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Traversing Trails: A Guide to Mount Diablo State Park

Traversing Trails: A Guide to Mount Diablo State Park

By Rachael Medina
Staff Writer March 18, 2020

As communities across the world and in California mitigate health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are shifting our content strategy and will not encourage any travel or social activities during this time. We will, however, continue to shine a light on and celebrate the many beautiful aspects of our State with the intention of being a source of inspiration and joy during this difficult period. We will also be providing tips and resources specifically related to the COVID-19 pandemic safety measures in the coming weeks. Click here to learn more about Contra Costa County’s regulations regarding outdoor activities during this time. Thank you for reading, and stay safe!

When it comes to East Bay hikes, it doesn’t get much better than the diverse trails of Mount Diablo State Park. Featuring brilliant wildflowers and waterfalls in the springtime as well as intriguing rock formations, wooded groves, and panoramic vistas year-round, Mount Diablo is a must–see destination in beautiful Contra Costa County

Mount Diablo is one of California’s most underrated state parks—offering everything from camping and hiking, to biking and horseback riding, to picnicking and geocaching—so regardless of the type of outdoor recreation you’re after, you’ll find it here. With over 75 trails and 20,000 acres to explore, the park provides endless adventures for every nature enthusiast.

Mount Diablo State Park: Fast Facts

The 20,000-acre Mount Diablo State Park is home to sprawling foothills, rushing waterfalls, and diverse wildlife.

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Acres: 20,000

Number of trails: 75-plus trails and roads for hiking, biking, and horseback riding

Trail distance: 150-plus miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian roads and trails 

Hours: 8 a.m. to sunset

Getting Here

The popular park is easily accessible from various cities in the East Bay Area, including Alamo and Walnut Creek.

The Mount Diablo Summit is only 11 miles away from Shell Ridge Open Space in Walnut Creek—but don’t let the short distance fool you. You’ll need to drive for about 24 minutes along North Gate Road, then continue onto Summit Road for another 16 minutes before arriving at the Mount Diablo Summit Museum and Trailhead. 

North Gate Road Entrance
Getting here: 1300 North Gate Road, Walnut Creek
Fees: Parking – $10.00 per vehicle
Payments accepted: Cash or check (anytime) and debit or credit card (when the kiosk is staffed)

You can also get to Mount Diablo State Park from the following alternative entrances:

Macedo Ranch Staging Area
Getting here: 3756 Green Valley Road, Alamo (no vehicle access to the Summit)
Fees: Parking – $6.00
Payments accepted: Cash or check

Mitchell Canyon Staging Area
Getting here: 96 Mitchell Canyon Road, Clayton (no vehicle access to the Summit)
Fees: Parking – $6 per vehicle
Payments accepted: Cash or check

South Gate Road Entrance
Getting here: 2675 Mt. Diablo Scenic Boulevard, Blackhawk
Fees: Parking – $10.00 per vehicle
Payment accepted: Cash or check (anytime) and debit or credit card (when kiosk is staffed)

Visitor Tips

Before hitting the scenic trails of Mount Diablo, it's important to take certain precautions and prepare adequately.
  • Check the weather before visiting the park and dress appropriately. It’s always a good idea to bring a sweater, hat, and mineral sunscreen to stay protected.
  • Park in designated lots and remain on official trails to do your part in preserving the natural ecosystem.
  • Leave no trace and avoid collecting or destroying anything in the park.
  • Mount Diablo State Park is huge and contains several species of plants and animals; tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to return. 
  • Bring food and plenty of water—at least 1 pint (16 ounces) per hour.
  • Drive slowly in the park; bicycles, joggers, and horses share the roads with cars, and there are several blind curves between the gates and the summit.
  • Always bring a friend—hiking alone presents many dangers and is never recommended.
  •  Wear closed-toed shoes to help prevent injuries.
  • It’s recommended that all visitors bring a compass, trail map, cellphone, and first aid kit.
  • Leave your pup at home; dogs are allowed only in developed areas of the park and are not permitted on trails or inside park facilities.

Things to See in Mount Diablo State Park

The Mount Diablo State Park Summit Visitor Center is perched atop the highest peak, offering stunning vistas as well as intriguing exhibits.

Some of the most notable attractions in this Bay Area state park are the spectacular panoramic views. Droves of visitors head straight to the summit of Mount Diablo to take in the sights from 3,849 feet; especially breathtaking after winter storms, the vistas showcase California’s unique landscape. On a clear day, visitors can see San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, Loma Prieta in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and Mount Lassen in the Shasta Cascade region—revealing 8,539 square miles of the Golden State.

Mount Diablo is a dominant peak situated along the San Andreas Fault. Most of the mountain’s core is composed of ophiolite, which originates where oceanic plates meet continental plates in the center of the ocean. While it’s hard to imagine now—due to its location between the suburban cities of Walnut Creek, Danville, Clayton, and Alamo—the towering Mount Diablo used to be underwater; most of the mountain consists of oceanic crust, solidified underwater lava, marine fossils, caves, and serpentinite (California’s official state rock). The peak also continually changes and grows, because the Mount Diablo thrust fault lies beneath the natural landmark and is sandwiched between the Greenville and Concord faults. So, there’s always something new to see. 

Thanks to its unique composition and the current plate tectonics theory, Mount Diablo is thought to have started out thousands of miles southwest of its current location—but we’re glad it’s now home to some of the best East Bay hikes. Along with the sweeping views, distinct geological features, diverse wildlife, and numerous plant species, Mount Diablo State Park’s many trails provide endless opportunities for outdoor adventure. Hike the park’s 37 moderate trails, including the Wall Point – Pine Canyon Loop, Falls Trail (one of the best East Bay waterfall hikes), and Donner Creek Loop Trail. 

Before you leave the park, check out these other popular spots and East Bay hiking trails: 

  • Rock City: See the impressive rocks and fossils located about a mile south of the South Gate kiosk.
  • Juniper Campground: Stay the night or stop by for a look at the expansive views.
  • Summit Visitor Center: Stand on the very top of Mount Diablo from within the visitors center and get to know the local landscape a bit better.

If you’ve visited Mount Diablo State Park, share your favorite trails and vista points in the comments below.

Staff Writer
Rachael Medina

Staff Writer Rachael Medina

Rachael Medina is the staff writer and content manager for California.com. She was born and raised just outside the Mojave Desert in Southern California and moved to the redwood forests of Humboldt C…

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