Mount Diablo State Park seems aptly named if you visit in summer, when dry, sunny afternoons in the high 90s are a fixture of the environment. It’s another world, however, in winter and spring, when the hills green up and Pacific breezes cool the air as you climb higher up the hills.
I paid a visit to the Diablo summit in early December and had to hike hard to stay warm — a light sheen of ice covered many a puddle up there. I went back again on Sunday to hike the popular Falls Trail Loop, a five-miler that climbs 1,300 feet up into a canyon where cascading creeks create a number of nice little falls. Not spectacular by Bay Area standards, but the trails follow the creeks most of the way so you get a lot of that calming aura of running water pretty much the whole way (the guidebooks don’t mention that walking next to these burbling books will trigger an insatiable desire to pee; consider yourself warned).
Seeing the falls in their full, raging glory requires slogging through gooey, muddy trails after about three days of strong rains. Another option is to give the trails a week to dry out and imagine how much more water would be flowing in the falls while you’re not cleaning all that gunk off your shoes, socks and pantlegs. That was my option on Sunday. Yeah, the falls were underwhelming but the hills were a gorgeous green you get only with direct sunshine.
Near the beginning of the trail. It’s mostly an old dirt road here but the sections near the falls are single-track.
Jonquils growing near the site of Donner Cabin.
Tree growing from a rock face near the Falls Trail.
None of my waterfall shots came out worth a darn, but this little cascade offered some consolation.
Required dead-tree pic.
A ridge in the distance climbs toward the Diablo summit.
Weatherwise this was perfect day; sunshine, mild breezes, high in the low 70s. All of which gives me the perverse desire to do this hike again in the middle of a rainstorm, mud be damned (though I must admit that when it’s man vs. mud, the mud always wins).
If you ever go to Mount Diablo State Park, get yourself a trail map; the hike combinations are mind-boggling. If you go in summer, bring lots of water — you’ll need every drop.