Mount Diablo

Mount Diablo is one of the major landmarks of the east bay and a must-visit place in California. This article goes in-depth about Mount Diablo and its interesting facts. This article is an excerpt from the book called “The Extraordinary Life and Landscapes of s California Treasure” by “Linda Rimac Colberg”

A Sculpted work of living, breathing art, adorned in brilliant colors and muted tones, Mount Diablo teems with life in all stages of birth, being, and beginning again. Wildlife playgrounds of chaparral, cooling canopies of California buckeye and big leaf maple, and secret rooms in sandstone caves lure both the mountain’s native residents and travelers just passing through.

Mount Diablo stands patiently, perfectly, an unsurpassed natural monument of intense beauty and rugged wilderness with complex geology that has created and continues to sustain- dramatic landscapes, microclimates, and biodiversity. Home to ancient and modern cultures, this precious land has intrigued scientists and historians and engaged artists and wanders for generations.

Thirty miles east of San Francisco, near the eastern edge of Contra Costa Country and in the center of ever-expanding urban communities, Mount Diablo is a natural stage of changeable backdrops and elaborate scenery, painted and embellished in fine and delicate detail- never quite finished, always evolving, appearing and disappearing, and appearing again. Costumed characters fill the lands: some lope, or slither, or scramble about; others flit or soar on the mountain’s currents or navigate its precious waters.

Riparian communities abound along canyon streams distinguished by alder, willow, and sycamore trees, Wildflower meadows, oak savannahs, and wooden slopes rotate their showy displays of royal larkspur, blue hound’s tongue, yellow cow parsnip, magenta chaparral pea, lavender Ithuriel’s spear, pink shooting star, elegant whorls of violent Chinese houses, and picture-postcard fields of the state’s signature California poppy.

Rocky peaks and craggy outcrops descend from dizzying heights into dense thickets of chamise and aromatic communities of California bay and black sage. Massive grasslands share space with owl’s clover, fiddleneck, buttercup, baby blue eyes, and blue-eyed grass, which isn’t grass at all, but a member of the iris family. Spring polls refill with winter’s rainwater welcoming the annual return of fragrant parsley and perky golden monkeyflower. Re-energized creeks and waterfalls frolic before succumbing to spring’s greeting and summers hear.

Flanked by fantastical wind-blown caves, stretches of steep ruggedness open to stony ridges and verdant foothills, whose rolling gaits make you want to jog, then run faster and faster.

Moody and playful, the mountain offers familiar sites and sounds, then surprises with unexpected gifts: a playful snowfall or lucky double rainbow; an appearance by the rate rein orchid; or a sighting of the threatened Alameda whipsnake, which slithers atop brush and scrub plants, rather than beneath, on its quest for prey.

Home to ten percent of California’s plant species and more than fifty rare and endemic plants, Mount Diablo claims the Brewer’s dwarf flax, Mount Diablo fairy lantern, and Mount Diablo buckwheat as its own. It is the graceful Mount Diablo jewel flower, also exclusive to the mountain, that you spy flourishing in the bands of bluish-green serpentinite, California’s state rock- a toxic soil, heavy in metals and low in plant nutrients. This delightful purple bloom survives in the harsh soil, where other plants and grasses that might crowd it out simply cannot.

Wildlife communities, rich in diversity and numbers, populate this natural sanctuary of microclimates and habitats. More than 100 species find home and haven, including the red-legged frog, more common in the moist Pacific Northwest, and the western whiptail lizard, which thrives in the arid Mojave desert. The handsome prairie falcon that nests on Castle Rock, on Mount Diablo’s western slopes, flies twenty miles east to the flat grasslands of Brentwood to forage for food. The delicate pipevine swallowtail butterfly, however, rarely travels away from its host plant Dutchman’s pipe, which is only found in an area of foothills very near the Castle Rock nest of its larger mountain neighbor.

Mount Diablo
Mount Diablo

200 miles in all directions

Blessed with a clear, crisp day, after a winter’s rain has cleansed the air and opened the horizons, visitors to Mount Diablo’s 3,849-foot summit delight in remarkable panoramas of distant lands and waters more than 200 miles in all directions, reaching across thirty-five counties of Northern and Central California. Gasps are not uncommon upon first sight.

To the west, beyond the Berkeley Hills and Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge, you recognize the sky-scrapers of the city by the Bay. Then farther, past the City’s Golden gate, twenty-eight miles off the coast in the Pacific Ocean, you spy the Farallon Islands. Looking north, you see Mount Saint Helena, and on a particularly crystalline day, you can even make out Mount Lassen in the Cascade Range.

Facing northeast and east, your eyes roam the intertwined waterways of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the imposing Sierra Nevada with its caps of snow, and the vast agricultural bounty of California’s great Central Valley. Visible to the south is the Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton and the Loma Prieta Lookout in the Santa Cruz Mountains. And on that particularly clear day, with a fine pair of binoculars, you might even spy Yosemite’s iconic Half Dome.

How is it that Mount Diablo offers such dramatic views? As the northmost peak of the inner coast Diablo Range, Mount Diablo is a solitary natural formation standing alone, surrounded by lesser peaks, cascading foothills, low-lying grasslands and valleys, and the flatlands of the San Francisco Bay Area and Central valley on all four sides.

Mount Diablo is really one mountain with two major peaks, the Summit and North Peak, capped by erosion-resistant rocks, such as chert and greenstone, which are responsible for their rugged topography. The heart of Mount Diablo State Park, which covers more than 20,000 acres, is the more prominent peak, the Summit, site of the Summit Visitor Center, a magnificent structure built of stone quarried from the mountain itself. Mount Diablo’s protected and preserved peaks, foothills, and grasslands with connections to surrounding public open spaces cover more than 100,000 acres.

Dominating the Contra Costa County skyline, the outline of Mount Diablo is the first sight of home people see as they return from a journey away, from any direction, appearing in the distance, growing larger and larger, welcoming them back. To most whose, roots are here, and those who have been transplanted from distant points, the mountain represents comfort and connection-a symbol of identity, integral to the area’s history and development. When I see Mount Diablo, they say, peering through a window, searching the horizon, I know I’m home.

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