North Peak in Diablo State Park is the incredibly scenic but frequently overlooked summit to its big brother, Mt Diablo. As I further explore unclimbed-to-me peaks in the Bay Area, I also overlooked this summit, thinking it wasn't worth my while compared to the region highpoint. This New Years, I decided to hike it in a quest to climb the Bay Area's Nifty Ninety . The Devils Pulpit was another easily achieved sub-summit of Mt Diablo worth the extra mileage.
North Peak Overview
North Peak, Mt Diablo is located in the famous state park that probably gets the most visitors of any state park in the Bay Area. Note that New Years Day is the busiest time of year for this park!
At 3,557', its one of the tallest accessible summits of the entire region. Together with Mt Diablo, North Peak creates a double pyramid profile, especially at sunrise and sunset. I always thought it was called Mt Diablo because of the vaguely horn-like image from a distance but the naming of North Peak/Mt Diablo is actually quite complicated.
There are dozens of routes up both summits. I chose the easiest and most straightforward route beginning from the Juniper Parking lot. Here's a map of my route.
Juniper Parking Lot to Mt Diablo
On whats probably the most congested route up Mt Diablo, I began my climb. The Juniper parking lot and corresponding trail starts at about 3,000' and climbed about 850' over 1.4 miles (one way) to the summit. The trail is easy to follow and has numerous signs pointing the way. Views start to open up on the last 0.5 miles of the trail. Of course, one must also navigate the parking lot and crossing the road a few times to get to the top.
The summit itself is very crowded but the views are great. On a clear day, nearly every summit of the Bay Area is visible. I spent some time weaving in and out of selfie-sticks to catch all the vistas.
Mt Diablo, Devil's Pulpit
Just beneath the main summit is the Devil's Pulpit; a prominent, rocky outcrop. This was a place of interest to me given its status on the California Coastal Peaks List. Its also a little less crowded than the main summit.
To reach the Devils Pulpit, I took the first half of the Fire Interpretive Trail on a relatively flat 0.3 miles (see map above). The trail has great views in itself and then its a brief, unexposed scramble to the "summit" of Devils Pulpit. I crossed several people who were clearly less happy about the final scramble but I didn't think it was too bad. No summit register at the top.
Mt Diablo to North Peak
After the brief detour of Devils Pulpit, I took the Summit Trail from the Lower Parking lot down about 200' over 0.3 miles. The summit trail intersected with the North Peak Trail near the summit road.
From that intersection the trail descends over 1 mile to the saddle between Mt Diablo and North Peak. This was my favorite section of any trail I've hiked in Mt Diablo State Park; it hugs the very steep South side of the mountain and has unobstructed views of the entire mountain range. I hiked slow and stopped frequently for pictures.
From the saddle, the trail continues through a four way intersection on its obvious path to the North Peak summit. Its about 0.8 miles and 500' of gain to the summit from the saddle. Note the final quarter mile is extremely steep, practically class II.
Although the summit of North Peak is covered in radio towers, the views extend well into the Central Valley and the Sierra Nevada. Its certainly more enjoyable than the hoards on Mt Diablo Proper.
I returned the exact way I came; didn't see many options to make the hike a loop. Total distance for the hike was 8.5 miles with ~2,300' of gain and loss. It was a heck of way to start the 2020 year of peakbagging!