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Hike Program

Hike profile by Kevin ParkerSave Mount Diablo is proud to bring you monthly guided hike opportunities so that you can Discover Diablo. Vew the Hike Calendar or print the PDF.

To take a hike at your own pace we have self-guided hike suggestions below as well as free audible guides you can download. If you love showing people your favorite hikes on and around Mount Diablo perhaps you would like to become a Hike Leader.

Map of Mount Diablo, Los Vaqueros & Surrounding Parks Featuring the Diablo Trail

We're working on updating this map! The 2012 Edition is no longer available. Check back soon for more information.

About the Map


Self-Guided Hikes

Please be aware that the hikes and walks described below take place on often difficult mountain trails. Weather and terrain vary widely. Hikers and walkers should dress in layers (it can be cold on the mountain even when hot in the valley) and wear sturdy walking shoes or boots. Hats and binoculars are a good idea.  Carry a liter of water on short hikes and two liters on longer hikes - you will need it!  Take a snack or lunch & wear sunscreen. Here are some great tips for dealing with snakes from East Bay Regional Park District.

Audible Mount Diablo: Guides to the Outdoors | Video Podcast Series
Modeled after the best museum guides, Audible Mount Diablo combines lively interviews and music with the rush of wind and the chirps, howls, and growls of wildlife--all downloadable to a computer or a mobile MP3 player. Produced by Joan Hamilton in partnership with Save Mount Diablo, Mount Diablo Interpretive Association, and California Parks Foundation. Learn more from the press release or Download them for free.

Introducing Mount Diablo

Mary Bowerman Tour

Grand Loop Tour

Curry Point Loop

Lime Ridge Tour

Round Valley Tour

Perkins Canyon

Los Vaqueros

FEATURED HIKE: Local Lime Ridge Trail offers sweet surprises
Hiker's Haven by Kevin Parker, Clayton Pioneer

Paradise ValleyI am featuring another home-grown favorite for this week’s hike, as you’ll be amazed to find what awaits you in Lime Ridge Open Space.
Trailhead: Start from Montecito Parking Area (located at Ygnacio Valley and Cowell Roads). Trails: Paradise Valley, Lime Ridge and Ridge Trails Time: 1.5 hours
Notes: Pre-hike Disclaimer: Maps are not available at the trailhead (they used to be) and almost all trails have no markers (not sure why), but have no fear, this column will provide you with everything you need. There are no facilities except for a sign with a trail map, warnings and general announcements about Lime Ridge Open Space.

Ohlone Trail starts with a very gradual ascent from the park gate and within a couple hundred feet at your first junction, make a left heading back in the direction of Montecito Neighborhood. The low hum of Ygnacio traffic, BART and the sounds of the all-too-familiar rat race are traded for quiet peace and serenity after a mere five minutes of hiking. Maybe it’s the acoustics from the hills around Lime Ridge, or nature at her best, but I felt like I was miles away from civilization.

Good summer conditions
Ohlone continues for short distance and picks up Paradise Valley Trail, which is a single-track trail cut into a steep hillside that meanders up and into the heart of Lime Ridge. I was greeted by some wild turkeys watching their young as I continued up trail and knew I had this park to myself. The trail conditions this time of year made it easy for navigation as most trails were packed dirt with intermittent sandy spots.
Paradise Valley Trail, from bottom to top, is almost entirely in the shade, so this hike is a great candidate for those hot days where you want minimal sun exposure. The trail itself follows a gradual uphill climb with seven- to-eight switchbacks. The last few hundred feet of trail before the top provide excellent views of Crystal Ranch and surrounding neighborhoods, with Mt. Diablo as a panoramic backdrop. Hiking time from the park gate to the transmission tower atop Lime Ridge took about 35 minutes. A quick break up top on the park bench provided a bit of rest and views in every direction.

Where Paradise Valley Trail ends, Lime Ridge Trail begins as you follow this single-track trail alongside a fence before dropping down into the park below. I love this trail because of the routing and what you can really see during your hike. The same philosophy used on Paradise Valley was obviously applied to Lime Ridge Trail as it gradually descends via numerous switchbacks, making it easy on the legs. Each new section of trail revealed views that had me stopping to pull out my camera more than normal, a good sign of course.
Grassy hillsides, groves of trees, sagebrush, sandy trails, and a light breeze make this trail, something not to be missed. This trail has also been meticulously maintained as the grass and foliage has been recently cut back away from the trail, helping hikers out in two ways, less chance of ticks and poison oak.

