Mt Diablo: Three Springs-Mt Diablo Mine-Sattler Trail Hike

Wednesday, October 5, 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. *1

This hike explores the less-traveled trails around the far northeast edge of the parklands from Marsh Creek Rd up to the Three Springs and Mt Diablo Mine areas.

Begin this hike from the wide pull-out on right side of Marsh Creek Road about 1.3 miles beyond Regency Drive in Clayton. There is an emergency call box with a big blue sign-CC M 16. Enter through the unmarked park gate onto the unsigned Sharkey Rd.

At Marsh Trail/Sharkey Rd junction; go left onto Marsh Trail. The broad fire road runs parallel to Marsh Creek Rd as it goes upward on a moderate grade through the oak woodland. This trail was named for Dr. John Marsh (1799-1856), he owned a nearby ranch called “Los Meganos” (Spanish for “sand dunes”). He was the first American settler in Contra Costa County. John descended from an old New England family and was a graduate of Harvard College. In 1837, he obtained a grant from the Mexican government that contained 13,316-acres at the foot of Mount Diablo, now the geographic center of Contra Costa County. John married Abbie Tuch Marsh in 1851 and subsequently built the “Stone House” about four miles West of Brentwood. In 2002, the State of California acquired the 4,000-acre Cowell Ranch adjacent to the Stone House to create one of the newest Parks in the State. John was brutally murdered and robbed on September 24, 1856, while driving his buggy on the road from one of his ranches in Martinez.*3

The trail drops down from its high point to Three Springs Rd junction.

Make a sharp right onto Three Springs Rd, the single track trail turns westward as it climbs up and over the hill.

The trail drops down onto a paved road as it continues through the open grassland past the Olympia Trail junction to Wise Rd.

Go straight onto the paved Wise Rd, it goes uphill through the lower woodland area to the next junction. This trail was named for Dr. Warren R. Wise (1909-1989). He and his family owned a house and 83-acres along this road. Warren was a medical doctor who worked for Johns Manville International in Pittsburg, California. Robert Nunn purchased his property, also known as “Three Springs”, from the Wise heirs. Robert kept the house on 5-acres, and sold the remaining 78-acres to Save Mount Diablo in 1992. This property was then deeded to the State of California to be included in Mount Diablo State Park. *3

At the Quicksilver Trail to Sattler Trail junction, turn left onto Quicksilver. The trail drops downhill onto a semi-paved road, cross the road to stay on Quicksilver.

The faint trail winds through the canyon followed by a gentle climb up towards the Ridgeline Trail junction.

Turn right onto Ridgeline Trail, the trail snakes its way uphill through the chaparral-covered slopes.

The moderate climb leads up to the green water tank.

Continue through the thick brush and make your way up to the End of Trail post.

Explore the area and you will find a watershed, the active Three Springs are used by private property owners nearby. *Ascending the lush northern slope of North Peak, this dramatic and rugged area is shielded from the sun. Thanks to its namesake springs, it is heavily wooded, with copious plants, wildflowers, and animals. *2

Retrace your steps back down on Ridgeline to Quicksilver.

At the trail junction, turn right onto the unmarked Quicksilver Trail. It continues across the grassland and through the shaded woodland onto the unmarked Sattler Trail.

Go right at the trail junction to stay on Sattler Trail, it continues through the dense woods to the next trail junction.

Make a sharp right turn onto Blaisdell Trail, the faint single track trail cuts through the thicket to the park boundary at the barbed-wired fence line. The trail is named for Harry Lee Blaisdell (1890-1964), superintendent of the Central Coast Division of the State Parks, and first “warden” of Mount Diablo State Park in the 1920s. Harry was a native of Massachusetts.*3

Cross the fence onto the unmarked fire road, it leads uphill onto a paved private road.

Cross the road and continue along the road through the scattered ranch homes and private properties.

The road travels eastward past the old wooden mining buildings and other remnant structures around Mt Diablo Mine.

The road drops downhill past the old mining area and scattered ranches at the west side of Morgan Territory Rd.

At the end of the paved driveway, turn right onto Oak Hills Trail.

Oak Hill Trail runs parallel to Morgan Territory Rd with grand views of Mt Diablo!

Turn right to cross Dunn Creek and stay on Oak Hill to Diablo Mines Trail junction.

Continue straight onto Diablo Mines Trail, the gradual climb under the tall oaks leads to the next trail junction.

Turn left and continue uphill on the Utility Access Rd.

The road levels out with views of the grasslands to the south. Turn left onto the unmarked Diablo Mines Trail, the single track leads you down into the open meadows.

At the T-junction, turn left onto Meadow Trail. The broad road travels north across the meadows back towards Diablo Mines Trail.

Return along Oak Hills Trail towards the trailhead off Morgan Territory Rd.

Cross the driveway and go straight onto Olympia Trail. Olympia goes past Blaisdell Trail junction as it heads NW through the dense woodland before exiting out across the grassland to the next trail junction.

