Athletic animals and hound dog history buffs alike might get a kick out of a trip to Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve! This East Bay jewel is located just outside of Antioch, CA. It’s pretty pawpular with both seasoned hikers and culture vultures, but at a whopping six thousand acres, the preserve is large enough that you’re unlikely to have to deal with a crowd, and it’s still possible to snatch some solitude on most of the trails if you visit during off-peak hours.
You’ll find plenty of parking at two parking lots on Summerville Rd., but keep in mind that you’ll need to fork out two dollars for your pup’s ticket on top of your parking fee. There are plenty of routes in Black Diamond Regional Preserve that are suitable for a day hike, but if you’d like to explore more of what the park has to offer, you and your buddy can pitch your tent at the Stewartville Backpack Camp for just five dollars. Be sure to reserve your spot at least five days in advance!
The eponymous "black diamonds" refer not to gemstones, but to coal, and the preserve fueled the Bay Area from 1850 to 1906. You and your pooch can soak up some of the area’s heritage by visiting the remains of the mines (though you won’t be able to enter the mineshaft with your buddy), and by taking a look at the headstones in Rose Hill Cemetery.
Your canine companion might show a little more interest in the trails though, and here, four-pawed fitness freaks will feel right at home! Most of the routes in the preserve are rated as either moderate or difficult. If you two are looking for a real challenge, consider checking out the Nortonville and Black Diamond Route. The path runs past majestic Coulter pines and striking sandstone rock formations, and features inclines that vary from the steep to the truly punishing. If you can make it, though, you might find that the views make the hard work worth it -- the vistas of the surrounding area from the high points must be seen to be believed! If you’re out of breath just thinking about it, don’t worry -- the Stewartville, Ridge and Contra Loma Trail, one of the few easy routes in the park, meanders through peaceful grassland, and avid birders will be glad to know that it offers a chance to see all sorts of feathered friends.
While there are a couple of less challenging routes in the park, those with serious mobility issues are unlikely to get the true benefit of a visit here. In terms of facilities, you’ll find restrooms at the campsites and visitors centers. Remember to bring bags and water, and have a furrific hike!