Wicked Waterworks

Mount Diablo Winter Waterfall

Despite its devilish hot name, Mount Diablo has a cooler, splashier side. Heavy winter rains create a collection of six scenic waterfalls encircling the mountain’s rugged northern canyons. Take the grand tour on this 5-mile loop with a gentle climb up Donner Canyon Road to the junction at Cardinet Oaks Road. Head left and cross (or wade through!) the stream to the first hidden waterfall (on the left), a perfect spot to take a tranquil breather before continuing the strenuous ascent through pine, sagebrush, and paintbrush blooms to rocky Middle Trail and then Falls Trail. The exposed ridgeline ascent is steep and precariously narrow, with unimpeded previews of each of the next five falls on the crescent circuit as well as sweeping panoramas to the north. Take a moment to soak in the canyons’ sprouting Irish grandeur on one of many grassy knolls before descending right on Meridian Ridge Road and left back onto Donner Canyon to finish the loop. Be prepared for mud and ankle-deep stream crossings after steady rain.

Note: Parts of this trail can be slick and slippery, so wear good shoes and avoid days that are ceaseless downpours. From Walnut Creek, take Ignacio Valley Rd. 8 miles east to Clayton Rd. Turn right onto Clayton and follow it as it turns into Marsh Creek Rd. (do not turn at the first Marsh Creek Rd.) and intersects Regency Rd. The trailhead at Regency Gate is at the end of the road. Free parking available on the street. Hike through Regency Gate and follow Donner Canyon Fire Road on the left for 1.5 miles to Cardinet Oaks Fire Road junction. Turn left onto Cardinet Oaks Fire Road and then right onto Middle Trail 0.5 mile later, which turns into Falls Trail. Follow Falls Trail around the upper canyon until you circle back to Meridian Ridge, where a right followed by a left back onto Donner Canyon Fire Road leads back to Regency Gate. No dogs. 

Trending Stories Northern CA

View all Stories
  1. Image that represents the story

    Tam Slam!

    This 8-mile (round-trip) hike is a pure classic, with redwoods, water-flows, and soaring views of the coastline. Oh yeah, and that ladder!

    View
  2. Image that represents the story

    Secret Beach

    A hidden beach and a killer view? Those are hard to come by, but that’s exactly what you’ll get at Perles Beach on Angel Island. This pocket cove is worth the 1.5-mile trek to get there.

    View
  3. Image that represents the story
    Sponsored

    Road Trip Ahead: Oregon Outback

    Remote open spaces, camping under true Dark Skies, hiking and biking trails galore, wildlife refuges, and hot springs! Plan your road trip to the Oregon Outback this summer.

    View
  4. Image that represents the story

    Magical McClures

    McClures Beach is a seductive little spot: small, beautiful, and quiet. It’s easy to while away an afternoon-turned-sunset at this pocket cove in Point Reyes.

    View

Trending Stories SoCal

View all Stories
  1. Image that represents the story

    Easiest Best Hike in the World

    Choose the easiest and most view-rewarding hike in Yosemite. Okay, we’ll go first: the combination of hiking to Sentinel Dome and Taft Point. Both of these lookouts are within a couple miles of each other on Glacier Point Road

    View
  2. Image that represents the story
    Sponsored

    All Roads Lead to Rogue

    Idea for your next road trip: Go Rogue! The Rogue Valley in beautiful Southern Oregon has some of the state’s best hiking, swim holes, and wineries, and the charming historic towns of Ashland, Medford, and Jacksonville.

    View
  3. Image that represents the story

    Bouquet of Waterfalls

    Like a good love letter, some of the best hiking trails are short and sweet. Cue the hike to Bouquet Falls in Santa Clarita Valley’s Bouquet Canyon.

    View
  4. Image that represents the story
    Sponsored

    National Parks Road Trip: Circle of Discovery!

    Love national parks? Love road trips? Combine the two on one fabulous Circle of Discovery route in Northern California and Southern Oregon! This itinerary features 7 national parks with wondrous features.

    View