4.4 mile loop traveling through oak grassland on the low flanks of Mount
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 4.4 mile loop hike is easy, with a total elevation change of
about 450 feet. Trailhead elevation is about 445 feet, and the highest point
of the featured hike is about 880 feet. There are a few short steep trail
segments, but the hiking is easy, unless it's hot. Then every step seems
twice as hard.
Mostly exposed, with a few pockets of shade.
Dirt trails and fire roads.
2 1/2 hours.
Spring is best.
From Interstate 680 in Contra Costa County, exit at Livorna Road (exit 43).
Drive east about 1.5 miles, to the Livorna Staging Area, on the left side
of the road.
Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Longitude 122° 0'36.82"W
(* based on Google Earth
data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)
Gas, food, and lodging:
There are no facilities on Livorna Road. For gas, pay phones, restaurants,
and stores, head north or south on 680. No camping at Diablo Foothills,
although there are campgrounds in adjacent Mount Diablo State Park.
Parking for 12 cars in a lot on the edge of a residential neighborhood.
No entrance or parking fees. No toilet facilities or drinking water. Maps
available at the information signboard. No designated handicapped parking,
and while trails are technically accessible to wheelchairs, they are not
suitable for them. There is no direct public transportation to the park,
but you can walk into Diablo Foothills from a County Connection bus stop:
visit 511.org for details.
Most trails are multi-use. A few trails are designated as closed to cyclists.
Dogs are permitted in the regional park, but are not allowed in the state
park. Diablo Foothills is open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The Official Story:
Diablo Foothills page
EBRPD headquarters 510-562-PARK
Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Fantastic map of Diablo Foothills and adjacent parklands from the City of Walnut Creek
Trail Map of Mount Diablo State Park and Adjacent Parklands,
published by the Mount Diablo Interpretive Association is essential if you
plan to visit the state park.
Afoot and Afield: San Francisco Bay Area, by David Weintraub
this book from Amazon.com) has a great map and descriptions of a Diablo
David Weintraub's East Bay Trails has a good map and descriptions
of a Diablo Foothills hike (order
this book from Amazon.com).
Foothills in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured
View photos from this
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
Foothills Regional Park abuts Mount Diablo State Park. The Livorna Trailhead is a quick, easy, and free way to slip
into the state park, and also provides some excellent hiking through the
oak-studded grassland and rock formations of this part of the east bay.
You can also enter Diablo Foothills Regional
Park via trailheads at Borges Ranch and Castle Rock Road. I haven't visited
either yet, but I see from the map that the trailhead at the end of Castle
Rock Road has picnic facilities, a game area, toilets, a dance floor,
and a hayride loading area (!).
The parkland was part of an early 1800s
grant to Dona Juana Sanchez de Pacheco; the area was known as Rancho Arroyo
de las Nueces y Bolbones (Creek of the Walnuts and Indians). Today Diablo
Foothills contributes to the largest open space land mass in the east
For a relatively small park, there are
many loop possibilities.From
either of the three trailheads you can hike to see the Castle Rocks, a
sandstone formation in Mount Diablo State Park that is visible from the
eastern edge of Diablo Foothills. To extend a hike out of the park, you
can walk into the state park (to the east) or Shell Ridge Open Space (to
The featured hike starts in the southwestern
corner of the park and curves through and around an expensive gated community,
so the first and last miles of this loop hike sport vistas of some posh
backyards. It's worth it though, for the view from Shell Ridge offers
a different look at Mount Diablo (the 3849 foot mountain looks flat and
wide), and the trail features a glimpse of the China Wall rock formation.
Start at the east end of the Livorna
Staging Area, and walk back towards Livorna Road. Look for a trail
sign reading "To Diablo Foothills Park" on the other side of
the road. Carefully cross the road (lookout for those Mercedes SUV's!), turn left, and walk along the roadside
path to the east. After about 155 feet, at the junction with Serafix Road,
look for the trail sign near the stone gate. Cross Serafix Road
(if you get to the gated kiosk you're going the wrong way) turn right,
then look for another trail sign on the side of the path, just before
the bridge at about 320 feet. Turn left, away from the road.
This broad multi-use dirt path (considered
the Alamo Trail, although it's not much of a trail at this point) levelly
wanders past some new homes, then the path splits near a marshy area.
Stay to the right (the trail uphill to the left ends), cross the
drainage channel, then take the path to the left, uphill.
A wide ravine separates the mansions from
the trail, which climbs through valley and blue oaks, buckeyes, and grassy
hillsides. At this point the path is thin and might be overgrown, but
as you cross through a EBRPD gate you'll know you're on the right track. Alamo Trail curves left and continues climbing. At 0.83 mile, you'll reach
a signed junction with
Hanging Valley Trail. (If you want the shortest loop possible, take Hanging
Valley to Stonegate, turn left on Stonegate and follow the remaining directions
for the featured hike.) Bear right on Alamo Trail, crossing through
a (seasonal) gate into cattle country.
