It had rained a bit during the week so we decided to go check out Falls Trail at Mt. Diablo State Park, hoping to get a good view of the falls. The trailhead for this hike is at the Northeastern corner of the park, on Regency Drive in Clayton. There is very limited parking here as it is basically a dead end street in a residential area. There were quite a few cars when we got there in the morning but there was still room to park. It was a busy trailhead with people coming and going. We walked down the hill to the dirt path leading into the park. Just past a metal gate the path split into two, we took the one to the left towards Donner Canyon Road. It was a wide fire road. We got to some mud soon after but it was manageable. The trail quickly climbed and it did so for the rest of the first half of the hike. We hit several other muddy spots with some of them encompassing the whole width of the road. Still, not too bad for a January hike. As we kept climbing in the mud we couldn't help but think about the hiking poles we had left at home, would probably bring them next time. The trail followed close to Donner Creek and as we passed a few junctions on our ascent we kept on the fire road.
The fire road is also open to bikers and equestrians, although we didn't see either on our way up. As we climbed we got better and better views of Mt. Diablo summit. Looking back we also got great views of Donner Canyon on this clear sunny day. Eventually the road ended at Cardinet Junction where we turned left onto Cardinet Oaks Road. Here the trail descended a bit before we had to cross a creek. The water was several inches deep and a hiking pole would have been handy here too. After the creek crossing and a few switchbacks we made our way to Falls Trail. At this point the road narrowed significantly, just wide enough for a single person.
Crossing the creek again led us to a few more falls, although smaller than the first. The path took us uphill then downhill again and as we stopped to take a picture of a small creek we noticed we were surrounded by thousands of ladybugs. They were on the ground, in the shrubs, mossy rocks, pine cones and trees. Had we not stopped for a picture we would have easily missed them. We had never seen anything like this before. Mesmerized by the large number of them, we took our time watching and capturing shots of the ladybugs before moving on.