Mount Diablo is one of 280 California State Parks. Ruth, my brother Jim, and I thoroughly enjoyed our day exploring it. However, we did not see it under ideal conditions. The best time to be on Mount Diablo is just after a winter storm. Some say that only Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro offers similar views of all that is below. Because it and its twin peak Mount Zion form a double pyramid anyone on either peak has unobstructed views of what is below in every direction, making Mount Diablo unique among world mountains. Both peaks are surrounded by large, flat valleys, private neighborhoods, and lots of enterprises involving horses.
Driving the road to Mount Diablo’s summit involves sharing the road with bikers of all ages and conditions. Many are fit and can be passed fairly easily but others are not. This is not a serious problem impacting enjoyment. The San Francisco Chronicle published an article by Tom Stienstra in March, 2021 with the headline “Bike-Car collisions drop sharply at Mount Diablo with surprisingly simple innovation”. I would not have known about this article if my brother wasn’t now living in Oakland, CA.
Mount Diablo was once the scene of a thriving ranch that has closed but can still be toured with permission. It has had a road since way back in 1874. A resort hotel followed. Today, this 20,000 acre park is enjoyed mainly by locals who enter it at 2 stations for $10. One of these roads takes you past some giant rocks and many picnic tables to Danville, CA. Visitors come to Diablo to bike, camp, picnic, or hike its 162 miles of trails. The most popular trail is probably the Mary Bowerman. We watched as a father collected and showed a huge sticky pine cone to his son. Knobcone pine trees become more common as you drive toward Mount Diablo’s summit. The staff has been busy replacing many trail signs. There are 810 of them in this park and 150 of them are new.
There is a weather station about half way up, and the view from the summit is rather spectacular. There is a large parking lot near the rocky, steep trail that takes you to the summit where there is an observation deck and a visitor center that have unfortunately and perhaps temporarily been closed due to COVID.
The most interesting inhabitants of Mount Diablo to me are its desert tarantulas. Described by the staff as non-threatening gentle giants, these tarantulas are most visible from late August through October, which is mating season. The park is opened from 8 am to sunset year round.
The park brochure says that visitors can see for 100 miles from the summit on a clear day and 40 of California’s 58 counties. That was not the case for the 3 of us. However, I was content to see lots of California poppies, one of the becoming-ubiquitous-in California wind farms northeast of the town of Antioch, and to catch a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge from a pull over spot near Mount Diablo’s summit before we exited this great state park in Danville.