Mount Diablo SP
Narrated by Russ Christoff
In February, I traveled to Mount Diablo State Park.
The winter rain had turned the hills a brilliant green, and had cleared away the fog leaving magnificent views.
As I drove up the mountain, sights of rolling hillsides dotted with excellent specimens of oak trees and unusual rock formations appeared.
I found historic Diablo stoves in quaint picnic areas perched on overlooks and tucked into canyons.
Years ago, tribes of Native Americans who traveled these hills, considered Mount Diablo to be a spiritual place, especially an area now known as Rock City.
I drove to Rock City to meet with Dave, one of the park’s rangers.
This scenic area is full of enormous sand stone boulders and rocks, and contains many interesting trails to explore.
It seems that at every turn of the road there is a new beautiful scene, a view, a rock formation.
What are we seeing in the park?
RANGER DAVE: Well, being that the park is about 20,000 acres in size, it has a lot to offer to everyone that comes and visits.
From the summit, you can see approximately 40,000 square miles. And some have said it’s the second best view in the entire world. Definitely, the best view in California.
We have a variety of ecosystems, actually two main ones, the aquatic and terrestrial, and then many sub-units of the ecosystems that are great for school children.
When they come up here, we have several different interpretative programs that are put on by the park staff and concessionaires that provide thousands of hours a year of interpretation to school children.
The rock outcroppings are some of the most attractive parts of the park, especially, in the Rock City area.
We have a large number of rock climbers that come out and utilize the rock for climbing, and practicing their cliff rescue by some of our local fire departments and other search and rescue agencies.
RUSS CHRISTOFF: Mount Diablo was located virtually in the middle of several populated areas; does that have any impact on the visitor ship?
RANGER DAVE: Yes, it certainly does! We average about 700,000 to 1,000,000 visitors a year, which provides and ample opportunity for many different types of recreational activities, especially bicycling, hiking, horseback riding, and just coming up to see the beautiful views.
And bicycling is of a major interest that has really peaked probably within the last ten years or so.
RUSS CHRISTOFF: Dave, visitors seem to enjoy driving to the top of Mount Diablo. How far is the drive, and what will people see when they get there?
RANGER DAVE: Well, the drive is approximately ten miles from either our north or south gate entrance which is from Danville or Walnut Creek respectively.
RUSS CHRISTOFF: Tell me about the visitor center at the top?
RANGER DAVE: The visitor center was a building that was constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corp back in the 1930’s, and was actually designed to be a visitor center, but was not set up and built with the interior as we see it today until the 1980’s, with a lot of help from the Mount Diablo Interpretative Association.
And the visitor center really is a compilation of the entire park and all the resources within the park.
We have displays on the geology of the park, Native Americans, history of the park, topographic, maps of the park, as well as the natural and historical portions of the park.
On the top of the visitor center is an observation deck, where people can go up and take pictures and see the views of almost all of California.
There are telescopes available up there for a quarter for five minutes and you can see out to the Faralon Islands up to Mount Lassen and down to Mount Hamilton and beyond.
RUSS CHRISTOFF: How is the camping here? And, does one need a reservation?
RANGER DAVE: The campgrounds are under reservation, but we have three campgrounds throughout the park that total approximately 60 campsites.
They range from here in the Live Oak area to about 1,500 foot elevation, all the way up to Juniper Campground which is almost at the 3,000 foot elevation.
RUSS CHRISTOFF: And it can be a little cold up there I suspect?
RANGER DAVE: It certainly can! Some nights during the winter, in fact tonight we are expecting a little bit of snow coming into the park. It does happen as low as the Juniper Campground.
The winds do blow a little bit strong up there, but it can be a very enjoyable wilderness experience, up away from everybody.
Mount Diablo, as well as all the other state parks, are just a wonderful place to go and recreate, or sit in peaceful tranquility, and the parks provide a place for all the animal and plant life to prosper throughout California.