Snow Day on Mt. Tam and Mt. Diablo

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Yippee!!! According to the current forecast, snow may be headed for the Bay Area this weekend. While the rumors flying around about flakes falling in downtown SF can’t be confirmed, everyone seems fairly sure that we will have more on the peaks. After getting out and enjoying the snow (saucering included!) in Tahoe last weekend, we can’t help but look forward to further arctic adventures. It can be a little tricky to plan a sledding trip however, especially if park rangers close roads within the parks. Red Tricycle has your back though! Here’s our guide to hitting the slopes at Mt. Tam and Mt. Diablo.

Mt. Tam:

1. Get there early! Parking tends to fill up quickly. Last year we arrived by 9:30, which meant parking wasn’t bad. By the time we left at 11:30 though, parking had already become a nightmare, and people were simply turning around and going home.

2. To get to Mt. Tam, take Panoramic to Pantoll road. If Pantoll is open, take it up to the intersection of Pantoll and Bolinas Road (aka Rock Spring parking area) and park there.

3. If Pantoll is closed, don’t be deterred. Many people turned around when they saw Pantoll was closed, but you can still explore the snow.  Just be prepared for a longer trek. That means parking at (or near) the ranger station at the intersection of Pantoll and Panoramic Hwy.  Bring a stroller/jogger for the littlest ones, a pair of shoulders for those preschoolers when they get tired, and good walking/hiking shoes for mom/dad. Snow toys are encouraged! (We carried a lightweight saucer -on top of the jogger)-as well, and we’re so glad we did!) After parking, walk the 1.3 miles (according to the sign) to the intersection of Pantoll and Bolinas Road. If it’s like last year, you will be greeted by a winter wonderland at the end of your 1.3 mile journey.

Mt. Diablo:

1. Again, get there early, and be prepared for a hike. Many people wanting to visit the summit last weekend ran into difficulty because rangers closed the road at a much-lower elevation than usual. Also, be careful driving while in the park. The roads are winding and steep, which may be why Park Staff tends to close them at the first sign of bad weather.

2. There are several ways to enter the Park, but visitors usually come through North or South Gate Road. Eventually, both of these meet at Junction Ranger Station and converge into Summit Road. If Summit Road is still open, it will bring you to the top of the mountain. (With minimal trudging through snow!)

3. However, last year the Park had closed Summit Road above Junction Ranger Station, meaning visitors had to hike up the road from there. This is a long uphill march, so as in the case of Mt. Tam be sure to bring a stroller or jogger for youngsters, and sturdy shoes for parents and older kids. If what you are looking for IS a snowy hike however, you also could consider taking one of the trails up the mountain. If your kids are younger (or less enthusiastic hikers) you could take the easier route to the top via Juniper Trail (two miles round trip) or if you have older children or more ambitious hikers you could try tackling the more difficult Summit Trail (6 miles round trip.) Be sure to check with park rangers in advance though, to make sure trails are open and safe!

4. Mt. Diablo is 3,849 feet in altitude, and snow is currently being predicted for anywhere above 1,000 feet, so it may not be necessary to hike all the way to the top to enjoy it. If you decide to head to the summit though, be sure to bring a camera! The Park advises that the clearest views are often to be seen on the days after a winter storm. Unfortunately, the 1930’s red sandstone Summit Museum is closed to the public due to disrepair. If you enjoy your trip be sure to make a donation to the upkeep of California’s State Parks!

Be aware that both parks close at sunset. Don’t stay too late making snow angels.