Mount Diablo Camping: Everything You Need to Know [Read Before You Go!]

amazing view from mount Diablo hiking trail

Across the San Francisco Bay Area, there is one state park that rises above the rest – both physically and metaphorically – and that’s Mount Diablo.

Mount Diablo is the highest peak in the San Francisco Bay Area, standing at 3,849 ft tall. Most of the park’s visitors come for the day to do some hiking or check out the vistas. To those who can land a reservation, however, Mount Diablo camping is simply wonderful.

Despite Mount Diablo being such a popular park, there were a few pieces of information I couldn’t find online that would have been really helpful to know before I started camping in Mount Diablo State Park.

As such, in this post, I’m detailing everything you could possibly need to know to have a positive experience at Mount Diablo (and avoid sleeping sideways in a car, as I did this weekend).

Here are the topics covered in the post:

  • Mount Diablo State Park Campgrounds
  • Getting To Mount Diablo
  • Important Things to Know About Camping at Mount Diablo
  • How to Snag A Reservation (even if it says it’s sold out)
  • Things to do at Mount Diablo State Park
  • FAQs about the Moutn Diablo (come here if you have specific questions)
MSR Hubba Hubba tent set up at Juniper Campground in Mont Diablo State Park. The sun is setting in the background.

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Mount Diablo State Park Campgrounds

There are three campgrounds within Mount Diablo State Park.

Juniper Campground

  • Location: Located at an elevation of 3,000 feet, Juniper Campground is the highest up and offers a beautiful view amidst a forest of juniper and oak trees.
  • Campsites: There are 33 campsites equipped with picnic tables, fire rings, and access to shared restroom facilities.
  • Amenities: There is potable water and flush toilets.
  • Activities: Juniper is an ideal base for hiking and exploring the surrounding trails, with proximity to popular routes like the Mount Diablo Falls Trail.

Live Oak Campground

  • Location: Live Oak Campground is just after the South Gate Entrance, at an elevation of 1430 ft.
  • Campsites: There are 22 campsites at Live Oak.
  • Amenities: There is potable water and flush toilets.
  • Activities: The Summit Trail leaves from this area, and there are also a lot of cool rocks and geology here.

Junction Campground

  • Location: Junction Campground is about halfway between Live Oak and Juniper campgrounds, at 2200 ft of elevation.
  • Campsites: There are only 6 campsites here, so it is the most private of the three campgrounds.
  • Amenities: There is potable water and flush toilets.
  • Activities: Junction is close to a few rock climbing hot spots, so it’s a good campground to choose if you’ll primarily be rock climbing on your trip.

Read More: Alabama Hills Camping: Everything You Need to Know to Camp for Free

Important Things to Know About Camping on Mount Diablo

It gets surprisingly cold at night

Even in the summer, I was really surprised at how cold it got at night. Juniper Campground, in particular, is very far up the mountain so temperatures drop, especially on a clear night.

I recommend bringing a sleeping pad with an R-value of at least 2 (this is the one I have) and a sleeping bag rated to 32F (like this one). I also brought a puffer jacket, wool socks and a hat.

It gets very windy

Oh my goodness. Mount Diablo can get so unbelievably windy, especially at night.

I learned this the hard way. I was camping at Juniper Campground Site 11 and the wind swept down the top of the mountain, through the campground and continued down the mountain. The wind shook the whole tent, bending the poles and blowing dirt under the tent fly and inside the tent.

My tent poles separated from the ground and my being alone in the tent was not enough to hold the corners down. I ended up spending the night sleeping width-ways in a small sedan (fun fact, cars are not wide enough to accommodate a 5 foot 4 female apparently) and it was not ideal.

From what I’ve heard from other campers, this is not uncommon. Even the less exposed campgrounds can get a ton of wind.

Here are some tips to protect you from the wind (many of which come from my camping partner who slept the entire night in her tent without ever waking up):

  • Bring noise-canceling headphones so you can block out the sound of the tent flapping in the wind.
  • Set up your tent very close to the shrubs/trees (ideally with the shrubs/trees in between you and the top of the mountain).
  • Peg your tent carefully – some of the sites have really hard ground so it can be really difficult to find a place to peg your tent. If you can only get your tent pegs in part way and you’re thinking “that should be fine”… it will probably not be fine! Find another spot.
  • Avoid being a solo person in a big tent, as you might not have enough weight inside your tent to keep everything down.
  • Consider car camping (sleeping in your car or a trailer/camper van) to avoid this whole tent ideal entirely!

The park gate closes between sunset and 8 am

If you leave the park after arriving, just be aware of when the gate closes. You don’t want to accidentally get locked out while you’re away!

You cannot buy firewood at the park

I tried using the resource on the Mount Diablo State Park website to find firewood sellers, but all of the numbers I tried were out of service except for one (who was on vacation and couldn’t help). Instead, we ordered firewood on Insta-cart and brought that instead.

Things to do at Mount Diablo State Park

Hike the Mount Diablo Grand Loop Trail

The first thing we did after setting up camp was hike the Mount Diablo Grand Loop Trail. The trail starts at Juniper Campground, so it’s very convenient if you’re camping there. Juniper Campground has a parking lot, so you can park here even if you’re not camping here.

