Blustery and beautiful hike up Mount Diablo

Mount Diablo Grand Loop | Smiling in Sonoma

Wind blowing in all directions up the mountain…the long grasses dancing on the hills with the waves of wind bursting through…tree branches littering the ground…the brave still ready to hike!

The hubs and I woke up early on Saturday morning eager to get on the road for our 2 hour drive to the start of our hike up Mount Diablo. We had been wanting to climb this mountain we see so often from our Sonoma hikes. The closer we got the windier it got. A little nervous already about the strenuous hike, the wind just added to the excitement. We drove up the mighty mountain on a winding, barely 2 lane road, dodging the few cyclists out in the wind this early and enjoyed the views at every turn. Once we reached the Juniper Campground we parked with a few other brave souls and got ourselves ready for the crazy wind we were about to face.

I had posted on Instagram the day before that we were going up Diablo and had a great suggestion to do the Grand Loop found here. Definitely did not disappoint! We followed the very well written trail descriptions and didn’t get lost. Starting out at Juniper Campground we were greeted with amazing views of San Francisco straight ahead and Mt Tam to the north. Since we were already a couple thousand feet up we had crazy beautiful views the entire hike.

As soon as we turned on to Deer Flat Road the wind hit us like a wall! It was difficult to walk straight! Thankfully the trail heads down for a bit which got us out of the extreme wind for a while. The trail was nice and wide and mostly exposed. We wouldn’t want to do this hike on a hot day. There were a few other people on this part of the trail. I am guessing on a better weather day this park is quite busy! We kept plugging along all the while enjoying our expansive views and all of the wildflowers along the trail.

We started running into more and more people when we were closer to the Summit Trail. Some running up the mountain, some struggling, some moving along at about our pace. People stopped us and asked for directions and snapped pics of our map and instructions. It always amazes me when people are good at being spontaneous and just going without all the planning I do. I wish I could do that! Toward the end of the hike we actually gave a young couple the copy of our map I had printed because I was a little worried they were going to get lost…they were headed in the complete opposite direction of where they wanted to go. 🙂

We stopped off at a rock outcrop and enjoyed the views of Livermore Valley. The single track trail was starting to get a bit crowded…with people dressed in costumes. I so badly wanted to ask what they were doing in heels, dresses, crazy make up, and carrying props down the steep rocky trail! I almost turned around to follow just so I could see what fun they were having and also to take some fun pics! I can only imagine a Rocky Horror Picture Show-like photo shoot on Mount Diablo.

Just before we reached the summit a nice young lady kept telling everyone that was heading up “Good Job!” as she was going down. This helped as we had climbed almost 1,000 feet in that last mile! It’s a little depressing when you see the lower parking lot and think you have made it to the summit only to turn and see you have more to go to get to the visitor center at the summit. Ugh…keep going! It is sooo worth it!

People were cheering when they reached the top by bicycle or their 2 legs like us. It is definitely a feat to get there even if you do start almost halfway up! We had heard they sell ice cream at the visitor center so that was my bribe for the hubs…the reward of ice cream on a hike! We walked up to the observation deck where people’s hats were flying off their heads mid-selfie and enjoyed the views our tired legs worked so hard to get us up to see. It truly was the best part of the hike. To see for days in every direction. There’s nothing to disturb your views for miles. If it weren’t so windy we would have stayed up there longer. We ducked into the visitor center to find the ice cream and crossing our fingers for flushing toilets (which we found!).

I highly recommend taking your kids (and yourself) to this visitor center. They did a really great job inside with videos, interactive props, and photos of the history of the mountain. Once you are done learning about the 100’s of millions of years it took to make Mount Diablo and all of it’s changes head on down into the gift shop for your ice cream reward!

The hubs and I found a sunny and wind guarded bench and had our snacks, stretched and got ourselves ready for the 1.8 miles down to the car. The last bit of the trail has some great views but few wildflowers. I did a little happy dance when we saw the parking lot with our car in it below. I was ready to be out of the wind, the heat and off of my tired feet…then the drive home.

Trail details:

$10 fee per car, take lots of water, 7.6 miles, pit toilet at Juniper Campground and flushing toilets at the visitor center, approximately 2,000 feet elevation gain, strenuous due to elevation gain/loss, incredible views.


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