Take road less traveled
Lime Ridge Trail eventually bottoms out and junctions into Ohlone Trail much further down Ygnacio Valley Road. Hiking time to descend Lime Ridge Trail was approximately 20 minutes, but I wished it were longer. You can follow Ohlone Trail back to the parking area, which runs parallel for the most part of Ygnacio Valley Road, but I wanted to dive back into the heart of this park, so I choose a better route home.
Hike on Ohlone Trail until your first junction and make a right, you are now on Blue Oak Trail. This fire-road looks to be a less travelled road, but with minimal sweat equity, you will find yourself up top quickly near an old water tower. This junction of trails will let you travel in literally any direction of the park, but I suggest choosing a single-track trail just below the water tower – this is Ridge Trail.

Ridge Trail trades shade for full exposed hiking, but with the day winding down, the sunlight was a welcome friend. Ridge Trail, obviously a popular trail for bicyclists (although I didn’t see any), drops down and up as you rollercoaster your way back towards the parking area. Wide-open fields, well maintained trails and a final descent back down to Ohlone Trail just before the parking area once again make this section of trail not to be forgotten.


Volcanoes in Clayton?!? to Volcanic Domes and Beautiful Perkins Canyon

Trailhead: Room for 2-3 cars, west side Morgan Territory Rd, a half mile south of Marsh Creek Rd, just past the mercury mine tailing pond (across from 2727 MTR) Trails: Ray Morgan Road, Perkins Creek Trail Distance: 2 miles R/T plus side trips Elevation Gain/Loss: 305’ minimum
Time: 1-3 hours Notes: Great evening hike, no facilities, sun sets early below North Peak, creeks flow later, mosquitoes and ticks during the wet season and avoidable poison oak. Map

Unless you’re an equestrian or live in Morgan Territory, chances are you’ve never visited Perkins Canyon, at the northeast corner of Mount Diablo State Park. On maps trails seem short and confusing and it’s not clear where to park.

You’ve been missing out. Trail loops are short but fascinating, there’s great history and geology, really diverse wildlife and spring wildflowers, two historic rock dams, one of the most beautiful creeks in the State Park—and an easily accessible volcanic dome. It’s one of 18 nearby tertiary volcanic extrusions, magma veins which reached the surface (plug domes) or were exposed by erosion (plug necks). Save Mount Diablo has just purchased one a mile to the east but this one is more accessible (see Marsh Creek-V article, pg 1, Fall 2011 DiabloWatch for information about the new property and the area’s fascinating geology).
The Perkins Canyon area, named for Solomon David and Susan Perkins who lived there 1859-69, was added to the State Park in 1976, at the same time as SMD’s first land purchase north of the old mercury mine pond. Other parcels were added in 1982. It includes the old Gabriel-Hinks property (as in the old Hinks department store in Berkeley). Mercury was first mined nearby in 1863.

At the start, you’re literally at the base of North Peak, with views of the strangely steep volcanic dome (more like the top of a mushroom than a cone) directly south, darker green and just below the ridge of the Oak Hill Lane area, left of the collection of power line towers. The landscape is rolling tarweed grassland with beautiful Harvest brodeia and large oaks—you can hear ground squirrels, quail, scrub jays and acorn woodpeckers—transitioning a few hundred feet west into steep, lush vegetation on the slopes rising to North Peak and further south at Perkins Creek and the dome. Highland and Morgan Territory Ridges are visible to the south, and the Dark Canyon part of Marsh Creek to the east—if you look carefully you can pick out more domes, including Marsh Creek-V.

The hike is simple and almost line-of-site: Stay (right) on the Ray Morgan fire road closest to paved MT Rd as it turns past other fire roads—you can even take a narrow path to stay closer to the paved road (Ray Morgan was a local fire chief and descendant of Morgan Territory settler Jeremiah Morgan). You’ll immediately pick your way across Dunn Creek, an often wet area draining from the old mercury mine, then cross Perkins Creek, and eventually begin rising. When you do, the dome is on your right. You’ll pass into gray pine woodland; just before thick chamise chaparral, or scrub, you can leave the trail and climb (right) to the top of the dome if you wish. The sandy soils alert you to the decomposed volcanic dacite, which is high in silica.

