Mt. Diablo - South Gate Bike Climb - PJAMM Cycling

Mt. Diablo - South Gate


The most popular East Bay climb

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Climb Summary

Cycling Mt. Diablo - aerial drone pano of north and south gate roads.

Cycling Mt. Diablo - An East Bay Jewel

General Information

Mt. Diablo is a very popular East Bay State Park that offers many hiking trails, camping options, and excellent views of the Bay Area and east towards the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range.  It is no coincidence that Diablo is “Devil” in Spanish, an appropriate name for this lengthy and challenging East Bay bike climb.

There are 360 degree views from the visitor center and observation deck at the mountain’s summit.  

Bicycle climb Mt. Diablo - aerial drone panorama photo of visitor center and observation deck

There is a historic beacon tower and museum-like visitor center at this bicycle climb’s finish.  “Mount Diablo is the starting point for the establishment of land boundaries throughout most of Northern California and all of Nevada. The summit is the location of the "Initial Point," the north/south meridian, and east/west baseline intersection point that is the basis for most property boundaries” (see history article).  

Mt. Diablo Visitor Center at the Mountain's Summit:

Cycling Mt. Diablo - cyclist on bike riding past summit sign - visitor center and beacon   

Summit sign, Visitor Center Parking Lot and Beacon.

Standard Oil Beacon -- activated 1928; now lit once a year on December 7.

Cycling Visitor Center - Visitor center and historic light beacon

The observation deck and beacon tower.

Inside the Beacon Tower.

  Climbing Mt. Diablo by bike - photo inside Visitor Center

Inside the Visitor Center.

Junction of South and North Gate Roads

There is water at the Junction Ranger Station (mile 6.1 from the south, and 7.9 from the north) and at Summit.  

Bicycle ride Mt. Diablo - front of Junction Ranger Station

Junction Ranger Station. 

Bicycling up Mt. Diablo - water faucet at Junction Ranger Station

Water at Junction Ranger Station.

The Visitor Center at the summit has candy, liquids and four options of cycling jerseys to purchase (that is notable in that it’s the largest selection of jerseys in any visitor center we’ve visited in the US, most don’t have even one to choose from).

Both the South and North Gate climbs are broken into two segments:  

  • Segment One:
  • South Gate to Summit Road (6.1 miles / 1,520’ / 4.5%), and
  • North Gate to Summit Road (7.9 / 2,015’ / 5.4%)
  • Segment Two:  Summit Road - 4.5 miles / 1,654’ / 6.7%

Bicycle ride and climb Mt. Diablo - Summit Road, Visitor Center, Beacon - aerial drone photo

Summit Road leading to Visitor Center and Beacon (view west)

Cycling and riding by bike Mt. Diablo - aerial drone photo of Summit Road, visitor center, beacon and observation deck

View of the summit from drone to the southwest of the summit.

Cycling Mt. Diablo - Summit Road - road sign for curve - garmin map with hairpins

Winding road after the merge of South/North Gate Roads.

Cycling Mt. Diablo - Shiloh Wind Power Plant as seen from Mt. Diablo observation tower

Northeast view of Shiloh Wind Power Plant -- Birds Landing.

Mt. Diablo From South Gate:

We begin this climb 0.3 miles outside the park entrance (South Gate Road) in the community of Diablo, just east of Danville, CA.  The climb starts at the end of a rural residential area and for the remainder of the 10 1/2 miles we travel through a very rural oak studded open space California State Park.  

Cycling Mt. Diablo - South Gate - start of climb - bridge

Start of South Gate climb.

   Climbing by bike Mt. Diablo - South Gate - views along climb

On a crystal clear day, it is reported that one can see the Sentinel Dome in Yosemite (130 miles due east), Mt. Lassen (170 miles north) and the Farallon Islands (60 miles due west) west of the Golden  Gate Bridge.  For most of the climb, our view is of grasslands with many interspersed valley, blue, and black oak tree varieties.  The Climb averages 5.8% and is a very smooth and comfortable ascent (in the 4-7% range, for the most part) save for the last two-tenths mile (“The Wall” -- Strava has it at 0.1 mile, but we charted it closer to 0.2) which averages 15%.  Views along the route are to the west and north of the Walnut Creek and San Pablo Bay areas and to the east of the Highway 4 corridor (Pittsburg / Antioch / Brentwood  areas) all the way to the western Sierras.

Bicycle ride up Mt. Diablo - Summit Road - Golden Gate Bridge and Mount Tamalpais

Golden Gate Bridge center top

 Mt. Tamalpais is the bump on the mountain range upper center-right.

Mt. Diablo  bike climb - summit sign

Exceptional views from the summit.

If you are driving from out of the area and just doing the climb, parking is difficult in the park and within a 1-2 mile perimeter outside of it in the bordering residential areas.  We recommend parking at Rock City Live Oak Camping and Parking area just past the ranger kiosk at mile 3.9 ($10 parking and day use fee -- no charge for cyclists as of May 2015).

The roadway surface is exceptional and while there is moderate vehicular traffic along the climb, our experience in three times up Diablo is that traffic travels at or near the posted 20 mph speed limit, making this a very safe route.  You will also likely encounter many cyclists along the climb.  Be sure to turn right onto Summit Road at the North and  South Gate junction (mile 6).

Mt. Diablo From North Gate:

This segment is a bit more difficult to Summit Road than South Gate (7.9 versus 6.1 miles, and 5.4% versus 4.5%) and a bit more exposed with less shade, so beware and come prepared on hot days.  As for popularity, South Gate to Junction had 71,790 Strava attempts as of September 1, 2015 versus only 36,589 for the equivalent segment from the north.


Climb Mt. Diablo - North Gate by bike - start of climb - street sign

Start of climb -- North Gate Road and Castle Rock Road.

    Cycling Mt. Diablo - North Gate - ranger station and park gate

Enter park at mile 1.4.

Cycling Mt. Diablo - North Gate - aerial drone photo of hairpin turns 

North Gate Road from Walnut Creek.

As with the southern approach, the road along the entire ascent from the north is exceptional.  Traffic can be heavy on the weekends, but there are so many cyclists and the speed limit so low, this is a very safe climb.



Leopold Konig wins Stage 7 of the  2013 mountain-top finish Mt. Diablo (Jonathan Devich).

Mt. Diablo has been featured three times in the Tour of California between 2006 and 2019.

  • 2012 Stage 3
  • San Jose > Livermore
  • 115.3 miles, 7,151’ - South Gate Road
  • Stage winner: Peter Sagan (SVK; Liquigas-Cannondale) -- sprint finish


Peter Sagan wins ToC 2012 Stage 3.


  • 2013 Stage 7
  • Livermore > Mt. Diablo summit
  • 91.2 miles, 7,320’
  • Stage winner: Leopold König (CZE; NetApp-Endura) by 7”

  • 2014 Stage 3
  • San Jose > Mount Diablo summit
  • 107 miles, 10,574’
  • Stage winner:  Rohan Dennis (AUS; Garmin-Sharp)

Rohan Dennis wins ToC 2014 Stage 3 mountain-top finish on Mt. Diablo.

Photo:  AP Marcio Jose Sanchez