Running the Mount Diablo Four Peaks Loop
Let me tell you; there is not a lot of information on running up Mount Diablo. I had my heart set on it, and I found the Mount Diablo Four Peaks Loop, which goes to four summits: Olympic, North, Diablo, and Eagle. You can run up Mount Diablo, but you can also walk or hike too. It’s not easy, and you need a good pair of shoes, water and should be in decent fitness. There is also a road that you drive up to Mount Diablo if you prefer to.
Like I mentioned, running up Mount Diablo is challenging because it’s never really flat. You go up and down, but there aren’t many gradually increases and decreases. It’s either steep incline and decline. When I ran the Mount Diablo Four Peaks Loop, I ended up averaging about 15 minute pace. My fastest mile was one of the fire roads, and it was about 9:50.
My Experience with Running the Mount Diablo Four Peaks Loop:
A Few Things about Running Up Mount Diablo and the Mount Diablo Four Peaks Loop:
- Parking is limited, so get there early.
- Not a lot of shade. Bring water, hydration, and fueling.
- Some single-track trail. Social distancing is hard on singletracks, so make sure to have a mask.
- People do drive up to Mount Diablo Peak. That was by far the most crowded.
- Some peaks might be windy. It got 15-20 degrees colder when we reached the top of some of the peaks.
Running up Mount Diablo and the Mount Diablo Four Peaks Loop:
We parked at the end of Regency Drive. At 7 am, we were the only car, but it was completely full when we got back around 11. You’ll run down to the main trail toward Mount Diablo. When you look up, you think, “oh, what beautiful mountains,” until you realize you’ll be running up almost all of them.
The first mile and a half are fairly easy. Once you turn left onto Cardinet Oaks Road, the climbing begins, and it begins fast. About 3/4ths of a mile later, you’ll turn onto the singletrack Olympia Trail which eventually becomes Mount Olympia Road. The singletrack Olympia trail was the least used trail, and I found myself swatting tree branches out of the way. You’ll stay on Mount Olympia Road until it becomes the Zipper Trail.
About Four Miles in, you’ll reach my favorite peak: Mount Olympia. I like Mount Olympia because it was quiet and beautiful. The views from the top were gorgeous.
After Mount Olympia, you’ll head toward North Peak. There is a fair amount of loose gravel, and it’s hard to find footing on the singletrack trails. It also can get windy. The road gets steep towards the top of North Peak.
When we went, it was steep and extremely windy. We reached North Peak around 5 miles. I didn’t add but in the first 5 miles of Mount Diablo Four Peaks Loop, you climb nearly 3000 feet.
I almost thought about just skipping North Peak but said: No, I’m here. It’s a short and steep out and back to North Peak, so watch your footing on the downhill. The peak has a small tower, and you walk up a grate. North Peak was windy and probably my least favorite of the peaks, but that is because I was cold and about to blow away. I also wondered how the heck I was going to run 10 more miles on this terrain.
After North Peak, you’ll head towards Mount Diablo. Honesty, you’re going downhill for about a mile, wondering why. Why not just make the trail go horizontal. Why must I go down and then back up? Running up Mount Diablo is the main attraction, and you’ll find a lot more people on the trails that surround it. In fact, we only say one family in the 7 miles before the summit of Mount Diablo. Around Mount Diablo, we saw dozens.
Running up Mount Diablo is tough and steep. I logged a few 18-22 minute miles (yes, I was combination running/power hiking). Coming back down is less steep, and I found I could get a nice rhythm of running.
After leaving Mount Diablo Peak, make sure to stay oriented with the trails. Since the path crosses multiple roads and campgrounds, you don’t want to end up on the wrong path. You’ll want to get on Juniper Trail through the Juniper Campground, followed by Deer Flat Road. Turn right on Meridian Fire Road and climb the Muricho Gap.
From there and between running up Mount Diablo and the final peak, Eagle Peak has a nice 2 mile stretch of downhill fire road. This is where I logged some of my faster 10-11 minute miles. My quads began to feel the wrath of the downhill. In fact, I was sore for a few days later.
Eventually, the path up to Eagle Peak climbs one last time. For the most part, the last 4-5 miles are singletrack. In our experience, the wind was much less on this side of the mountains and more enjoyable climate-wise.
After you climb to the summit of Eagle Peak, you head back down. This is the steepest section and a lot of loose rock. I expected to run faster like the fire roads, but the steep singletrack made that nearly impossible. You might even find yourself going slower than when you climbed uphill.
In the last 3 miles of Mount Diablo Four Peaks Loop, your quads might be on fire. Mine sure were. They are singletrack, and for the most part, the loose gravel ends with about 1.5 miles to go. Thankfully, the last 1.5 miles was a nice gradual downhill.
Running the Mount Diablo Four Peaks Loop Conclusion:
It was fun but a lot of work. You can definitely run up Mount Diablo, but it is not easy, and if you’ve never run trails before, I suggest starting with something easier.
You can see more trail runs and hikes here.
Questions for you:
Have you ever run up Mount Diablo or done the Mount Diablo Four Peaks Loop?
What is a challenging hike or run you’ve done recently?