Daycation to “Devil Mountain”: Mount Diablo State Park

Summit Museum sits atop Mount Diablo, California. Photo credit: Dreamframer / Shutterstock

EAST BAY, CA – With the temperatures cool, now is a great time to visit Mount Diablo State Park. Named by Spanish soldiers in the early 1800s, Mount Diablo or “Devil Mountain”, offers plenty of hiking trails, horseback riding and amazing views from its 3,849-foot summit. Mount Diablo isn’t particularly tall (Denali, by comparison, is the tallest mountain in North America with an elevation of 20,310 feet above sea level), but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a “peak” experience.

At the top, you’ll find the Summit Museum. Constructed during the late 1930s of sandstone blocks quarried in the park, the building was renovated in 2010 and houses numerous interactive educational exhibits. You can pick up maps and other informational brochures here.

A visit to Mount Diablo wouldn’t be complete without going to the observation deck, which offers sweeping views of the Bay Area and even Central California. On a clear day, you can see almost 200 miles, catching sight of 40 of California’s 58 counties. According to the park department, the best viewing is often after a winter storm.

Mount Diablo State Park

Sunset and the rolling hills at Mount Diablo State Park, California. Photo: Yuval Helfman / Shutterstock

From the lower summit parking lot, you can access the Mary Bowerman Trail. This easy 0.7-mile loop has paved and unpaved sections, both of which offer stunning panoramic views. From here, like from the observation deck, you’ll be able to spot numerous landmarks, including the Golden Gate Bridge, the Farallon Islands, and the crest of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Mt. Diablo is wonderful for families, giving children a chance to enjoy nature in many different forms: from picnicking to geocaching, to participating in one of many docent-led hikes. A family-favorite spot in the park is Rock City, where the “wind caves” are located. Despite their name, these caves weren’t created by the wind; they were actually formed by flowing water eroding the sandstone to create the hollowed-out areas. Not only are the caves fun to climb in and out of, but they also make for a great photo opportunity!

Although it’s a state park, Mount Diablo is supported by two outside entities. Mount Diablo Interpretive Association runs educational programs throughout the park and Save Mount Diablo works to preserve the park’s peaks, surrounding foothills and watersheds. Save Mount Diablo also co-sponsors the lighting of the Eye of Diablo, a beacon which is lit at sunset every December 7 in memory of lives lost at Pearl Harbor.

Mount Diablo State Park

Mt. Diablo State Park peak reaches 3,849 feet above sea level. Photo: Lucy Autrey Wilson / Shutterstock.

The roads leading up the mountain are narrow and winding and are occupied by both motorists and cyclists. Prepare to go slowly and know that passing isn’t permitted on blind curves. Mount Diablo State Park has two gates with road access to the summit. The North Gate is located at 1300 North Gate Road in Walnut Creek, and the South Gate is located at 2675 Mt. Diablo Scenic Boulevard in Danville. The gates open at 8AM and close at sunset. Vehicles are $10. California State Parks pass holders get in free.

The Summit Visitor Center is open daily from 10AM-4PM. Some water fountains are turned off, so plan on carrying your own water. Dogs are not allowed on the trails or fire roads. Camping reservations can be made online or by calling 1-800-444-7275. For more information, visit

Your Town Daycations is a monthly feature in the print edition of Your Town Monthly. This article was originally published in the November 2016 issues.