An Insider's Guide To Mount Diablo State Park

Sunset on Mount Diablo © William Keith/Wikipedia
Picture of Courtney Holcomb
Updated: 9 February 2017
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One of the most popular outdoor areas in the East Bay is Mount Diablo State Park. Featuring a rich history, an iconic mountain and a variety of activities for visitors to take part in, this park is the perfect spot to spend a weekend exploring nature with your loved ones.

This Contra Costa County park is massive, spanning a huge 20,000 acres and is located south of Clayton and northeast of Danville. It features the iconic Mount Diablo, a mountain reaching up to a peak of 3,849 feet, making it visible from most of the Bay Area. The mountain is part of the Diablo Range and features a number of subsidiary peaks, including the North Peak, which reaches 3,557 feet high and is about a mile away from the highest peak.

Mount Diablo from Highway 24

Before European colonization of the area, Mount Diablo played an important role in Native American mythology. In 1851, the peak of the mountain was chosen as a reference point for explorations of the surrounding area, and then in 1874, toll roads running up the mountain were established. Eventually, the mountain was used for aerial navigation and the Standard Diablo Tower was built upon it in 1928, visible for one hundred miles.

Over time, the mountain and the surrounding areas became a recreation area, and beyond the park 38 preserved lands were established, totaling more than 90,000 acres. The park itself evolved to incorporate a variety of facilities and activities for visitors to enjoy. At the summit there is a visitor center, open every day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., offering exhibits that highlight the mountain’s history and geological features, as well as a gift shop and an audio-visual room. There are even ancient marine fossils embedded into the walls of the building, making the mountain a must-see.

Atop the visitor center sits an observation deck with telescopes mounted all around it. From here, visitors can appreciate the glorious views that the summit has to offer. While the peak of the mountain is not remarkably high, it is relatively flat, creating ideal conditions that allow for sweeping views of the surrounding Bay Area. On clear days, visitors can see the Golden Gate Bridge and even the Farallon Islands to the west, Mount Loma Prieta to the south, Mount Saint Helena and even Lassen Peak to the north. Overall, you can see almost 200 miles away from the peak of the mountain.

Aside from the summit, one of the best places to explore in Mount Diablo State Park is Rock City. The area is located off of South Gate Road and features geological wonders like the Wind Caves, Elephant Rock, Sentinel Rock, Artist Point, Fossil Ridge and Native American grinding rocks. Alternatively, visitors can head over to the north side of the mountain to explore the Mitchell Canyon staging area. Mitchell Canyon offers a number of trails of a variety of lengths and difficulties.

Entrance to the park with a vehicle is $10, but inside you can gain access to campsites, RV access, bike trails, hiking trails, horseback riding, picnic areas, guided tours, cultural exhibits, museums, family programs, geocaching and a whole lot of nature. The park gates open at 8 a.m. and closes at sunset, giving you plenty of time to take in all of its beauty.

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