You'll find yourself on a broad trail,
with rolling hills on both sides, and Mount Diablo straight ahead in the
distance. The hills to the left (north) are more dry, brown, and bare
than the hills to the right (south), which are dotted with oak trees and
small rock formations. Cows keep most wildflowers from flourishing, but
in spring great patches of mustard sprawl through the grass. Alamo Trail
keeps a level pace. The China Wall rock formation comes into view on the
south side of the trail. Shortly after, at 1.17 miles, you'll arrive at
a signed junction with the Briones to Mount Diablo Trail. Turn right.
Briones to Mount Diablo Trail, open to hikers,cyclists,
and equestrians, climbs easily past a big valley oak, then reaches the
park boundary. Pass through the gate into Mount Diablo State Park, then
look to the right for an unsigned, but well-worn path; turn right.
In late April, pink and purple flowers from owl's clover and ithuriel's
spear add color to the grass as it loses that green glow of early spring.
The Castle Rocks are visible to the north. The path descends slightly,
and draws near to China Wall. This rocky reef doesn't much resemble the
Great Wall of China; there are other similar reef-like formations at Las Trampas.
Turn around at the wall's low point, just before a small pond, and retrace
your steps back to the junction with Briones to Mount Diablo Trail. To
continue this jaunt through the state park, and for more views of Castle
Rocks, continue east on Briones to Mount Diablo Trail, then turn north
(left) at the first major junction. When you get to Stage Road Trail,
turn left, turn left again onto Buckeye Ravine Trail at the next junction,
then hook up with the Stonegate Trail and resume the featured hike. This
option adds about 2.25 miles to your hike. Walk back downhill to the previously encountered junction with Alamo Trail,
then continue straight (right) on Briones to Mount Diablo Trail.
In the winter this stretch of trail gets very
muddy, but the views, and utter quiet, are spectacular. Hawks soar through
the skies, keeping company with the many red-winged blackbirds that frequent
the park's small ponds and damp swamps. Pick your way through the cow
droppings, keeping an eye out for coyotes and bobcats (you can see their
prints in the mud). Deer commonly can be seen munching on acorns under
oak trees. On one spring hike, when I stopped to admire a bunch of yellow
fiddleneck, I noticed a coyote downhill to the east. Although I was upwind
of the coyote, it ran when I was spotted. Briones to Mount Diablo Trail
begins a drop down into a valley. In spring, you might see great patches
of purple vetch on the hillsides. On the left side of the trail a small
swampy pond is signed "no swimming" (as if!). An established
shortcut trail off the left side of the path connects to the Stonegate Trail, but
continue on the Briones to Mount Diablo Trail to the signed junction with
Stonegate Trail at 2.81 miles. From here, you can extend your
hike another 1.25 mile by taking the Buckeye Ravine Trail to Stage Road
Trail, and returning to this junction via the other section of Buckeye
Ravine. This affords a view of the Castle Rocks. Turn left onto Stonegate
The broad multi-use trail descends gently,
crosses through a (seasonal) gate, then at 2.98 miles, at a signed junction,
meets up with Twin Ponds Trail and Hanging Valley Trail. Continue straight
Some California bays and buckeye trees
cluster near a damp seep on the left side of the trail. Cows are almost
always found in this part of the park. At 3.14 miles, Stonegate meets
a paved road at a signed junction. Turn left (you'll still be on
Stonegate) and walk along the paved road to another signed, but easy to
miss junction at 3.25 miles. The paved road continues around the corner
and then enters the gated community,
so turn right to continue hiking on Stonegate Trail.
This short trail segment is signed as closed
to cyclists. The path climbs pretty steeply, then crests and descends
again. At the crest, there's a cow path that continues around the contour
of the grassy hillside to the left, and it's more worn then the actual
trail, but if you take the cow path you will be forced to either climb
a barbed wire fence or retrace your steps. The true path is very slight,
and hard to see. Stay to the right and descend (look for a trail
sign and junction visible downhill). Cross through a gate and turn
left onto Foothills Trail at a signed junction at 3.41 miles.
Foothills Trail is a wide path open to hikers,
cyclists, and equestrians. It immediately climbs somewhat steeply through
oaks, then crests and offers wonderful views of oddly-shaped rocky hills
to the north and soft-looking grassy slopes to the west. As the trail
descends from a hilltop you'll arrive at a confusing junction at 3.58 miles, poorly signed and inadequately rendered
on the EBRPD map. Three trails depart from the junction and only one of
them is the Foothills Trail. The other two trails head
out of EBRPD lands into Shell Ridge Open Space lands, managed by the City
of Walnut Creek. Stay
straight (the left-most trail) to continue on Foothills Trail.
The trail brings you back into civilization,
as houses appear across a valley to the left. Las Trampas Ridge is visible
straight ahead to the west. You might see ithuriel's spear and owl's clover
in spring. After skirting a large oak tree at a hilltop, Foothills Trail
drops down to a junction at about 4 miles. Continue straight on Foothill
Trail (the other trail is unidentified on the sign post). The trail
drops sharply, edges the shores of tiny pond (signed "hazard pond/water
is unsafe"), then climbs back up to a ridge and crosses through a
gate. A massive cluster of houses at the base of the hill marks the end
of the open space. Walk downhill on the obvious trail and return to the
Total distance: 4.40 miles
Last hiked: Wednesday, April