murchio Gap > L-Bald Ridge Tr > R-Scramble thru brush & up rocks > Ransom Point > S-Continue scramble up to Mary Bowerman Tr & Mt Diablo summit > Descend Summit Rd to Lower parking lot > L-Summit Tr > L-North Peak Tr > Prospectors Gap > L-Prospectors Gap Rd > R-Middle Tr > L-Middle Tr > R-Meridian Ridge Ridge Rd > L-Donner Canyon Rd > Regency Gate

Ransom Point


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