January 16, 2011

Mt. Diablo Hike - Falls Trail

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.

After a short way on this hillside path we were able to see the falls in the distance. Although small, it was good to hear and see the rushing water. As we descended a bit we got closer to the falls. After several pictures and a break we continued on.

 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.

Again we followed the path uphill before turning right onto Middle Trail. Middle Trail was narrow as well but the vegetation was much taller than on Falls Trail so views were obscured. After about half a mile we turned right on Meridian Ridge Road which delivered us back to the wide Donner Canyon Road. Thankful to be going downhill we retraced our steps on the fire road. We noticed that the mud had dried a bit and there were several more people out enjoying the trail compared to when we had last been on the road. We did encounter a couple of bikers on our way back to the trailhead. As we got back to our car there were cars waiting for a spot to be vacated. As busy as it seemed now, we were glad we had arrived in the morning. The total hike was about 5.5 miles long and took us up (and back down) 1200 feet. It took us just over three hours, which included a lengthy stop at the waterfalls and at the ladybug area.


brthomas April 14, 2012 at 10:45 AM  

Nice photos and video! Hiking the Falls Trail at Mount Diablo in April, we missed seeing the ladybugs, but we saw some nice spring wildflowers. Elremaro saved a gps map of our Donner Canyon Falls Trail route. This is one of the nicest hiking trails in Contra Costa County.