Back on the Ray Morgan Road climbing south, below the high tension power lines the single track Perkins Creek Trail (you’ll soon reach the park boundary if you miss it) drops right with views into the upper gorge, the trail lined into summer with white mariposa lilies and the yellow flowers of Brewer’s dwarf flax, down to the creek which has cut a nearly vertical slope on the west side of the dome. As interesting as the dome is, however, the creek is more so with rocks from the dome mixed with more colorful ones from the main peaks. Cascades are shaded by water loving trees—sycamores, big leaf maple, etc. and there are interesting plants in the flood plain like pitcher sage. Upstream the main channel begins climbing steeply, crossing the private Diablo Bowmen archery club parcel to SMD’s Viera-North Peak property where steep canyons contribute more water, then on to Prospectors Gap between Diablo’s main peaks.
If you follow the trail downstream, you’ll pass two historic rock dams, then back to the start. Or you can return on a higher loop closer to North Peak such as the Diablo Mine Trail—red chert soil and vegetation even more thick with ferns, grape vines, clematis, endemic Mount Diablo globe lilies, and poison oak—which passes two dead end roads up to the PG&E towers and more expansive views.

Summit (Grand) Loop TRAIL with FREE Audible Tour

Trailhead: Juniper Campground, Mount Diablo State Park
Route
: Juniper Camp by picking up the Deer Flat Road, the Meridian Ridge Road and the Bald Ridge Trail to reach Prospector’s Gap. It then follows the North Peak Trail around the summit to the Devil’s Elbow where then it follows the Summit Trail to the lower parking lot. From here it returns to Juniper Camp via the Juniper Trail.
Distance: 6.5 miles loop 
Difficulty: strenuous hike circling around the Summit of Diablo. 
Best Time To Go: Spring and Fall, clear days for incredible views
FREE Audible Tour guide: Click here to download free audio tour to your MP3 player

The Summit Loop Hike circumnavigates Diablo’s main peak and traverses many of the mountain’s geological and botanical features.  On a clear day you will have the opportunity to check out the snowy masses of the Sierra Nevada and Mount Lassen as they float along the eastern and northern horizons, while the watery realm of the Delta seems close enough to touch. On all sides you will observe a stunning view of the urbanization that surrounds the mountain.  

The trails pass over the Jurassic and Cretaceous deposits. Tectonic pressures have squeezed the rocks into such tortured shapes it is hard to imagine their origin on the flat Pacific Ocean floor. You will notice impressive red outcrops of radiolarian chert that dominate at Devil’s Pulpit, slick green serpentinite along the Deer Flat trail and greenish dome-shaped pillow basalts along the Juniper Trail.

As you make your way around the summit you will notice the plant communities changing to reflect the myriad of microclimates along the trail. Shrub species are surprisingly diverse, from scattered clumps of California sagebrush, creambrush and poison oak to dense tall tangles of scrub oak, silk tassel and buckbrush. A common shrub in the chaparral on the peak’s north side is the hop tree, a mildly allergenic relative of poison oak. Only a few riparian plants like big leaf maple have been able to grow along the steep creeks, which are virtual waterfalls in the spring, but are dry stony staircases for most of the year. The broadleaf-sclerophyll community occupies shady spots, but wind and shallow soil stunts the laurels and canyon live oaks into a dwarf forest. The deciduous oak-pine community occurs as scattered trees, with drought resistant pines and western juniper, predominating over oaks.

Sparse grasslands on exposed ridges and unstable slopes feature many native wildflowers. Flower displays change from day to day. Baby blue eyes and goldfields are common in April, but a few weeks later bright patches of goldenbush, California Poppy and wiry bird’s eye gilias will carpet sites. In summer, yellow sulfur buckwheat and scarlet hummingbird fuchsia bloom profusely despite infernal temperatures.

There is always the chance of seeing wildlife, from the California Thrasher or rarer creatures like the Alameda Whipsnake.  Coyotes abound and are frequently sighted long after they have noticed you.

The Audio Tour for this hike was produced by Joan Hamilton and funded by the California State Parks Foundation in cooperation with MDIA and Save Mount Diablo.

The Falls Trail 

Trailhead: end of Regency Dr., off Marsh Creek Rd., eastern edge of Clayton. Follow Ygnacio east to Clayton Road, turn right on Clayton; follow it past downtown, where the road rejoins Marsh Creek Road. Turn right on Regency Dr., to the end.
Route
: Donner Canyon Rd. to Cardinet Oaks Rd., to Falls Trail, to Middle Trail and back 
Distance: 4.8 miles round trip 
Change in Elevation: 1200 feet each way 
Difficulty: Some steep areas on Donner Canyon Road, but the Falls Trail is relatively easy. Mitchell Canyon. does not have big falls, but is easier going and streamside. 
Best Time To Go: After a heavy rain; expect mud in lower Donner Canyon. January - April
Map

The calls come every winter-especially after a local newspaper runs a vague article and a bad map: "How do you get to the waterfalls?" (See above) "Are dogs allowed?" (No) "Are they close?" (about 2.5 miles each way) "How hard is it?" (If you have to ask, it's probably too difficult) "Is it muddy or wet?" (Yes, and that's the best time to go). 

