Mt Diablo: Rhine Canyon Mini Falls Cross-Country Trail Hike

Thursday, March 16, 2017

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At the eastern fringe of the San Francisco Bay Region, Mount Diablo, elevation 3,849 feet, stands alone on the edge of California’s great Central Valley. At this point, the Coast Range consists only of low hills, none high enough to block the view from the upper slopes of the mountain. As a result, the view is spectacular. *1

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. (Mt Diablo trail map)

This hike explores the steep, rugged and beautiful remote Rhine Canyon located in the northeast area of the park. The extreme and strenuous off-trail cross-country route follows an unnamed creek that flows southeast towards the east end of Rhine Canyon Rd. The return includes a stop at the Green Ranch Site followed by another off-trail cross-country trek back up the mountain from Green Ranch Rd to Summit Trail.

Begin this hike from Devils Elbow at 3480 feet.

Head east on North Peak Trail for about 2/10ths of a mile.

Take a right and descend through the open grassland towards Rhine Canyon.

You can hear the sound of water as you approach the creek area at the top of the canyon.


The steep off-trail terrain leads you down through the rugged canyon with beautiful sounds and views of the flowing creek.

Enjoy the display of waterfalls!

Watch your footing, the steep terrain cuts through the rocky crevices and cliff sides.

The creek comes to another section of mini-falls!

Continue trekking down the mountain between the formidable rocky cliffs.

Enjoy the phenomenal panoramic views!

Continue down through the rocky canyon.

Enjoy the surrounding Rhine Canyon views!

Continue cross-country along the creek.

The narrow gap opens up to another display of waterfalls!

Continue along the rocky creek bed.


The next gap opens up to another gorgeous section of waterfalls!

Huge boulders line the sides of the lower creek as you drop down onto Rhine Canyon Rd.

Turn right onto the broad fire road, it turns SW across the canyon to the Green Ranch Rd junction.

Enjoy the expansive easterly views of Morgan Territory and Round Valley!


At the junction, turn right onto Green Ranch Rd. The climb winds up westerly through the oak woodlands with views of the summit.

Enjoy the panoramic views!

Arrive at Green Ranch Site.

Continue on Green Ranch Rd to Mt Diablo Meridian. In 1851, the mountaintop was selected as the starting point for a survey of the public domain. Ignoring the excitement of the Gold Rush, Leander Ransom and his men erected a flagpole at the summit of Mount Diablo and began to extend the base and meridian lines that we use to this day in our official land surveys. As a matter of fact, Mount Diablo base and meridian lines are referred to in legal descriptions of real estate throughout two-thirds of California and parts of Nevada and Oregon. *1

The trail continues to winds up the mountain to the Oak Knoll Trail junction.

Go right to stay on Green Ranch Rd, the moderate climb continues upwards towards Summit Rd.

Enjoy the glorious views!

About 3/10ths of the way up, turn right and cut across the grassland for the off-trail cross-country trek back up Diablo. Make your way up through the steep canyon area.

Continue up the mountain slope along the creek and follow the pipeline.

The steep climb takes you up through the grassland to Summit Trail.

Enjoy the spectacular views!

Head NE on Summit Trail, it takes you back to Devils Elbow.

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. *2

Although this is a short hike, the difficulty level is very high. Be adventurous and only do so at your own comfort level and take responsibility for your own safety while going off-trail. Beware of poison oak, it’s everywhere!

That being said, this is a gorgeous hike through a quiet remote less traveled area of Mt Diablo! The views are absolutely stunning!



3.9 miles with 1472′ of elevation gain
Max elevation: 3480′
Time 4 hrs with multiple stops
Hike: Strenuous-extreme
Parking: $10 fee-Devils Elbow off Summit Rd at Mt Diablo State Park.
No Dogs Allowed

Weather: Partly sunny and warm with temps ranging from the high 50’s to the high 60’s with mild SW 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.

Directions: Devils Elbow > R-North Peak Trail > R-cross country descent through Rhine Canyon along rocky creek > R-Rhine Canyon Rd > R-Green Ranch Rd > Green Ranch Site > R- before reaching Utility Rd, ascend canyon area to Summit Tr > R-Summit Tr > Devils Elbow

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