Livorna Staging Area,
Diablo Foothills Regional Park
East Bay Regional Park District,
Contra Costa County
In brief:
4.4 mile loop traveling through oak grassland on the low flanks of Mount Diablo.

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.

Exposure:
Mostly exposed, with a few pockets of shade.

Trail traffic
:
Light-moderate.

Trail surfaces
:
Dirt trails and fire roads.

Hiking time
:
2 1/2 hours.

Season
:
Spring is best.

Getting there:
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:
http://transitandtrails.org/trailheads/327

GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Latitude 3752'14.75"N
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.

Trailhead details:
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.

Rules:
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:
EBRPD's Diablo Foothills page
EBRPD headquarters 510-562-PARK

Map Choices:
• Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Map from EBRPD 
• 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 (order this book from Amazon.com) has a great map and descriptions of a Diablo Foothills hike.
• David Weintraub's East Bay Trails has a good map and descriptions of a Diablo Foothills hike (order this book from Amazon.com).

Diablo Foothills in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.

View photos from this hike.




Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

Diablo Foothills Regional Park abuts Mount Diablo State Park. TrailheadThe 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 bay.Path past houses
      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 west).
     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. Alamo TrailCarefully 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. Diablo view 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.China Wall
     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.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 Trail.View
      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 on Stonegate.
      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.Las Trampas Ridge visible from Foothills Trail
     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. Pond on Foothill 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 parking lot.

Total distance: 4.40 miles
Last hiked: Wednesday, April 25, 2001