Legend has it that a clear day atop the summit of Mount Diablo offers views so broad that only the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro surpasses its scope. At 3,849 feet above sea level, it offers the largest visible expanse of land and water in the lower 48 states. The optimal time to get the biggest view is after a winter storm, when the air is at its crispest. Anyone with four wheels and an engine can gaze at the views from the top, but you’ll gain far more jaw-dropping vistas by tackling this devil by foot on the 4.2-mile Juniper Summit Loop from the Juniper Campground. Climb moderately steep single-track switchbacks that begin under the shade of California bay and gray pine before breaking into epic views of the East Bay. After 1.5 miles, you’ll reach the observation deck (currently closed for renovations; see our tip below for viewpoint alternatives!) atop the Mount Diablo Visitor Center (still open!), where you can tap your toe upon the highest point in the East Bay. Then gawk at the famous panorama as a sea of fog drenches the rippling hills below. Descend via the (sometimes steep) Summit Trail for still more views, from the Golden Gate Bridge to Mount Tamalpais and beyond. This devil’s a delight!
TIP: In lieu of the closed Observation Deck, a great option to get the full 360 view is to walk the Mary Bowerman Trail (aka Fire Interpretive Trail), a 0.7-mile loop circumventing the summit and the Visitor Center. (The first half of this nature loop is wheelchair accessible.) Take in the full gravitas of the Bay Area vistas, from the windmills of Livermore Valley all the way to San Francisco’s Sutro Tower.
Park at Juniper Campground along Summit Rd. in Mount Diablo State Park. Find a trail map here. The Juniper trailhead is located on the north end of the Diablo Valley Overlook, just beyond the parking area. Follow the signed Juniper Trail. After ascending 1-mile, you’ll intersect Summit Road, then pick up Juniper Trail again on the other side. When you reach a parking lot, continue uphill left on the paved road until you arrive at the summit and the Visitor Center, open 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily. Descend the Summit Trail, which intersects Summit Road three times, before meeting the Juniper Trail (to lower summit parking lot). Turn right when you spy the campgrounds, and continue the 0.2 mile back to the parking inlet where you began. Gates open at 8:00 a.m. and close at sunset. For updates on the status of the observation deck call (925) 837-6119. Day use parking fee: $10/vehicle. No dogs.