Black Diamond Mines: River View-Carbondale-Ridge-Chaparral-Railroad Bed Trail Hike

Thursday, October 18, 2018

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From the 1860s through the turn of the last century, five coal mining towns thrived in the Black Diamond area: Nortonville, Somersville, Stewartville, West Hartley and Judsonville. As the location of California’s largest coal mining operation, nearly four million tons of coal (“black diamonds”) were removed from the earth. The residents of the mining towns were from all over the world, and their life was characterized by hard work and long hours.*1

The East Bay Regional Park District began acquiring land for Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in the early 1970s. Today, most of the mining district is within the Preserve’s nearly 6,096 acres. The area is an ideal location for hiking, picnicking and nature study.*1

Begin at the Sidney Flat park offices parking lot and make your way behind the Visitors Center to the River View Loop Trailhead. Behold remnants of the past and peruse the wonders of the park in a building original to the coalfield. The Sidney Flat Visitor Center contains displays of photographs and artifacts from the 1800s and early 1900s and is open some weekdays; please call ahead before visiting.*1

River View Loop Trail begins with a moderate climb up to a T junction.

Turn left to stay on River View Loop Trail; it snakes around the hill on gentle terrain before dropping down through the canyon.

The trail levels out on as it travels north along a seasonal creek through scattered oak woodland and chaparral dotted hillsides. River View Loop continues through the canyon area parallel to Somersville Rd with views of the rolling hills.

The trail drops down alongside the main road to the flat valley with open views of an old ranch house and weathered wooden barns.

River View Loop curves to the right towards the steel covered cattle barn.

The trail winds southward up through the hills on a moderate grade towards the high point at the transmission tower.

Enjoy the views!

At the Arata Overlook junction, make a sharp left to stay on River View Loop Trail. River View Loop winds around the oak-studded hills with expansive views of East Contra Costa and the Delta area.

At the next junction, go straight onto River View Trail, it continues along the top of the gentle rolling ridge to Lark Trail junction.

Go straight to stay on River View Trail, it stays along the ridge to Carbondale junction.

Continue straight onto Carbondale, it winds around the lower hillside before trekking up to Saddle Trail junction.

Go straight to stay to stay on Carbondale, it continues on a gentle terrain up to the cattle gate.

The trail drops slightly downhill with views of Mt Diablo to the Stewartville/Ridge junction.

Go straight onto Ridge Trail, it turns westward into the scattered oak woodland with a moderate climb up to the open clearing at the top of the ridge.

Enjoy the glorious views!

The trail continues west through the dense chaparral and manzanitas.

Ridge Trail drops downhill on white sandstone with a view of the beautiful rock outcropping and chaparral-covered slopes.

At the next junction, turn right onto Chaparral Loop Trail, it turns northward through the scattered conifers and chaparral to the Lower Chaparral junction.

Turn right to stay on Chaparral Loop Trail, it continues downhill on the pearly white sandstone to the next junction. Turn right to stay on Chaparral Loop, it continues to drop downhill to the next trail junction.

Go straight to stay on Chaparral Loop to Pittsburg Mine.

Pittsburg Mine area/Hazel Atlas Portal *From the mid-1920s to the mid-1940s, the Hazel-Atlas Mine produced silica sand to make jars, bottles, and other glass items.*1

Stay on the unmarked Pittsburg Mine Trail to Stewartville Trail junction.

Trek through the parking lot area to Railroad Bed Trail, it travels along Markley Canyon which parallels Somersville Rd for the return to Sidney Flat.

This is a moderate hike around the expansive parklands with a rich history of Indians, ranching, coal and sand mining. The Preserve’s 65 miles of trails traverse areas of grassland, foothill woodland, mixed evergreen forest, chaparral, stream vegetation and exotic plantings. Notable among the latter are several tree species introduced by the coal miners. These include the black locust, pepper tree, almond, eucalyptus and tree of heaven.*1


6.2 Miles with 1282′ of elevation gain
Max elevation: 1265′
Time: 3 hours with one stop
Hike: Moderate
Parking: Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve Park Office/Visitor Center parking lot at the end of Somerville Rd in Antioch.
Parking fee: seasonal, weekends & some holidays. $5 (when the kiosk is staffed) $2 Dog
Water & pit toilets available
Bring water & food/snacks

Weather: Sunny and warm. Temps ranged from high 60’s to the low 80’s with WNW > NNE winds

Directions: Sidney Flat > River View Loop Tr > L-stay on River View Loop Tr > L-stay on River View Loop Tr > S-River View Tr > S-Carbondale Tr > S-ridge Tr > R-Chaparral Loop Tr > R-stay on Chaparral Loop Tr > R-stay on Chaparral Loop Tr > S-Pittsburg Mine Tr > R-Stewartville Tr > R_Railroad Bed Tr > Sidney Flat

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