Best Back Door to Mount Diablo: Avoid those devilish crowds
Regency Gate, Mount Diablo State Park
Regency Gate, Mount Diablo State Park End of Regency Dr., Clayton, MDIA.org
You might find some horses out on Mount Diablo, too. Ditch the crowded North Gate and South Gate entrances to Mount Diablo State Park in favor of Clayton's Regency Gate. This lush, shaded trailhead is quite possibly the park's most beautiful way in. Hikers and bikers can easily access the gate by driving east on Clayton Road, continuing onto Marsh Creek Road, and turning right onto Regency Drive. A dead end will reveal that familiar gathering of parked cars that says "trails start here." Scrambling down a dusty embankment yields three main trails that diverge amid hills, California poppies, and the quietly gurgling Donner Creek. The most popular is the Falls Trail loop. This six-mile trek travels up Donner Canyon Road, Cardinet Oaks Road, and Falls Trail, then down Middle Trail and back onto Donner Canyon Road. Narrow and winding at times, the route wanders past two gentle falls and escalates up to 1,200 feet, nearly the height of the gliding hawks. The diversity of wildflowers makes it a must-do in the early spring. Good hiking shoes are advisable for crossing streams and traversing mud.