Mitchell Canyon Trailhead — Diablo Summit — Regency

Peak Summited2021 Mount Diablo
Type of HikeDay hike
TrailheadMitchell Canyon
Road ConditionsRoad suitable for all vehicles
Bug StatusNo bugs
Snow ConditionsSnow free
Trail ConditionsTrail in good condition

Hopped out of work a little early today to do a summit hike from Mitchell Canyon. Set off around 3pm and wasn't confident I would make it back before the gates closed, so I had my wife drop me off in the MC parking lot and I just walked home in the semi-dark from Regency Trailhead, which added about two additional miles to the already long hike. It ended up being about 16 miles of 3,400 elevation gain over 6 hours.

It was a terrific hike with the added fun of the time pressure. I live quite close to Diablo so this is the only one of the six peaks I could reasonably tackle on a post-work push. With the days getting shorter and the air quality over the next couple of months looking questionable, I just decided to go and tackle it today. The smoky haze diminished visibility a bit but the conditions on the ground were terrific, cool, breezy, and a gorgeous sunset when coming back down. I didn't run into a single person for the entirety of the hike, save for a small group at the summit.

I did this exact route on New Year's Eve last year and it's just a terrifically staged hike. I mentally break the climb up into four distinct sections that all have their own distinct character and are loosely the same mileage but not challenge.

The first section is by far the easiest, two miles along the wooded, level Mitchell Canyon Road up to the picnic tables that are adjacent to the creek. Personally, I like having an extended warm-up section that gets me into the mood and rhythm of my walk before there's a sizable climb. Plus, it's also a really nice stretch of trail. If I were a runner, it would seem like an ideal four mile out and back.

After hydrating a bit at the picnic tables, it's time to get ready to climb. The second section up to Deer Flat is, for me, by far the most challenging stretch of the hike. It's the same wide road as before, but the grade gets steeper quickly, the tree cover gets thinner, and it's about two miles of steep, sun-exposed climb. It was only about 80 degrees today but it still felt hot throughout this stretch and was the only real section where I was literally sweating. There are some nice views to the north and towards Eagle Peak as you climb, though, and a couple of nice spots to take in the increasingly broad vista.

Once you reach Deer Flat you're once again welcomed with some nice picnic space and a really prime view to the north. Took a quick water and snack break again and then set off on the third section, which takes you along Meridian Ridge Rd up to Juniper Campground. This is my favourite section of the hike–it's an extremely gradual gain and the views start to get more dynamic and varied as you turn. After finishing the previous section's climb, this feels like a generous, extended gift. One of my favourite parts of the hike occurs at the Meridian-Burma junction where the views to the south suddenly open up with swirling winds punctuating the views. From there, it's a pretty straightforward hike over to Juniper Campground, where it's time to hydrate and snack and take advantage of the well-maintained facilities.

From there, the last push up to the summit is not too bad at all. On Juniper Trail, there are some slightly steep sections, but it's all manageable and varied. After crossing Summit Rd. it's really the homestretch with the lower parking lot just a couple of minutes away. After crossing the parking lot, head back on the summit trail for a bit and there it is, the peak. It was eerily empty when I arrived; one car, three folks taking in the views.

I wolfed down a canned sardine dinner and then headed back down along the North Peak Trail. Took Bald Ridge Trail down, which is a really beautiful trail. It's a little annoying that you start to climb again for a short stretch but it eventually steadies into a lovely ridge walk that contains fantastic views and really nice air currents for some reason.

If you're heading back to the Mitchell Canyon parking lot, you probably want to do the Eagle Peak Trail at the Bald Ridge Junction. Eagle Peak is its own fantastic hike and I definitely recommend adding it to the summit route if you haven't visited before. For me, I had no car to return to at Mitchell Canyon and it was getting extremely late so I took Back Creek Trail down to Regency Trailhead.

All in all, a fantastic hike. So happy I decided to tackle it today.


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