Cycling Mt. Diablo: North Gate Road
An East Bay Jewel
Ride 12.4 miles gaining 3,681’ at 5.5% average grade.
Mt. Diablo is the most popular road bike climb in the Bay Area.
There is no missing Mt. Diablo
Photo: Mt. Diablo’s west face as seen from Mt. Tamalpais West Peak
Mt. Diablo is a very popular State Park in the East Bay 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.
The summit of Mt. Diablo offers the best full 360° views anywhere in the Bay Area.
There is a historic beacon tower and museum-like visitor center at this bicycle climb’s finish. According to an article about Mount Diablo’s history and use as an “initial point”, this mountain 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 Northern California and Nevada property boundaries” (read full article here).
Mt. Diablo Visitor Center at the Mountain's Summit:
Summit sign, Visitor Center parking lot and beacon.
Standard Oil Beacon -- activated 1928; now lit once a year on December 7.
Photos: The observation deck and beacon tower;
Inside the Beacon Tower; and Inside the Visitor Center.
The Visitor Center at the summit has candy, liquids and four options of cycling jerseys to purchase (the jersey selection is notable because 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 - North Gate route:
The North Gate route to the summit 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.
Start of climb -- North Gate Road and Castle Rock Road.
Enter park at mile 1.4.
North Gate Road from Walnut Creek.
Junction of South and North Gate Roads
There is water at the Junction Ranger Station (mile 7.9 from the north) and at the Summit. Be sure to bear left onto Summit Road at the North and South Gate junction.
Junction Ranger Station.
Water at Junction Ranger Station.
LAST 4.5 MILES
Winding road after the merge of South/North Gate Roads.
Summit Road leading to Visitor Center and Beacon (view west).
Northwesterly view of the summit.
Devil’s Elbow is the hairpin right-center of photo.
Northeast view of Shiloh Wind Power Plant -- Birds Landing.
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.
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.
Golden Gate Bridge center top
Mt. Tamalpais is the highpoint in the background upper right center.
Exceptional views from the summit.
Roadway Surface and Traffic Report: The roadway surface is exceptional and while there is moderate vehicular traffic along the climb, our experience in five times up Mount Diablo is that traffic travels at or near the posted 20 mph speed limit, making this a very safe route.
TOUR OF CALIFORNIA
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.
Peter Sagan wins ToC 2012 Stage 3.
Rohan Dennis wins ToC 2014 Stage 3 mountain-top finish on Mt. Diablo.
Photo: AP Marcio Jose Sanchez
That’s a wrap!