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.
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