It offers one of the biggest views in the West: an eye-candy panorama that includes more than 200 miles of California landscape. Which is why the Grand Loop on Mount Diablo should be on your to-do list this spring. This 6.5-mile trek around the East Bay’s tallest peak is grand in more than just its beauty: it’s a real thigh burner with substantial uphill stretches, so be sure to bring lots of water—and energy. Starting from the Juniper Campground parking area at 3,000 feet, the loop leads clockwise around the mountain, then climbs right up to the summit. From the path, a rich green landscape unfolds across the coastal range and down to the bay. Along the way, lupine, poppies, and lilies add color. The final leg of the ascent (the Prospectors Gap and North Peak trails) is especially steep. But keep at it; the scenery from the top is—need we repeat?—absolutely grand.
This exposed trail gets firecracker hot in summer, so we recommend hiking it before then. And the trail gets steep, so wear shoes with good tread. Directions: Park at Juniper Campground off of Summit Rd. There are two paved roads; walk down the one on the right to Deer Flat Rd. Continue on Deer Flat Rd. for 1.5 miles until you reach Deer Flat. Go right on Meridian Ridge Rd. Continue on this for about a mile through Murchio Gap and up to Prospectors Gap Trail (an Eagle Peak side-trip can be made at Murchio Gap). Continue up the Prospectors Gap Trail for 1.3 miles until you reach Prospectors Gap (a North Peak side-trip can made here). Go right, up the North Peak Trail toward Mount Diablo’s summit. Reach Devil’s Elbow after 1 mile and go right, up the Summit Trail to the lower summit parking lot. Walk to the back of the lot and descend the Juniper Trail 1 mile back to your car. Map and more information.