According to geographers, hikers who make it to the top of 3,849-foot Mount Diablo can see more of the earth’s landscape than anywhere else on the planet, with the exception of the views offered from the peak of Kenya’s 19,000-foot Mount Kilimanjaro. On a clear day, you can take in sights from 40,000 square miles in total, including parts of 35 of California’s 58 counties—you can even see Half Dome in Yosemite with binoculars. But after bagging Diablo, you don’t have to pack up and head home, as Mount Diablo State Park has three separate campground areas—Juniper, Live Oak, and Junction—that offer outdoor enthusiasts a way to enjoy this epic East Bay wilderness for a more than just a few hours.
What Makes It Great
While hardcore types might be slightly annoyed by the fact that there is a parking lot at the top of Mount Diablo, there’s no denying that the road to the top also enables incredibly convenient camping. In addition, the large campsites and 150 miles of trails awaiting exploration are just a few of the reasons that Mount Diablo is a hidden gem among Bay Area outdoor lovers. During the day, get in some rigorous hikes, savoring the views along the way, and late in the afternoon, head to your campsite to sit back, relax, and take in the sunset. Plus, unlike many other NorCal campsites, you can actually get a reservation within the next few months instead of having to plan six months—or more—in advance.
With 36 campsites, Juniper Campground is located about two miles below the summit, at 3,000 feet, with spectacular views—the summit can be easily reached by a one-mile, one-way trek. Live Oak, meanwhile, has 22 sites and is located one mile above the Southgate entrance station, off Southgate Road, near Rock City—which is known for its fascinating rock formations. With six sites, Junction is located where Northgate and Southgate meet at the Ranger Station and is nestled in an open woodland area; it’s first- come, first-served.
Families and large groups will find plenty of options with the many group sites available at both Juniper and Live Oak, but there’s still plenty of privacy for all campsites. Campgrounds are mainly designed for tent camping, yet they can accommodate RVs up to 20 feet. All campsites are provided with picnic tables, fire pits or stoves, water and rest rooms. Showers are available at Live Oak and Juniper campgrounds also.
Peak baggers won’t want to miss the chance to knock off North Peak while they’re there, generally regarded as one of the best hikes in the Bay Area. Grab a topo map if you’re attempting the hike from the campground, as trails can be tricky and not well-marked, and this is one you don’t want to get lost on, as it’s a pretty grueling hike, with super steep stretches and rocky descents. Trekking poles, layers, and water are must-haves, and the hike gets plenty hot during summer months.
Who is Going to Love It
Hiking enthusiasts will love exploring the 150 miles of trails that wind throughout the park; many avid backpackers also use the 13.2-mile round-trip hike to the summit as practice for the Pacific Crest Trail or other long-range excursions. The campsite is also popular with families and groups.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
To reach Mount Diablo State Park, take Highway 680 to Danville. From there, take Diablo Road, and then exit three miles east to Mt. Diablo Scenic Boulevard.
From February through the end of July, the Castle Rock area of the park is closed to visitors to help protect the Peregrine Falcon during the nesting season. Entry fees to the park start at $6, and reservations for campsites start at $30 per night, based on eight- person occupancy. During the summer months, when there is fire danger, it’s recommended to call the park beforehand to make sure it’s open for camping.
Dogs are allowed at campsites but are not permitted on trails or fire roads.