Black Diamond Trail

Contra Costa County, California

Distance3.0mi
Elevation Gain1,285ft
Trailhead Elevation1,603ft
Top1,610ft
Elevation Min/Max1113/1610ft
Elevation Start/End1603/1603ft
Black Diamond Trail is a hiking, biking, and horse trail in Contra Costa County, California. It is three miles long and begins at 1,603 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 4.4 miles with a total elevation gain of 1,285 feet. This trail connects with the following: Cumberland Trail, Nortonville Trail and Manhattan Canyon Trail.

Black Diamond Trail Professional Reviews and Guides

"Many of the fire roads in Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve allow bikes but most of them are short out-and-back stretches. This ride is a loop with a short out-and-back and the combined mileage is 9 miles round-trip. Rated mildly technical, the fire roads are generally smooth and hardpacked, devoid of obstacles.

Though the park is open year-round, riding in the spring is the prettiest, when the open rolling hills and valley floor are covered with fresh green grass and wildflowers. Just be sure to let the park dry out after a heavy rain. From the trailhead, a nearly one-mile stretch leads up to the beginning of the seven-mile counterclockwise loop. The first half of the loop route drops down into a peaceful valley, leading past several historic mine sites. The route through the valley is basically a sweet, flat trail and you can really pick up speed here. The second half of the ride involves lots of climbing back up to the ridge on smooth fire roads. Riders of all technical abilities—from basic to advanced—and with great endurance and strong climbing muscles will enjoy this ride."

"You do not need to go far to taste the Wild West. Warm up with a gradual climb over the grassy hillside above the old abandoned Black Diamond Mine.

Enjoy 2 miles of roller-coaster downhill before cruising up the floor of the lazy canyon. Pass remnants of early mines and ranching along the way. Near the end face a steep (but not so long) climb back to the ridge. Bring a flashlight and a sense of adventure for exploring an old mine tunnel. Those seeking a longer and more challenging ride can add an adjoining loop. Trail surface: Dirt road."

"Visiting this area today, it is hard to believe that it was once home to the largest coal-mining operation in California. What is now an open space preserve with more than 6000 acres of land crisscrossed with 65 miles of wonderful trails, was then a hotbed of mining activity, first with coal and then with underground sand mining from the 1850s well into the mid-1900s."

"Walk through stunning hills and visit a sand mine and a pioneer cemetery"

"Hike through history as you enjoy expansive views of cow-studded hills, twisting oaks, radiant wildflowers, and abundant wildlife."

"This is the setting of the short rail trail that leads into Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve. Although the trail itself is not breathtaking, it links with a trail system within the park that is rich in history and natural beauty. Consider it a gateway to a greater adventure or take it on its own merits.

Regardless, you’ll be delighted. The railroad that once ran along this grade served the Black Diamond mines. Black diamonds were coal, and millions of tons were extracted from these hills over a forty-year period at the end of the nineteenth century."

"If you have only a few hours to spend in this wonderful preserve, consider this loop as an introduction to some of the attractions that make visiting here worthwhile: beautiful scenery, diverse plant life, and a reminder of the area’s not-so-distant past as a thriving coal-mining district. This trip can easily be combined with a visit to historic Rose Hill Cemetery. (Numbers in boldface in the route description refer to sites on the EBRPD map and accompanying text.)

From the south end of the parking area, pass a gate and continue uphill on the Nortonville Trail, a paved road, for about 200 feet to a level area and a junction, left, with the Stewartville Trail, a dirt road. Turn left and begin walking uphill on a moderate grade that soon levels, heading southeast through open country. This part of the preserve has native trees common to inland areas of the East Bay—gray pine, blue oak, California buckeye—along with nonnatives brought in by early settlers, including eucalyptus, black locust, tree of heaven, and peppertree, a transplant from Peru with aromatic leaves and pink, peppercorn-like fruit."

"This semi-loop, using the Nortonville and Black Diamond trails, takes you through in one of the East Bay’s most remote, beautiful, and historic parks. The lands here were part of California’s largest coal-mining area, active from the 1860s through the early 1900s.

On the edge of the Central Valley, the preserve is best enjoyed during cool weather, but the trails do get very muddy during wet weather. In late winter and spring, wildflowers abound here, and it is during this time, before the trees and shrubs leaf out, that the preserve’s numerous birds are easiest to spot. (Numbers in boldface in the route description refer to sites on the EBRPD map and accompanying text.)"

