Diablo's Back Way

Hiking Mitchell Canyon Back Creek Loop at Mount Diablo State Park

A hike with sweeping East Bay vistas, rushing creeks, and colorful wildflowers—Mount Diablo’s got your back! As in Mitchell Canyon Back Creek Loop, a 7-mile (round-trip) hike with a bunch of spring’s best (and brightest!) features. You’ll have to work a bit—the hike ascends 1,700 feet—but the rewards are rich as you journey among vibrant grasses, coast live oaks, and cone-packed Coulter pines. Start with a moderate 3.5-mile ascent up Mitchell Canyon Fire Road.

You'll hear the throaty cry of acorn woodpeckers while catching a rainbow of springtime wildflowers, like the shooting star, Mount Diablo fairy lantern, and Ithuriel's spear. As the trail levels high above where you began at Deer Flat, a pair of picnic tables are a welcome respite from the climb.

Split up toward Murchio Gap and continue on a steep stretch leading to the peak, where you can stop to enjoy expansive ridgetop views of the verdant Mitchell Canyon and of the spinning windmills at Altamont Pass Wind Farm just beyond. Then begin your descent down the Back Creek Trail, a singletrack route through a manzanita grove that crosses a creek now and again. A final pass through a meadow brings impressive views of the quarry near where you began. You may ramble past some wild turkeys as you find your way back to the trailhead. Everyone wants to gobble up the good scenery!

Parking costs $6 and is located at the Mitchell Canyon Staging Area (96 Mitchell Canyon Rd., Clayton). Begin the hike along dirt Mitchell Canyon Fire Rd., ascending for roughly 3.6 miles to Deer Flat. From there, continue .75-mile up Meridian Ridge Rd. to Murchio Gap. At Murchio Gap, take the singletrack Back Creek Trail down, eventually continuing onto Bruce Lee Rd. as the descent levels. Finally, branch left continuing along the Coulter Pine Trail and Murchio Rd. back toward the trailhead. We recommend getting a trail map in advance—available online, at Mitchell Canyon Visitor Center (open weekends), or at a nearby outdoors stores. Or snap a picture of the map posted at the trailhead. No dogs.

Trending Stories NorCal

View all Stories
  1. Three Beaches to the Wind

    This beautiful 7-mile (round-trip) coastal hike in the Marin Headlands connects three beaches: Muir Beach, Pirates Cove, and Tennessee Cove.

    View
  2. Muir Woods Through the Backdoor

    A backdoor entrance into Muir Woods? Hike a tranquil trail that starts in Mount Tamalpais State Park and quietly leads into Muir Woods, letting you avoid the busyness of the main parking area.

    View
  3. Cross It Off Your Bucket List

    Crosstown Trail San Francisco may be one of the most beautiful city walks in America, passing through less-visited nooks and crannies while also taking in greatest hits, including mosaic stairways.

    View
  4. Yosemite Magic Trick

    Yosemite’s High Country is magical and without crowds. At a lofty 8,700 feet, Tuolumne Meadows is one of the best trailheads for hiking or backpacking a land of smooth granite domes, high alpine meadows, jagged peaks, and sapphire lakes. Here's a 3-night backpacking itinerary...

    View

Trending Stories SoCal

View all Stories
  1. Sponsored

    Sea Change

    Right in time for the balmy fall days, the crowds have left and Monterey Bay Aquarium is at its shoulder season best. Fewer people means relaxing with more room to roam and enjoy the animals, exhibits, and nearby outdoors for biking, hiking, and beaches.

    View
  2. High Sierra Lake Hop

    Situated just north of Yosemite is a High Sierra wonderland that gets a fraction of the crowds and is a fantastic destination for backpacking. The Emigrant Wilderness is 113,000 acres of granite ridges, wildflower-strewn meadows, and cobalt lakes.

    View
  3. Thanks, Annie!

    Annie’s Canyon Trail in the 1,000-acre San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve in Solana Beach includes the most unique quarter-mile you’ve ever maneuvered—through a sandstone slot canyon!

    View
  4. Glam Paddling in Long Beach

    Sea kayaking doesn’t get any more glamorous than paddling the storybook canals around Long Beach’s Naples Island! You thread your way through calm waterways surrounded by luxury ho

    View