The trail is 6.2 miles long, with 1800 ft of elevation gain, and takes about 3.5 hours to complete. We saw tons of beautiful flowers along the trail, and a lot of birds as well. The trail is very exposed, so bring sunscreen, a hat, and a large bottle of water. It can get toasty!

View of rolling hills covered in trees in Mount Diablo State Park from the Mount Diablo Grand Loop Hiking Trail.

Rock Climbing

I didn’t go rock climbing personally, but there are areas lower down Mount Diablo that have rock climbing and bouldering. You need your own equipment, and you should be experienced/have someone experienced with you.

Watch the Sunset

This is a no brainer – Mount Diablo has some incredible sunsets. Either drive to the top of the mountain or park at Juniper Campground and watch from the look out there. Both options face west so you’ll get a really nice view of the city underneath the colorful sky.

Read More: Ultimate Guide to Backpacking the Ohlone Wilderness Trail (with Video)

FAQs about Mount Diablo Camping

In this section, I’ve attempted to answer all of the many questions you might have about camping at Mount Diablo. This is all the information I wish I’d had before I visited.

Permits & Reservations Questions

Do you have to pay to get into Mount Diablo?

Yes, you do have to pay to get into Mount Diablo. There are attendants at the gate to take your fee (I paid by credit card).

How much does it cost to get into Mount Diablo?

There is a day-use fee for vehicles entering Mount Diablo State Park in California. The fee for most vehicles is typically around $10 to $12 per day. If you’re staying at one of the campgrounds, there is a reservation fee as well, which was $35 when I camped here.

Do you need reservations for Mount Diablo?

If you are visiting Mount Diablo for a day trip, you do not need a reservation. If you are camping at Mount Diablo, reservations are required. You can purchase camping permits online from Reserve California.

How hard is it to get a reservation for Mount Diablo?

During the week, it is very easy to get a reservation for Mount Diablo camping – you can usually find permits available as soon as the next day.

On weekends, it can be very difficult to get a reservation. Reservations can be made six months in advance and will quickly become fully booked. However, there are often cancellations on Friday and Saturday mornings for the same weekend. Monitor the website the morning of, regularly refreshing the page for new openings. You can also use a program like Camp Nab to notify you if there is a cancellation for your dates.

Read More: Complete Guide to Hiking the Mist Trail to Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls in Yosemite National Park

Campfire Questions

Are campfires allowed at Mount Diablo?

Yes, campfires are allowed at Mount Diablo. Check the Mount Diablo State Park website to confirm there is no fire ban in effect during your camping dates. Each campground has a large firepit. There are water taps near the campsites so you can easily get water to put out your campfire.

Is firewood sold at Mount Diablo?

Firewood is not sold at Mount Diablo. You’ll have to bring your own.

Do you need a campfire permit?

You do not need a campfire permit to have a campfire at Mount Diablo. There are many areas across California that require a campfire permit (even if you just want to use a backpacking stove), however, this rule does not apply at Mount Diablo.

Campsite Questions

What are the best campsites at Juniper Campground?

The best campsites at Juniper Campground are 11, 13, 15 and 17; they all face west so you’ll be able to see the Santa Cruz Mountains and city in the far distance, as well as the sunset. Site 17 has the most unobstructed view, however, it is closest to the lookout area and less private.

MSR Hubba Hubba tent set up at Juniper Campground in Mont Diablo State Park. The sun is setting in the background.

Other Questions

Is there cell service at Mount Diablo?

Yes, there is cell service at Mount Diablo. During my last camping trip, I had enough cell service to upload photos to Instagram and stream a TV show on Hulu.

Can you drive up Mount Diablo?

Yes, you can drive all the way up to Mount Diablo. All of the campgrounds are drive-in campgrounds and you can drive to Mount Diablo peak as well.

Are drones allowed on Mount Diablo?

Drones are not allowed within Mount Diablo State Park. You cannot launch from within the park nor can you fly your drone into the park boundaries.

Are dogs allowed on Mount Diablo?

Yes, dogs are allowed within Mount Diablo State Park but only in developed areas like campgrounds and viewpoints. Dogs are not allowed on hiking trails, fire roads or within buildings. During the day, dogs must be kept on a leash and under control at all times. At night, dogs must be inside a tent or vehicle.

Are there wild animals at Mount Diablo?

Mount Diablo has a variety of wild animals, like deer, bobcats, and coyotes. There are also some cool bird species, from raptors like eagles and hawks to songbirds. Reptiles like rattlesnakes and lizards inhabit the area, as well as amphibians like frogs.

Are there tarantulas on Mount Diablo?

Ugh, yes. There are tarantulas on and around Mount Diablo. They’re most active during late summer and early fall when they come out of their burrows in search of mates. If you’re hiking in the area during that time, you might spot these male tarantulas on their quest for love (ew).

If you’re like me and deeply afraid of spiders, you’ll be relieved to know that they aren’t that common. According to Google, they are harmless (but I’ll be the judge of that). All that said, I wouldn’t recommend leaving your tent unzipped or your boots unattended (a major fear of mine).

Mount Diablo Camping – Final Thoughts

I hope you’ve found this post helpful! I really enjoyed our trip to Mount Diablo and definitely recommend making a trip here if you can get a reservation. If you have any questions, please let me know!


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