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North Peak Loop via Donner Canyon

HARD 12 reviews
#11 of 21 trails in

North Peak Loop via Donner Canyon is a 10.1 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near Clayton, CA that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round.

10.1 miles 3458 feet Loop

birding

hiking

nature trips

trail running

walking

views

wild flowers

wildlife

Skip the summit crowds and see Mount Diablo's North Peak. Strenuous 10-mile hike. If you're bugged by the existence of a parking lot atop Mount Diablo -- the East Bay's signature peak -- you're probably just the type to check out nearby North Peak, which gets far fewer visitors and offers just as many awesome vistas. My favorite path to North Peak is definitely the hard way: five miles and over 3,000 feet of climb on some of the steepest trails in the Bay Area. The struggle has rewards beyond knowing you've walked from near sea level to one of the highest accessible points in the region. In springtime, the hillsides light up with wildflowers; in winter, rains cleanse the skies so you can see the snow-capped Sierra peaks hundreds of miles away; in autumn, tarantulas prowl the trails in search of mates. Summer's about the only time when it's too hot to attempt this hike. This hike also has a bonus: a jaunt along the Mount Olympia Trail, notorious as one of the steepest in the Bay Area. If you've got the legs for it, this is among the East Bay's must-hike routes. For peak-bagging purists, a hike to the main summit adds another three miles and 800 feet of elevation gain.

hiking
25 days ago

Great hike. I preferred it a few years ago when areas had recently been burnt out, but it's fantastic nonetheless. I had a hard time finding parking when I went, so I added some detail about where to go on my trip report here, which may help others: https://gregable.com/2014/01/mt-olympia-hike-part-of-mt-diablo-state.html

hiking
1 month ago

Great hike! It's fun to hit the three different peaks. We hiked on a ridiculously hot day so the water fountains and restrooms right before the accent to Mt. Diablo saved us. I feel like the views from Mt. Olympia are just as good as the ones from Mt. Diablo so if you only have time for the first section then it's still worth it. I think the most interesting part of the hike was through the meadow between Olympia and North Peak, really awesome yellow fields on a narrow path. We ended up using our headlamps for the last hour on the way down, it's really tree covered so if you even think you might be heading down around dusk be sure to have a light!

hiking
3 months ago

Views from the top of Mt.Olympia are great. Made the mistake of not carrying sunscreen or a hat - never repeating that! Gets really hot on a lot of parts of the trail since they are quite exposed. View from the summit of North Peak are not much to write home about. But the single track from Mt.Olympus to the North Peak is gorgeous!

3 months ago

Extremely hard...

6 months ago

hiking
6 months ago

This hike is definitely not for the weak. While the elevation change is large, but not absurdly high, it is divided into multiple interspersed very steep components that get your heart rate and your legs burning. The trail on which you hike changes from gravel, to rocks, to grass, which keeps the trail from getting stale. If you're also a fan of being out in the sun, then this trail is definitely for you.

A few members of my team could not make it up all the way making us cut the hike short, which speaks to how difficult this hike is; not for beginners. That being said, if you are a regular hiker, this is both a fun, challenging, and rewarding trip!

2 years ago

This was my first experience in Mt. Diablo State Park. I was looking for a good all day hike to take in and this one fit the bill. The ascent isn't very bad. There were a few spots where I got fairly gassed, but was able to complete it without too much trouble. The descent on the other hand was brutal. Steep trails with loose rock that cover most of the descent had my knees screaming at me toward the end. Coming back down the road right before North Peak summit was downright scary, very steep and almost all loose rock. If I do this again (and I probably will) I think I'll skip that ascent, the North Peak is pretty marred by radio towers and such anyway. The highlight of the trip for me was actually Mt. Olympia summit, it's just a summit should be, nothing else there with beautiful views all around you. Most of the trails are very cozy and beautiful, but be careful of the poison oak which is very close to the trail in certain places.

Overall a very fun hike. The descent makes me knock it down a star due to the sheer amount of loose rocky steep trails destroying my ankles and knees.

2 years ago

I made the mistake of going to the wrong gate but decided to follow the same trails with some adjustments. I parked at Juniper campground and went down all the way down via some other trails & back creek trail to start over. Climbing on Olympia peak with tired legs was tough. North peak has a very tough 200 yards section where I slipped once while coming down but no damage done :) North peak to main summit was OK but it felt very tough as I was exhausted by then. I am giving it 4 stars as the trail is not well marked at times and there are no restrooms or places to rest till you reach main peak summit. Overall it was very satisfying.

3 years ago

I've done this hike twice and thoroughly enjoyed it. The trail is steep and challenging, particularly the last few hundred yards up the fire road (how the hell they get ANY vehicle up this is beyond me) is SO steep that all of our group slipped and fell on the almost 45 degree slope on our way down.

But I would like to urge readers in search of the steepest climbs in the Bay Area to visit Henry Coe State Park, which has several climbs including the infamous "shortcut" up to Mount Sizer, Steer Ridge, and more that are just as steep, longer, and harder. There's a saying that one does not go to Henry Coe to train for the Sierras, but one goes to the Sierras to train for Henry Coe that is not too far off!

Just came back from that trail, including the main peak of Mt. Diablo - 14 miles in total. One thing people need to remember is if there are a few routes to the top, the shortest one is likely to be the steepest. This route sounds scary because of the mileage, but out the really steep parts are about a mile in total, the rest is fairly mild.

The views were amazing. It's good to wear layers because there are some cold and windy areas and some hot and dry. Some trails on the way back are cut into clay, so I guess they could get very muddy after rain.

Overall, it's a great way to spend a day, highly recommended.

4 years ago

This was a beautiful hike - but the description wasn't kidding when it said it's strenuous and a tough climb to the top. Once you get there, the view is amazing.

It was the perfect temperature despite being early Summer. The way back down (option 1) is still a tough scramble down and over loose terrain and at times, steep declines. If I would do anything differently, it would be to bring trekking poles - these would've been huge and prevented the few slides I took when getting back down.

Overall, beautiful. But definitely make sure you're in good enough shape to handle it.