Mount Diablo has a forbidding image to many, in part because of its name. While creeks may dry in summer, the reality is that there are always cool canyons, and even on hot days cool breezes cross upper elevations. On the north side of the mountain are three large, wooded canyons. Because they're protected from the sun most of the day, Donner, Back and Mitchell Canyons have among California's best wildflower shows. The waterfalls in the upper reaches of Donner Canyon are icing on the cake. Save Mount Diablo worked with the State to preserve most of the three canyons in the mid 1970s, and helped acquire North Peak's summit in 1980. 

Starting at Regency Drive, (1) you immediately cross Donner Creek just above where it merges with Back Creek in Clayton's Open Space. It looks as though the creeks had carved a gorge between Regency and Mountaire. The streets dead-end immediately across from each other leaving the creeks un-culverted, testimony to creek protection efforts in Clayton. Both creeks were very full and the lower reaches of the canyon somewhat muddy. Mud is a good sign that the waterfalls are booming in the canyon above. 

Follow Donner Creek across the lower foothills with their big valley oaks and non-native eucalyptus and up into the Canyon for the first mile and a half. You'll pass the charred remains of the old Hetherington cabin (2) and soon after leave the creek bank to begin climbing more seriously. Before long, views will open up to the Mt. Zion quarries to the west, to Mitchell Rock a little to their south, and to the urbanized Clayton valley below. Turn around and stop often to see the quickly expanding view. You'll pass the Tick Wood and Hetherington Loop trails (3) before reaching the Cardinet Oaks Rd. 

The wildflower show will really get going in March and April, but in the winter the signs of the 1977 fire that burned across this section of the mountain are more visible, from blackened tree trunks, to the ghostly groves of dead gray manzanitas surrounded by the red-trunked, new growth that issued forth after the fire. 

At the Cardinet Oaks Rd., (4) Back Canyon is to the west. In the distance the Keller Ranch (Oakhurst) development is visible east of Clayton Rd. After climbing, the Cardinet Oaks Rd. heads downhill and crosses Donner Creek (5). Just past the creek, older manzanitas show the lovely red veins of living tissue twining around otherwise dead gray branches. You'll double back up-slope in a short, steep section. The Falls (6) trail cuts off steeply uphill and to the east (right) just above a turn in the road, near the 1400’ contour, but quickly levels out. 

As the trail crests, the water falls become visible, and the view stretches back all the way to Martinez and Benicia. On a good day the water and falls will be clearly visible on three different branches of the creek, crossing the many layers of sedimentary and metamorphic rock visible the length of the trail. The twisted, rocky landscape appears almost volcanic. The first fall sometimes drops more than 25 feet. Even in December, the green fronds of the polypody ferns are visible on the rocks and one of the seasons first blooms, the pink racemes of wild currants, can be spotted. 

Be sensitive. The slopes are steep and erosion prone. Stick to the main trail and avoid the temptation to climb down to the falls. It's dangerous and it's damaging. 

Depending on the season, you'll cross the creeks several times, before joining the Middle Trail (7) and taking the down slope back to the Donner Canyon Rd (4). Throughout the hike you'll enjoy the roar of the creeks.

Variations:

  1. Consider climbing up to the Meridian Ridge Road (8), and then down the Meridian Pt. trail (9) into Back Canyon (10). The Back Creek Trail ends where you parked, after passing through many more wildflowers and thicker chaparral.

  2. Consider starting at the Mitchell Canyon Trailhead (11) and ascend using the Coulter Pine Trail (12) to the Back Creek Trail (13) and enjoy an easier ascent on the Tick Wood Trail (14) to reach the Donner Creek Trail (3). Remember there is a fee to park at Mitchell Canyon.

  3. Consider following the Middle Trail (7) and the Falls Trail (6) in a counter-clockwise direction to avoid the steep ascent on the Cardinet Oaks Road (4).

 

More self-guided hikes are available from the Mount Diablo Interpetive Association.

 

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  Credits | Legal StatementCopyright 2012 Save Mount Diablo. Designed by Alison Martin. Funded by Clif Bar.