Monday, June 12, 2017

Peak to peak: from Mount Diablo Summit to North Peak

North Peak Trail between Devil's Elbow and Devil's Pulpit
From the Observation Deck of the Mount Diablo Summit Visitor Center, one has—on a clear day—the perfect view of North Peak and between-peaks Prospector's Gap. Farther northeast one can see the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. To get a closer look at this expansive inland estuary—also known as the California Delta, or simply the Delta—the three-mile-long hike across the Diablo slopes and ridges to North Peak is a worthwhile exercise.

From the visitor center, the Summit Trail leads you to the Mary Bowerman Trailhead, where, across the Summit Road near the Lower Summit Picnic Area, a short downhill trail connects with the Devil's Elbow.
Summit Road with Devil's Elbow
The elbow tip is the trailhead of North Peak Trail. You will see the pleasant path of the single-track trail traveling eastward, traversing an open slope with occasional gray pines toward Devil's Pulpit. Once half around this Franciscan-chert monolith, you will enter chaparral and then a low forest of oak, bay laurel and pine trees.

Gray pines partially damaged by a wild fire
On a cold and windy day in May 2017, a hummingbird was “greeting” me at a point where creek water was still flowing over the trail. Nearby, I saw red larkspur flowers, “trying” to attract hummingbirds for pollination. Various other flowers, including California poppies and Chinese houses, displayed their vibrant spring colors alongside this lush section of North Peak Trail.

The northbound trail descends in switchbacks to Prospector's Gap. From this trail junction, North Peak Road ascends to North Peak. After half a mile of climbing, you will arrive at a V-junction, from which North Peak Trail continues to Mount Olympia.
Rusty graffiti tank between Prospector's Gap and North Peak

On the left side of the trail you will be face to face with a rusty tank featuring white graffity. To get the top of North Peak, stay on the right-side gravel road and follow the steep incline up to the rugged top with its transmission towers. The posted elevation for North Peak of 3557 feet matches the number given in my “Trail Map of Mount Diablo State Park” designed by Rita Ter Sarkissoff, 2012.

At the northeast corner of North Peak you may want to carefully climb onto “vista rocks” that allow undisturbed views of the Delta and the ridges of the Diablo Range edging Central Valley.      

Northwest-facing slope of North Peak's rugged ridge

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