"Following the Stewartville and Ridge trails past Star Mine and the Stewartville town site is like stepping back in time, when this area echoed with the clang of pick and shovel as eager miners tried to pry coal loose from the surrounding rocks. The Old West is evident here in other ways too, as you walk through grassy valleys dotted with grazing cows or contemplate sweeping vistas from high ridgetops.

Parts of this route may be extremely muddy in wet weather. (Numbers in oldface in the route description refer to sites on the EBRPD map and accompanying text.) From the south end of the parking area, pass a gate and continue uphill on the Nortonville Trail, a paved road, for about 200 feet to a level area and a junction, left, with the Stewartville Trail, a dirt road. Turn left and begin walking uphill on a moderate grade that soon levels, heading southeast through open country."

"This park is split in two halves: a western and an eastern half. Since the western half is less desirable, consisting of steeper terrain and less loop-able trail options, this ride makes a large circumference of the more tenable eastern side of the park, starting from the Somersville Townsite and winding up with what is known locally as “the Wall”— a leg-smashing climb that brings you back up and over the ridge from the abandoned Stewartsville Townsite."

"You have your choice of 65 miles of trails in this 5,036-acre (and growing) preserve that features vegetation and wildlife of all kinds and an amazing history of the people that lived and worked here from the Bay Miwok Indians to the coal miners of the 1850s and the sand miners of the 1940s. This hike will pass through two old mining town sites, Somersville and Nortonville, past many mine openings, and the Rose Hill Cemetery. BRING A FLASHLIGHT. You can explore airshafts for the old coal-mining tunnels and check out “Jim’s Place,” a mysterious underground dwelling. You hike through areas of grassland and mixed evergreen forest.

Black Diamond is the northernmost location of Coulter pine, black sage, and desert olive. Springtime hosts abundant wildflowers. A hundred species of birds have been spotted here too, so you may want to bring binoculars. They’ll come in handy for the ridge-top views of the bay and the Central Valley as well. Leave time before or after your hike to tour the underground mining museum and the Hazel-Atlas Mine that supplied sand for the Hazel-Atlas Glass Company of Oakland from the 1920s through the 1940s. This eTrail also includes suggested nearby attractions, camping & lodging, restaurants, and local outdoor retailers."

"You have your choice of 70 miles of trails in this nearly 7,000-acre preserve. This hike passes through two old mining town sites, Somersville and Nortonville, past many mine openings, and the Rose Hill Cemetery. You can explore air shafts for the old coal-mining tunnels and check out “Jim’s Place,” a mysterious underground dwelling. Hike through areas of grassland and mixed evergreen forest. Black Diamond is the northernmost location of Coulter pine, black sage, and desert olive. Springtime hosts abundant wildflowers. Leave time to tour the underground mining museum and the Hazel-Atlas Mine, which supplied sand for the Hazel-Atlas Glass Company of Oakland from the 1920s through the 1940s. Trails Surface: The footpath is dirt and sandstone, widening on the Black Diamond and Nortonville Trails to allow for bicyclists; the end of Black Diamond Trail is paved service road, which becomes dirt footpath again on Coal Canyon Trail."

"Want to ramble through grassland and chaparral on one hike? This loop is a perfect tour through grassy, rolling hills as well as chamise, black sage, and manzanita-covered slopes. You’ll begin in the heart of the park, climb through grassland dotted with blue oaks, follow an undulating course through chaparral, climb some more back into grassland, and then descend steadily back to the trailhead."

Black Diamond Trail Reviews

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10/2/2008
We rode this from the town of clayton, which made it a bit over 10 miles with some nice elevation gain and drop. The Ride from clayton is sandwiched between two slabs of private property so you are stuck on the dirt road. It's a nice 2 hour bike ride with some steep ups and some decent down hills. enjoy.
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7/11/2008
It was an excellent mild hike that I took with a group of Boy Scouts and adult leaders. It culminated in a short walk through Prospect Tunnel where the boys got to walk into the tunnel with their flashlights.
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4/29/2004
I followed this route as a trail run, but started from the park office which is a little under a mile before the Somersville parking area. This bike route was perfect for a trail run. The initial uphills are very gradual followed by a big downhill and more gradual uphill before tackling the ridge. The ridge trail is steep, but not horrible by trail running standards. Best of all, the finish is all downhill! NOTE: Unless I am reading the description here wrong, the mileage is WAY off. According to the official trail map (available at http://www.ebparks.org/parks/black.htm), the route I did is about 8.4 miles which puts the one described here around 7.5 miles.
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Trail Information

Contra Costa County
Nearby City
Dog-friendly, Kid-friendly
Accessibility
Surface
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Activity Feed

Jun 2018