A trip to Mount Diablo is easily one of the best one-tank trips in the area, boasting stunning views of pyramid-like peaks and natural areas. At just 75 miles away, expect to spend about 1.5 hours on the road barring heavy weekend traffic. When spending a day, a weekend or even longer on a nearby play-cation, this adventure offers a variety of off-the-beaten-path options and a list of activities sure to please any outdoor enthusiast.
Head south on I-5, taking the 498 exit for Twin Cities Road and make a right to turn onto County Road E13 crossing the Walnut Grove Bridge and continuing on south on CA-160/River Road to an approximate half-way point for a bite to eat in Rio Vista, one of the oldest cities in the county. There are several unique eateries in the Delta city, two of the best are Foster’s Bighorn and The Point Waterfront Restaurant. With half the trip behind and half ahead, one-tank travelers should head back to CA-160 for 12 miles. Reaching CA-4, turn west for a scenic drive down California Delta Highway 4 with an exit toward the city of Clayton and Mount Diablo State Park. Route highlights include the Sherman Island Waterfowl Management Area, Dow Wetlands Preserve, Browns Island Regional Shoreline, Contra Loma Reservoir Regional Park, Black Diamond Mines and the Oakhurst Golf Course.
Mount Diablo Interpretive Association
P.O. Box 346
Walnut Creek, CA 94597
This non-profit organization offers assistance for Mount Diablo’s 700,000 visitors annually by providing education, fundraising, publications and activities promoting the park. A quick trip to its site makes it easy to plan a trip with events, schedules, point of interests and info on hiking, biking, horseback riding, wildlife and astronomy. Its information also includes notices of partial park closures or advisory announcements, park rules, maps and history.
Mount Diablo State Park
96 Mitchell Canyon Rd.
Clayton, CA 94517
Price: from $6 to $10
Once visitors have arrived, they often beeline for the summit for the breathtaking views, although there is a bevy of activities to entertain visitors along the way. Those at Diablo Valley Overlook may engage in guided hikes, or enjoy three cycling trails. The doors of the summit museum are open Wednesday to Sunday. With that worked up appetite, take advantage of more than 50 picnic sites with tables and barbecues pepper the paths. Large groups may reserve one of the three picnic areas for 25 to 100 people.
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Mount Diablo State Park Camping
Within Mt. Diablo SP
Price: $5 to $165
Mount Diablo is home to 56 campsites that feature flushable toilets, showers and can accommodate some RVs. Group campsites do have running water, however campers will find pit toilets only here. Fees may be paid by credit card. The Juniper and Live Oak camping areas are considered drive-in and developed and cost $30. There are five other areas for groups and categorized as primitive with a price range of $5 to $165.
Where to Eat
143 Main St.
Rio Vista, CA 94571
Offering a glimpse into the world of big game hunting in the ’30s, Forster’s Bighorn is home to a private collection of more than 300 birds and fish from North America and Africa, including an elephant, giraffe and a moose with an antler spread of 76 inches. Originally created by Bill Foster as a place for the public to view exotic animals of the world, Foster retired from big game hunting in the early ’50s to run Bighorns. It is truly a site to behold for any sportsman and for hungry meat-eaters with an eclectic sense of style. The menu offers bison, pork, beef, ribs, chicken, calamari, fish, pasta and a full selection of drinks and cold beer on draft behind an impressive 65-foot bar. For those kicking of the weekend with their trip on Friday, Foster’s offer $4.95 lunch specials from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Point Waterfront Restaurant
120 Marina Dr.
Rio Vista, CA 94571
If big game scenery isn’t your bag, the view at The Point offers a totally different perspective on the historic city of Rio Vista. The Point is situated on the west bank of the Sacramento River, offering panoramic views of the gate of the California Delta. With a culinary experience that include specialties such as the endive salad, seafood sauté, crab and shrimp cakes and apple chicken liver pate, it’s sure to please any foodie. The Pointe also prepares a more home-style menu with fried chicken, barbecue ribs and bottomless bowls of pasta on Thursday nights. The Point also closes out the week with lobster-for-two Sundays and free appetizers on Friday nights from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and live music 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Jody Only is a freelance writer with credits on a variety of Internet and print publications. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.