Mitchell Canyon Interpretive Trail, Mt Diablo State Park: Mitchell Canyon Trailhead, San Francisco: Marin Headlands - Mt Tamalpais - Point Reyes, California

Mitchell Canyon Interpretive Trail - 4.0 miles

Mt Diablo State Park: Mitchell Canyon Trailhead

View north down Mitchell Canyon from Mitchell Canyon Fire Road

View north down Mitchell Canyon from Mitchell Canyon Fire Road

Round-Trip Length: 4.0 miles
Start-End Elevation: 580 ' - 970' (970' max elevation at picnic area)
Elevation Change: +390' net elevation change (+390' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Easy
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: Yes
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Mitchell Canyon Interpretive Trail - 4.0 Miles Round-Trip

Mount Diablo State Park covers 20,000 acres of Central California oak, chaparral and grassland ecosystems with over 400 plant species across slopes ranging 300' - 3,849'. The Mitchell Canyon Visitor Center accesses the north section of MDSP with a network of trails and fire roads leading to high peaks and deep canyons.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

Mitchell Canyon Road traces a short section of Mitchell Creek through a riparian zone that supports coulter pine, blue oak, willow, alder and cottonwoods.

Visitors will enjoy diverse vegetation, mild grades and travel extensions up White Canyon and Meridian Ridge. Mitchell Canyon is an interpretive area - be sure to grab a brochure explaining various markers along the way:

Mitchell Canyon Road arcs south to the Bicentennial Tree, a 200 year old coast live oak selected by Daughters of the American Revolution as a symbol for the Bicentennial of the US Constitution. 

Coast Live Oak is named for its perennial leaves, in contrast to seasonal deciduous oak, which drop seasonally. Coast Live Oak leaves are dark green on top and white and hairy underneath. No other oak in California has leaves that curve backwards at its tip.

Like all oaks, coast live oak drop acorns in the fall. Coast Miwok boiled acorns and pounded them into meal. Scrub jays and California ground squirrels help the acorns out by burying them in winter caches, essentially planting the acorns in the ground.

The road-trail continues past Red Road (0.6 miles : 710') and up Mitchell Canyon for the next 1.4 miles to a second large coast live oak at a picnic area (2.0 miles : 970'). This is an ideal place to have lunch and explore the creek before turning back.

The road continues on much steeper grades to Meridian Ridge, which has loop options back to the trailhead and Mount Diablo summit access via Prospector's Gap.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N37 55.195 W121 56.514 — 0.0 miles: Mitchell Canyon Trailhead
  • N37 54.837 W121 56.914 — 0.6 miles: Red Road Trail junction - stay straight - 710'
  • N37 54.549 W121 57.015 — 1.0 miles: Following Mitchell Creek through canyon
  • N37 54.206 W121 56.966 — 1.5 miles: Continuing along Mitchell Canyon Fire Road - 850'
  • N37 53.858 W121 56.769 — 2.0 miles: Massive coast live oak and picnic area - 970'

Worth Noting

  • Be mindful of fast moving bikers coming down Mitchell Canyon Road.
  • Western rattlesnakes inhabit this area. Stay on designated trails and never place your hands or feet where you can't see them.

Camping and Backpacking Information

There's no backcountry camping in Mt Diablo State Park, however three campgrounds are available for car camping. Campsite reservations can be made by phone up to seven months or as little as 48 hours in advance by calling 800.444.7275.

  • Juniper Campground: (36 sites | 3,000'). Located approximately 2 miles below the summit on Summit Road, Juniper is known for its views.
  • Live Oak Campground: (22 sites | 1,450'). Located one mile above the Southgate entrance Station, off Southgate Road. Live Oak is near Rock City. At Rock City one can explore interesting rock formations.
  • Junction Campground: (6 sites | 2,200'). Located where Southgate and Northgate meet at the Ranger Station. This campground is situated in an open woodland area. *Available on a first come/first served basis only.

For more info, visit the Mt Diablo Interpretive Association page:

Fishing Information

  • There is no fishing in Mount Diablo State Park.

Rules and Regulations

  • There's a $6 self registration fee for entering Mitchell Canyon by car - cash and check only.
  • Gates open 8am and close at sunset. Visitors should plan to be in their vehicles by sunset and headed out to avoid being locked in.
  • Dogs are not allowed on any trails or fire roads. They are allowed in campground but must be on leash at all times and must be in tent at night.
  • No alcohol, hunting or firearms allowed in the park. Violators are always prosecuted as per State policy.
  • BICYCLES ARE ALLOWED only on paved roads, fire roads, and designated trails. Speed limit is between 15 - 25 MPH and strictly enforced by patrolling rangers.

Directions to Trailhead

The Mitchell Canyon Visitor Center is located at the end of Mitchell Canyon Road in Clayton, California - within Mt Diablo State Park.

From Highway I-680, take the exit for Ygnacio Valley Road and drive east on Ygnacio Valley Road for just 7.8 miles then turn right onto Clayton Road

Drive on Clayton Road for .8 miles to Mitchell Canyon Road. Turn right onto MItchell Canyon Road and drive approx 1.5 miles to the Mt Diablo State Park gate. Pay the fee at the gate then proceed to the parking area directly ahead.

Contact Information

Mount Diablo State Park
96 Mitchell Canyon Road
Clayton, CA 94517


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