Mount Diablo State Park: Donner Canyon and the Falls Trail

hikers on a trail overlooking a canyon with trees
Donner Canyon. Photo by Scott Hein

Want to spend your afternoon on a beautiful trail with amazing views?

Check out Donner Canyon, the Falls Trail, and the Donner Creek loop at Mount Diablo State Park!

Distance: 5.1 miles

Elevation change: 1,164 feet

Difficulty: Moderate

Hiking time: Three hours

Trail surface: Dirt

Best season: Winter and spring

Managing agency: California State Parks

Trailhead location: Regency Drive Trailhead (at the end of Regency Drive)

Parking: Mitchell Canyon Visitor Center or in designated areas along Regency Drive (there is a $6 parking fee at Mitchell Canyon)

panoramic image of a creek surrounded by lush grass and oak trees

Donner Creek. Photo by Stephen Joseph

Description:

This moderate trail will lead you through scenic Donner Canyon and along the Falls Trail. In winter and early spring, it provides views of numerous waterfalls cascading over multicolored rock formations.

The Donner Creek loop is a popular route for its beautiful views and abundant wildlife. It happens to be a well-known area for birding, so grab your binoculars and keep an eye out on your journey.

Expect to see other hikers and plan to stop several times to admire the natural beauty of Donner Canyon.

Waterfall on the Falls Trail

Waterfall on the Falls Trail. Photo: Scott Hein

This location is at its most beautiful during the rainier months of winter and spring; enjoy this trail while the creeks are flowing, and wildflowers adorn the mountainside.

For the best views, it is highly recommended to hike this trail when there was recent rainfall—though keep in mind that the road does get slippery and that some parts of the trail have steep inclines.

Hikers follow Donner Creek and cross streambeds several times.

Oaks along the Falls Trail

Oaks along the Falls Trail. Photo: Scott Hein

We recommend parking at Mitchell Canyon Visitor Center or in designated areas along Regency Drive and walking to the trailhead. Please be advised that parking along certain sections Regency Drive will result in a parking ticket.

To complete this trail, follow Donner Canyon Road until reaching Hetherington Loop, hike until reaching Cardinet Oaks Road and then go to the junction.

Then go to the Falls Trail on the right—the Falls Trail leads to Donner Creek and the Middle Trail, which loops back to Donner Trail. The Donner Trail will then lead you back out to the trailhead.

fog in Donner Canyon

Farther up Donner Canyon. Photo: Scott Hein

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