Find some solitude on Mt. Diablo/Black Diamond trail near Clayton

Find some solitude on Mt. Diablo/Black Diamond trail

Find some solitude on Mt. Diablo/Black Diamond trail near Clayton
Green hillsides meet blue skies on a hike near Clayton. (Kevin Parker photo)

Columns Hit the TrailWhat do you do when you are stuck at home on a shelter in place order with a bum knee?

As someone once said, “The show must go on,” which is why I jumped off the couch and onto my bike for a 10-mile loop into the seldom-traveled heart of Black Diamond Mines.

And yes, bum knees work better on bikes.

With open space impacted and trail traffic these days, it’s a challenge to find hiking and biking that meets social distancing requirements and keeps you close to home. An easy solution is to head to the Mt. Diablo to Black Diamond Trail, a 2.6-mile fire road that winds up into the hills above Clayton. The trail is wide with good footing, allowing room for hikers, bikers and all your furry friends. Expect some leg burn, as the first part of this hike is predominately uphill.

Remnants of mining era

Find some solitude on Mt. Diablo/Black Diamond trail near ClaytonEnter through the gate up top, you’ll see a Black Diamond Mines sign and continue on Cumberland Trail. Take a quick side trip to “Air Shaft,” one of the many mining features in the park. Cumberland dead-ends at an asphalt road, so stay right as you head directly up steep terrain – although it is paved.

As you near the top of the road, make a side trip up an unmarked trail to the sandstone cliffs with views of Clayton and beyond. I planned a five-minute chill out, but my time enjoying the late afternoon sun and the expansive views quickly turned into 20.

Black Diamond Trail starts at the highest elevation you can achieve on this loop. The trail was completely void of all humans, not necessarily a bad thing in terms of social distancing. But it was the sounds all around me that had me stop and close my eyes to reveal birds, crickets, frogs and coyotes in the distance. It was a total nature experience on every level.

Maybe no different than any other day, but it sure felt like it. And feeling good is a hot commodity these days.

Zip by the cemetery

Find some solitude on Mt. Diablo/Black Diamond trail near ClaytonBD Trail descends into a rollercoaster type routing as you see Black Diamond unfold all around you. Countless green hills, trees, sheer rock cliffs and outcroppings are prevalent all along this trail. You pass Manhattan Canyon Trail (an awesome trail for another day) and continue a brief climb until you reach an apex just above Rose Hill Cemetery. Most of the buried are from epidemics that swept through the mining community – a reality we know all too well these days. That thought made me move quickly through this section of trail and back toward Clayton.

A short downhill on Nortonville Trail will link you back up with BD Trail as you make the final climb on the way back home. For those on foot, I highly recommend Coal Canyon Trail. This single-track is one of my favorites in the park and seldom traveled.

I followed BD Trail back to the paved road and eventually jumped back on Cumberland Trail to retrace my route back down the Clayton. Cumberland is mostly sandy, but like most of the trails here, with easy footing and smooth sailing. Pick up Mt. Diablo to Black Diamond Trail for the downhill cruiser all the way back to the trailhead.

I completed this loop via bicycle. If you are going to travel this route on foot, plan on 4+ hours. You can just do portions of this hike, time permitting, and even access it from the Somersville Road entrance. Consult a park map for more information.

Be safe, wash your hands, visit nature, say hello to people, smile and be kind. And we will get through this, no doubt.

  • Where: Black Diamond Mines
  • Trails: Mt. Diablo to Black Diamond Trail, Cumberland Trail, Black Diamond Trail, Nortonville Trail
  • Distance:10.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 2,093 feet
  • Time: 2 hours (via bike)
  • Trailhead: Parking lot next to Oakhurst golf course. Free, no restrooms, map on sign only.
  • Update: Visitor Centers and mines currently closed; trails open.

Contact Kevin Parker with comments or questions by email at