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California, Mount Diablo Mitchell Canyon Loop

State: California
Location: Mount Diablo
Length, Round Trip: 13.5 miles
Trail Type: Loop
Minimum Elevation: 600 feet
Maximum Elevation: 3500 feet
Elevation Change: 3000 feet
Best Season: Year-round
Difficulty: 2B

Trail Information

The trailhead for the Mitchell Canyon Loop starts at the parking lot at an elevation of about 600 feet (water is available). The Mitchell Canyon Loop trail is a fire road, passing up Mitchell Canyon, along Mt. Diablo Creek. The first 2 miles are a gradual climb, a nice warm-up. After that the fun starts! The next mile climbs relentlessly for 1,000 feet up a series of tight switchbacks to Deer Flat. At Deer Flat, take the right-hand fork, (Deer Flat Road). After a brief reprieve, the climb begins anew, as you ascend 800 more feet to Juniper Campground. Proceed through the campground there is water here to the main park road. Turn left and take the pavement for about a mile to a 180-degree hairpin (Devils Elbow). This is the high point of the ride, at 3,500 feet. There is a gravel turnout at this point that is the beginning of the (legal) North Peak singletrack.

The Mitchell Canyon Loop is a moderately to highly technical, rocky, singletrack that descends about 550 feet in about three-quarters of a mile. Be sure to take in the spectacular views of the Sierra Nevada and Central Valley on the way. At the base of the trail, take the steep Prospectors Gap Road north. This fire road is VERY steep and rocky, so watch out. You descend 800 feet in short order looking out on your right for the Meridian Ridge fire road. Turn right and descend a screamingly fast, straight, rolling ridge crest road, looking out for the sharp right turn in the road. Descend to the Donner Canyon Trail (fire road) and turn left (north). The road follows Donner Creek to an intersection where you turn left out of the canyon and across relatively flat topography to the Mitchell Canyon parking lot at the trailhead.

The total distance of this trail is about 13.5 miles with about 3,000 feet of climb. The ride usually takes about 2.5 hours if you are rolling at a good pace. The best times are in the spring and fall, since Mitchell Canyon is hellishly hot in the summer. In the winter, you will want to avoid a stretch of sticky adobe soil on the lower part of the return loop by skipping the Meridian Ridge descent and continuing straight (west) along the Prospectors Gap road, up a short climb to the saddle at Murchio Gap and down another steep section of gravely road that will take you back to Deer Flat (be prepared to ford a deep puddle in late winter). From there, turn right and down, returning down the Mitchell Canyon road to the starting point. In general, the soil conditions on the upper parts of Mt. Diablo are excellent for winter riding, with most roads cut into hard igneous and metamorphic rocks that form a good all-weather surface.

Directions

From Walnut Creek:
Take the Ygnacio Valley exit off of Interstate 680. Follow Ygnacio Valley east, through Concord to Clayton Road. Turn right on Clayton Road. Proceed to Mitchell Canyon Road, turn right.

Follow to the end of the road and park, either in the Mt Diablo State Park lot ($6.00 fee), or park on the road.


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