Turn left onto Sattler Trail, the single track trail climbs uphill as it heads westward through the oak woodland. Sattler Trail lies at the foot of North Peak in Clayton, this area hides a sycamore-canopied stream and an old springhouse. What to look for: Mountain lions. Most active at dawn, dusk, and night, this elusive cat leads a solitary life hunting deer. Look also for an unusual shrub, the Osage orange, which was introduced by homesteaders and still grows along the streams here. Come fall, it sports a large, green, brain-shaped fruit that was once used by settlers to repel insects.*2

This trail is named for William Henry Sattler (1909-1997) and his wife, Genevieve Sattler (1915-1999). For two decades, “Bill” and “Gen” were the quiet strength of Save Mount Diablo (SMD), the land trust they helped start in 1971. Bill was the Treasurer of SMD for almost two decades, and Gen was the Secretary. They both played a sentinel role in protecting the rugged open spaces of Mount Diablo from housing tracts. In l971, just 7,500- acres were protected as part of Mount Diablo State Park. Now, the Park¹s acreage is over 20,000-acres. Bill and Gen were married in 1950, and raised four children: Joyce, Carol, Edward and Albert. Bill was a partner in Sattler’s Appliance Stores (Concord) for 32 years. The business closed in 1990. *3

Stay on Sattler Trail, it continues upwards on its way through the scattered oaks and across the grassy slopes.

Sattler Trail cuts across Crested Jay Rd as it continues westward to the Blaisdell Trail junction.

Go straight to stay on Sattler Trail, it drops down into the woods to Quicksilver Trail junction.

Turn right to stay on Sattler Trail, it continues through the beautiful dense forest to the next trail post. Stay on Sattler Trail, it exits the woodland out to the open grassland before coming to an end at the paved Wise Rd.

Make a right on Wise Rd followed by an immediate left onto Sharkey Rd. The broad fire road travels across the grassland for the return to the trail gate off Marsh Creek Rd. Sharkey Rd is named for California State Senator William R. Sharkey (1879-1948). It was through his efforts that Mount Diablo was made a State Park and Game Refuge in 1921. Senator Sharkey was the author and sponsor of a bill in the California legislature that made it so. Besides being a legislator, Senator Sharkey was well known as a newspaper publisher and conservationist.*3

Strap up your boots for this scenic hike along the quiet less-traveled and less-maintained trails around the far eastern fringe of Mt Diablo State Park. The slight detour off Blaisdell Trail led us through the old mining structures around the Mt Diablo Mine area on private property. Do so at your own risk. (to stay within the park boundary, continue on Blaisdell by heading east along the fenceline towards Crested Jay Rd-it’s easy to miss as there are no signage or trail posts to follow)




8.04 Miles with 1920′ of elevation gain
Max elevation: 1478′
Time: 4 hours
Hike: Moderate-challenging
Parking: There is a wide pullout area for parking about two miles beyond Regency Drive in Clayton. Look for the yellow emergency call box with the big blue sign-CC M 16
No facilities & no water.
Bring water & food/snacks-No water along the trails

Weather: Sunny & warm. Temps ranging from the mid 60’s to the low 70’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.

Direction: Marsh Creek Rd Trailhead > S-Sharkey Rd > R-Marsh Tr > R-Three Springs Rd > S-Wise Rd > L-Quicksilver Tr > R-Ridgeline Tr > U-Ridgeline Tr > R-Quicksilver Tr > R-Sattler Tr > R-Blaisdell Tr > X-fenceline > private property > follow fire road through Mt Diabo Mine area > R-Oak Hills Tr > R-X Dunn Creek > S-Diablo Mines Tr > L-Utility Access Rd > L-unmarked Diablo Mines Tr > L Meadow Tr > R-Diablo Mines Tr > L-Oak Hills Tr > S-Olympia Tr > L-Sattler Tr > X-Crested Jay Rd > S-stay on Sattler Tr > R-stay on Sattler Tr > X-Wise Rd > S-Sharkey Rd > Marsh Creek Rd Trailhead



  1. There is some confusion here. Wise Road was named after the Wise family, correct. But there was no Dr. Warren R. Wise. The house and property were owned by doctors David Clarence Wise (1894-1977) and Edith Patterson Wise (1895-1987). They left the property to their children. One of whom was named Warren, and he handled the legal and business end until it was sold (this is probably where the confusion is, a conflation of Dr. Wise and his son Warren). Minor correction also, Dr. David Wise was not an employee but contracted to different companies and did private practice, as did his wife for many years.

    But the most important thing to note is that the land was not given freely, but was sold under duress after many years of lies, subversive behavior by the state and local activists, and constant legal challenges. Robert Nunn made a sweetheart deal offering to buy the property with no legal challenges (because the state was in on it) then “donated” all that property except the land around the house which he got to keep.

    The Wise family were dutiful caretakers and lovers of the wilderness. They were not developing the land and were adamant about preserving it. But because the state wanted it for a park, along with local activists, constant false accusations of misuse or mismanagement, along with attempts for eminent domain plagued my family in the final years. The property was always open to the public. It was not even occupied in the final decades except for occasional weekend visits. It became too much of a financial burden to continue fighting for it, it so the state and activists won in the most petty way. The property is now more off limits, developed and manned than it ever would have been before.

    But they didn’t rename the road and we appreciate that.


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