Diamonds of Diablo

Hike to waterfalls at Mount Diablo State Park

With its looming peak and devilish name, it’s hard to imagine Mount Diablo having a softer side. But winter’s rains bring an unexpected boon: four watery cascades spill off the mountain’s northern flank. And getting to them is half the fun. Start the 5-mile (round-trip) hike with a gentle climb up Donner Canyon Road, passing an old cabin site and large oak trees.

Follow the rushing creek before ascending an open slope that offers uninterrupted views of the Irish-green canyons and hills leading to Mount Diablo’s summit. Then take Middle Earth Trail, a narrow path that ducks through manzanitas, until it links up with the Falls Trail, which skirts the side of the mountain. Parts of this path seem better suited to goats, so take your time and watch your step, especially with recent rains. The upward climb rewards with increasingly better perspectives on the falls. Take a break on a grassy knoll and enjoy huge views of the northern valley.

TIP: These falls usually dry up by late spring and are best after a steady rainfall, but be mindful that the trails are likely to be muddy and slippery right now; proper footwear is essential and so is a change of socks!

Park at the trailhead at the end of Regency Dr. in Clayton (map). Hike the Donner Canyon Fire Road south. After about 1 mile, you’ll come to the Meridian Ridge and Cardinet Oaks Fire Road junction; turn right onto Meridian Ridge. After a few hundred feet, turn left onto the Middle Trail, which climbs up and connects to the Falls Trail. Continue on the Falls Trail, which ends at Cardinet Oaks. Turn left and take this back to the Donner Canyon Fire Road. Donner Canyon Road can be muddy after rains; wear appropriate shoes. No dogs.

Trending Stories NorCal

View all Stories
  1. Sugarloaf Ridge State Park waterfall hike in Sonoma Valley

    Sweet as Sugarloaf

    Right in the heart of wine country there’s plenty more than wine flowing right now, with an oft unheralded waterfall that has surged to an exuberant spectacle from all the recent rain.

    View
  2. Muiraculous Beauty

    Ready to make your non-California friends jealous? Have a bonfire at Muir Beach while watching the sunset. This is Northern California living at its most braggadocious.

    View
  3. From Town to Falls

    Mount Tam’s Cascade Falls is a bit under the radar, tucked back off a residential area in Mill Valley. Some people drive up to the tiny parking lot nearest to the falls. Do an easy 3-mile (round-trip) hike right from downtown Mill Valley, weaving through quiet streets and secret trails.

    View
  4. oak manor labyrinth

    Loma Alta's Hidden Labyrinth

    Oak Manor Labyrinth in Marin’s Loma Alta Open Space is a hidden gem with huge views. The 2-mile out-and-back hike to reach it is a bit steep in parts, but the payoff is a 360-degree joy to the wild (with a bit of cityscape).

    View

Trending Stories SoCal

View all Stories
  1. Sponsored

    Best in Snow

    There’s snow better destination for outdoor fun and events. Plumas County is a northern Sierra Nevada dreamland, with vast outdoor spaces, places, and races! Snowshoe Lassen Volcanic National Park, downhill ski at charming Coppervale Resort, and have a blast at the quirky Longboard Races.

    View
  2. Hike from Point Fermin Park to Angels Gate Park

    Park it Here

    Do a 2.5-mile scenic hike from Point Fermin Park to Angels Gate Park in Los Angeles. It’s got big trees, big ocean views, and a food and beer bonus!

    View
  3. Skull On!

    Temescal Canyon not only has epic views, it's got a waterfall right now, one that only shows after big rains. Head out on this 4.6-mile loop.

    View
  4. Two people walking towards Salt Creek Beach in Dana Point Orange County

    Getting Salty

    Long walks on the beach are great, but what about long walks to the beach? This 7.7-mile (round-trip) to the beautiful Salt Creek Beach in Dana Point is one of the best in Orange County.

    View