Columns Hit the Trail

Head to the mountain while the weather is right

Back Creek Trail is part of a scenic hike on Mt. Diablo.

Columns Hit the TrailAfter a big rain, Mt. Diablo delivers a slow and deliberate gravitational

pull that puts outdoor lovers in a nature-induced trance.

The devil mountain stands tall and proud as the backdrop of our cities and a gateway to adventure. With more than 20,000 acres to enjoy, Mt. Diablo State Park has year-round recreation opportunities. But some of the best hiking comes this time of year.

I left Dana Hills and connected to an unnamed trail near the entrance of Marsh Creek Villas to Regency Gate. Mt. Diablo clay can wreak havoc on shoes and bike tires alike if trail conditions are not ideal. These trails proved otherwise, and the conditions were an epic “fresh tracks” of sorts.

Donner Canyon Road took me up the heart of the Clayton side of Mt. Diablo, to a quick detour past Donner Cabin and finally onto Hetherington Loop. This is a must-hike detour with clever routing, thickets of manzanita, trees and the pungent smell of fresh rain on local flora.

The trails throughout most of the hike were hard-packed dirt and silt, with the ever-present rocks and roots, but the rains transformed them over night into sure-footed perfection.

I zigzagged over and around bends, up hills, through creeks and found my way back to Donner Canyon Road. I continued onto Cardinet Oaks, which is mainly a fire road, but the views of Clayton and beyond reveal themselves at almost every bend. Just as quickly, you dive back into trees, dense brush and poison oak with leaves devilishly missing this time of year.

Pass the Falls Trail junction and continue uphill until you reach Wasserman Trail. If I were going to run into Bigfoot on a trail, Wasserman would be my pick for the rendezvous. This trail skirts the northeastern boundary with limited trail traffic, if any at all. Groves of pine trees, deep thickets of shade and flowy trails with some of the best views of the area make this a trail not to miss.

Wasserman loops around and ends where you started on Hetherington Loop. Make the easy hike back down and link up to Donner Cabin Trail as the grand finale route. Donner Cabin Trail was slippery and muddy, unlike all other trails, but a steady climb to the junction of Tickwood and then eventually onto Back Creek Trail was a great way to end the day. Tickwood puts you onto the lower portion of Back Creek, so enjoy the scenery while you can before catching Bruce Lee Road.

I scampered through a dry creek bed and followed Bruce Lee Road down to the pond, finishing my hike on another no-name trail that took me back to the end of Mt. Tamalpais Drive. I hiked back down through the Dana Hills greenbelt and finished near my start point.

Winter is here and Mt. Diablo feeds your soul, so get out there.

Mt. Diablo State Park

What: Regency Cutoff Trail, Donner Canyon Road, Hetherington Loop Trail, Cardinet Oaks Trail, Wasserman Trail, Bruce Lee Spring Trail, Donner Cabin Trail, Tickwood Trail, Back Creek Trail and Bruce Lee Road
Distance: 6+ miles
Duration: 2.5-3 hours
Level: Strenuous
Elevation gain: 1,000+ feet

Contact Kevin Parker with comments or questions by email at