Basics: This 10+ mile hike takes you up 3000 feet to the top of both Mt Olympia and North Peak in Mount Diablo State Park. The network of trails ranges from wide fire roads to steep and narrow single track footpaths. This trip provides excellent views and makes for a great winter hike. The trail can be accessed at the end of Regency Drive in the town of Clayton – parking at this locations is free. The trail can also be reached from Mitchell Canyon Interpretive Center – parking is $6 and this option adds a mile or two to the trip. A good map of the park is essential. Trail maps can be purchased at the Mitchell Canyon visitor’s center or at REI.
Trail Description: Mt Diablo State Park is one of my favorite places to hike in the winter. This is partially because it is one of the closest state parks, but also because there are so many different trails to choose from, the views are incredible from almost every trail, and there are crazy steep options which makes for some good exercise. Today we decided to hike up to North Peak via Mt Olympia. This hike is one of the more difficult Bay Area hikes. It also requires having a map, or a good sense of direction and a familiarity of the terrain. Like I said, there are many different trails in this park – it’s easy to get lost.
We parked at the visitor’s center parking lot at Mitchell Canyon. We started early – the best time to spot wildlife. We saw a large flock of turkeys and a coyote in the first 10 minutes of our hike. We headed East on a fire road (Murchio Rd). We continued in the same general direction, passing several junctions, until we reached a fire road that parallels Donner Creek. A left turn at this junction would have taken us out of the park to Regency Dr. We turned right and headed up Donner Canyon Rd. Again we walked along a fire road, ignoring most of the junctions with other trails. We finally finally reached the junction with the Mt Olympia fire road. The sign post is on the right side of the trail, and the Olympia fire road splits off to the left. We had already been walking uphill for a while, but this fire road was particularly steep. We walked past the junction with the Falls Trail, and eventually made it to the park boundary. There is a gate with a “No Trespassing” sign, but a single track trail splits off to the right and heads up Mt Olympia. From here, it gets even steeper before the top.
We were pretty tired when we reached the 2946′ summit of Mt Olympia. North Peak was looming in the distance – about one mile further. We stopped to take in the view and eat a snack, then headed onwards on the single track trail to North Peak.
It was not an easy one mile, but we made it. North Peak has quite a bit more development than Mt Olympia – there are a number of antennas and some cinderblock buildings at the top. Still, it’s somewhat desolate. There is no paved road to the top and it certainly does not see the masses of people that drive up to the main Diablo summit. In fact, we ate our lunch in complete solitude. We did not see anyone until we were on our way down.
From North Peak, there are many different options for getting back to Mitchell Canyon. I tried to talk Rob into hiking the main Diablo summit and Eagle Peak – making it a four summit day – but he was not interested. That probably would have been a bad idea. Maybe next time. We chose to take Prospectors Gap fire road to Meridian Ridge Road to Back Creek Trail. This eventually lead us back to Murchio Road – the fire road we started out on.
The flock of turkeys was long gone and the parking lot was full of people and cars. We stopped in at the visitor’s center and purchased a good trail map (should have done so BEFORE our hike). I snapped a photo of the resident rooster and with that, we headed home.
More Info: There’s a cartooney but fairly comprehensive trail map in the pdf brochure for Mt. Diablo SP. If you plan to visit this park a lot, there’s a better trail map available at REI: