BARTable by bike: Mt. Diablo

Editor’s note: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mount Diablo State Park is temporarily closed to vehicular access. The park remains open to cyclists and hikers provided they practice safe, physical distancing of six feet or more.

Additionally, BART is running reduced service. We are dispatching long trains even though ridership has been significantly reduced. We are doing this to ensure our riders can properly socially distance from one another. Before you go, plan your trip with our Trip Planner to get estimated travel times.

At 3,849 feet, Mount Diablo is the tallest mountain in the East Bay. The summit is high enough to receive snow in the winter months, and on a very clear day you can see almost 200 miles, including the Sierra Nevadas.

On the way to the top, you’ll encounter several different habitats including beautiful rolling hills, rocks, oak trees, chaparral, sagebrush, and grasses, not to mention incredible views.

What’s in a name? In the early 1800s, Spanish soldiers named it “Monte del Diablo” or “Devil’s Thicket” because they thought the Native Americans who evaded capture were assisted by evil spirits. Later, English-speaking newcomers assumed “monte” meant “mountain”, and Mt. Diablo was born.

Mt. Diablo is very popular with hikers and cyclists of all abilities. On a warm day, you’ll find dozens of cyclists traversing the mountain. This is a challenging ride, but the reward of reaching the summit makes the journey worth it.

What to bring

Comfortable riding shoes, helmet, water (there are several places to fill up along the way), sun protection (hat, sunscreen), extra layers or rain gear (just in case). A light jacket will be handy for the descent, as it is often chilly. A smartphone is handy for maps and looking up information or taking photos. And, of course, your Clipper card. Make sure to download the Ride with GPS app so you can easily reference the route.

How to get there

Fortunately, there are two BART stations close to Mt. Diablo- Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill/Contra Costa Centre. Both stations offer easy access to the base of the mountain through a series of mostly flat trails and streets.

Recommended route

We recommend starting your adventure at Walnut Creek BART Station, riding along the Iron Horse Regional Trail through Danville, entering the park from the southern gate and climbing to the summit.

On the descent, you’ll ride down the north face of the mountain and finish your ride at Pleasant Hill/Contra Costa Centre BART Station. This ride lets you see both sides of the mountain, by riding up the south side and back down the north side.

The Iron Horse Regional Trail takes you from Walnut Creek to Danville. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
 

Head east out of the BART Station, follow the ramp down to the stoplight and cross the intersection once in each direction to access the path along the backside of the Target store. Head straight out of the parking lot and continue onto Arroyo Way. Follow Arroyo Way about a half mile until it dead ends with the Iron Horse Regional Trail.

Turn right on the bike/pedestrian-only trail and ride all the way to Danville (about eight miles of nearly level riding). The trail switches sides of the street a couple of times, so follow signs to stay on the path.

Make a quick stop in downtown Danville where you’ll find many options for coffee or snacks before heading up the mountain. A popular spot for cyclists is Danville Peet's, directly adjacent to the trail.

On Diablo Road in Danville, Mt. Diablo looms before you.
 

Head east out of town on Diablo Road for about 2 miles and turn left on Mt. Diablo Scenic Boulevard (near the Athenian School) where you enter Mt. Diablo State Park.

After you make the left turn onto Mt. Diablo Scenic Blvd, the climb officially begins. It's about 11 miles and 3,300 of elevation gain to the top. It'll take anywhere from 1-3 hours to make it to the summit, depending on your fitness level.

You'll pass through a residential area for the first couple of miles and then enter the park.

As you enter the park, you will come across a closed gate and a park ranger. The park is temporarily closed to vehicles but open to cyclists and hikers. Smile and wave at the park ranger and continue.

It's about three miles at a steady grade of 5-6% until you get to the park pay station.

At the pay station, there is no need to stop. Cars must pay a fee to enter the park, but cyclists are free!
 

After you pass the pay station, you'll be treated to a heavily wooded section with lots of shade. The incline of the road eases up for about a mile and it's almost flat. This gives your legs a much-needed rest before the road kicks up again.

As you near the junction where S. Gate Rd and N. Gate Rd intersect, the road becomes steeper and maintains a 7% grade. However, this is short-lived and after a half-mile, you'll reach a ranger station where you can rest and fill up on water.

At the junction, stop at the ranger station for water. The fountain is on the backside of the building.
 

After you're fueled up and ready to go, you're ready to tackle Summit Rd and the final 4.5 miles to the summit. The 2nd half of the climb is a bit steeper than the first half, so make sure to pace yourself and take breaks if needed.

Just 849 feet of elevation to go!
 

Once you're a quarter-mile from the top, you reach the toughest section of the climb, unaffectionately named, "The Wall". This final section to the summit is twice as steep as any section of road you've already encountered and very difficult. Thankfully, it's only two-tenths of a mile long and then it's over.

The gift shop (currently closed) is a great spot to grab a can of Coke and some chips.

Build in some time to linger at the top, have a snack and enjoy the views in all directions. You won’t be the only cyclist there so it’s a great opportunity to enjoy the camaraderie with others who just made the climb.

Looking north.
 
Looking south.
 

The ride down is also a great reward for the effort you expended on the climb. Be extra careful on the descent. It is very easy to get going too fast and some of the corners are sharp. Make sure your brakes are in good working order before attempting this ride.

Alternate Route #1

If you’d like to start your trip and end it at Walnut Creek BART Station, you can ride an out-and-back route along the Iron Horse Regional Trail, up the southern side of the mountain and then return the way you came. At 45 miles, this is the longest route option.

Alternate Route #2

If you’d like to start your trip and end it at Pleasant Hill/Contra Costa Centre BART Station, you can ride an out-and-back route through Walnut Creek, up the northern side of the mountain and then return the way you came. This is the shortest route option at 32 miles, but that distance comes at a price. Climbing the mountain from the north gate of the park is harder and steeper. If it is your first time riding your bike up the mountain, we recommend going with our recommended route or the out-and-back option from Walnut Creek BART Station.

Visit bart.gov/bikes to check BART’s bike rules, then strap on your helmet and get out there!

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