Hiking Mt Diablo

Mount Diablo is one of the most prominent and visually stunning features of the Bay Area landscape. At 3,849 ft it is the San Francisco Bay Area’s tallest mountain and an ecological treasure. There is an extensive trail network with hikes for every level from toddlers just beginning to get their hiking legs to seasoned veterans who think nothing of a 15 mile jaunt up and down the mountain.  There are also several areas with elaborate rock formations that kids love to climb around on. Castle Rock, the most popular location of geologic interest was shut down from January to July this year to protect nesting Peregrine Falcons, so that is off limits for half the year. The good news being that the efforts to reintroduce Peregrine Falcons have been successful and supported by the Parks along with other groups. You can read all about it here: http://www.ebparks.org/about/news/Castle_Rocks_Falcons

So while you let the Falcons do their thing consider heading over to Rock City instead which is a hop, skip, and a jump away and has a plethora of stone faces for kids and adults alike to scramble around on.

Each season on Diablo is unique and holds its own treasures awaiting discovery. Every spring, especially when there is some winter rain, the wildflowers put on a stunning show. The temperatures are moderate and there is often water still flowing in many of the creeks. While the summer weather can get extreme (read: carry lots of water), there are still plenty of routes that can be done with a reasonable dose of shade to keep cool under. Starting out of Mitchell Canyon trailhead allows access to some lower points on the mountain with shady sections and usually has water available at the parking lot. However, due to the extreme drought the water has been turned off at the parking lot and up at Juniper campground at various points throughout the summer. We highly recommend bringing enough water from home or calling the park to check the status before heading out. The heat typically can last until mid to late October with temperatures often in the 80’s-90’s mid-day. In later months the mornings start to bring that briskness associated with the onset of Autumn, and the coolness returns quicker at sundown as well. Starting around September, the real Bay Area autumn phenomenon begins to make itself visible. The East Coast may have the brilliant fall colors but the Bay Area has Tarantulas! There are few places better than Mt Diablo to view these impressive arachnids during the fall months of September and October. The MDIA (Mt Diablo Interpretive Association) offers Tarantula hikes to bring visitors out to see them in action. Check the events calendar here for dates (reservations required): http://www.mdia.org/site/mdia-event-calendar

IMG_4059Winter on Mt Diablo is a completely different landscape than the summer version. Traditionally, you used to be able to expect a good snowfall on Mt Diablo once or twice a year, most years. That was back when winter weather was actually, well…winter weather. When there is some precipitation, the terrain seems to visibly soften and the once dry, dusty, rugged, rock strewn trails transform to slick, easy to fall, deathtraps…just kidding. Assuming the rain does actually return this winter, many trails do indeed seem much more benign with a little moisture added. Hiking up the Back Creek trail in winter is a must do, as is the Bald Ridge Trail, where one gets the feeling of entering a scene from ‘Lord of the Rings’. Yet, neither of these trails compares to the Falls trail after a nice rain. To capture the essence of winter on Diablo, hit the Falls trail after a good storm for some spectacular waterfall viewing. There are various hiking routes to access the waterfalls so we recommend picking up a copy of the Mt Diablo Hikes guide just released by the good folks at Mt Diablo Interpretive Association. You can read about it and get your copy here: http://www.mdia.org/. Most of the routes to the Falls involve a fairly lengthy hike, with a good deal of elevation, so be sure you are prepared for a strenuous outing. However, as with many trails on the mountain, the views are well worth the effort.


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