Looking to escape into the wild for just one day? In need of an excellent lower body workout? Wanna chill and eat sandwiches on top of a mountain? At Mount Diablo State Park, you can do all three, and it’s only a cheap day trip away!
The park, located just outside of Walnut Creek, is only about a 40 minute drive from the East Bay and about an hour from San Francisco. From the summit of the 4,000 foot mountain, you can see the entire Bay Area, from the ocean to the West to the rolling green farmlands to the East. It’s about a five mile drive to the top at a steady 25 miles per hour, but it’s worth every nail-biting turn (why the hell don’t these mountain roads have guard rails?).
Once you’re up there, you’ll probably want to take a hike. No, I’m not suggesting that you “hit the road.” I mean, I am, but…oh, fuck it. You know what I’m saying. This park has some serious hiking trails (scroll down for a map), and, if you’re into that kind of thing, you should explore them. You’ll get a whopping dose of nature as you navigate through woods and wildflowers. At certain points on the trail, there’s nothing standing between you and the rest of the way down, so don’t get too lost in the beauty of your surroundings or else you’ll be gone forever.
Please beware that some of these trails are not for wusses, like me. Whether we were coming or going, we were rarely on a flat surface. Since we started at the top of the Summit Trail, the first half of our hike consisted of walking straight downhill for a mile and a half. And if you don’t think that hiking downhill is grueling as hell, you’re dead wrong. My ass is still aching in certain areas that I didn’t even know were possible. So wear comfortable shoes with traction (Keds decidedly do not cut it), and drink plenty of water. Oh, and you might not want to start at the absolute top of the trail, either.
But say you’re looking for something more relaxed, like some sightseeing or just a lazy day in the sun. You should definitely pack a lunch and plan for a picnic, because not only is it cheaper to being your own grub, but there’s nothing else to eat in the whole damn park. And foraging is always a bad idea unless you really know what you’re doing. I mean, did you even see Into the Wild? I’ll pass on the berries, thank you.
After you eat, there are some other attractions to check out in the park for FREE. The Summit Museum is located inside of a mystical castle on top of the mountain. Unfortunately, it was closed due to leakage when I was there, but I hear it has a righteous observation deck complete with telescopes for your viewing pleasure. Fossil Ridge to the south shows evidence of previous life on the mountain embedded in its sandstone walls. Maybe you’ll even find alien shark bones in there (not likely)! And then there’s Rock City, which is not where AC/DC came from, but rather a collection of sandstone formations and caves, which is almost as cool.
It looks like this weather will be holding up for the rest of the week, so if you’re planning on playing hooky and hiding from your boss, there’s no better place to do it than Mount Diablo.
Mount Diablo State Park
96 Mitchell Canyon Road [Clayton]
8am – sunset every day
$10 entrance fee per car