An exquisite Bay Area highlight and ecological wonder, Mount Diablo definitely does not disappoint. Although of modest height with a summit of 3,849 feet, Mount Diablo offers a spectacular perspective of one of the longest views of the earth’s surface, and embraces 80,000 square miles that includes 60 percent of California.
The mountain’s breadth is widely claimed as only second in the world to Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro. Mount Diablo’s position in a valley surrounded by terrain much lower in altitude gives the mountain its unique advantage. On a clear day, the mountaintop view displays the Pacific Ocean, Mount Lassen in the Cascade Range and the Sierra Nevada. People have even claimed to see Yosemite’s Half Dome, though that claim has not be substantiated. Also visible from west to east are eight bridges, which is truly an amazing feat: San Mateo, Bay, Golden Gate, San Rafael, Carquinez, Benicia and Rio Vista. The Mount Diablo Interpretive Association, a non-profit volunteer organization supporting the California Department of Parks and Recreation, offers a visual tour online of Mount Diablo.
A Range of Outdoor Activities
Mount Diablo State Park offers enough outdoor activities and gorgeous natural beauty to satisfy everyone at every skill level. Each season has its treasured qualities and outdoor activities are plentiful all year. The park boasts 19,000 acres of oak woodland, chaparral and grassland, and numerous fine hiking and walking trails for all levels.
For a great way to tour the park, follow what the trail park rangers call “The Grand Loop.” This is a seven-mile journey that connects several trails and ﬁre roads, making it an excellent introduction to the park, as the “Loop” offers views of, and from, Mount Diablo in every direction. If you want an easy hike, start your walk just below the summit. For a strenuous, aerobic workout, begin your hike at the base of the mountain and make your way up to the summit where you will be rewarded with an amazing far-reaching panorama. Check out Audible Mount Diablo to learn more about the hikes, plants and wildlife within the park.
Love camping? Mount Diablo State Park has three designated family camping areas and five group camps for visitors to enjoy. On the first of each month, camping startup dates become available to campers, up to seven months in advance. Because of a high fire danger during the hot and dry season, the park advises calling the Mount Diablo State Park Information Line at (925) 837-0904 to check on conditions and closures. Always call ahead if you have an extended park stay planned. The Mount Diablo Interpretive Association also offers information on making a reservation in advance to secure a great spot.
There are numerous mountain bike trails for all levels, from recreational cyclers to those looking for more challenging rides, although Mount Diablo’s bike trails are best suited to strong, intermediate cyclists. The best seasons for mountain bike trails are from late fall through mid-spring, as it is usually hot in summer. Heavy rain can make for muddy trails too. BikeMapDude Productions offers several maps online for free.
If you enjoy horseback riding, then Mount Diablo welcomes you as well. There are two large areas for equestrian use in the park: the Mitchell Canyon staging area located on the north side of the mountain near Clayton and the Macedo Ranch area in Alamo on the west side of the park. Although there are water troughs throughout the park, be warned that they may be empty, so carry enough water for both you and your animal. The Mount Diablo Interpretive Association details which trails are currently open for horseback riding.
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Melanie Graysmith is a writer, artist and educator based in San Francisco. She writes on adult education, art and lifestyle topics, and enjoys writing short stories and poetry. She is also a member of an independent filmmaking group. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.