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Land trust invites Bay Area residents to discover Mount Diablo's hidden gems

Save Mount Diablo spotlights Knobcone Point Trail, Mangini Ranch Educational Preserve
Seth Adams, land conservation director for Save Mount Diablo, leads a group hike at the Mangini Ranch Educational Preserve ribbon cutting ceremony in 2022.

A land trust is reminding Bay Area residents to rediscover the joys of outdoor exploration on Mount Diablo after it recently opened a trail connection and preserve.

Save Mount Diablo, a nonprofit that stewards the mountain in Contra Costa County, recently unveiled a pair of initiatives that aim to blend adventure and education amidst breathtaking views.

After years of conservation work, the group has successfully opened a new 1.25-mile trail segment and 207-acre educational preserve -- both entirely free and accessible to the public.

Knobcone Point Trail

In spring, the organization reopened Knobcone Point Trail, a trail segment once closed for nearly a century that winds through the upper portion of Mount Diablo's Curry Canyon Ranch. Considered to run through some of the mountain's wildest areas, the segment was once available to the public before the rise of cattle fencing.

Now hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians and trail runners can admire knobcone pine trees, golden eagles and sandstone rock formations as they travel from Balancing Rock and Knobcone Point to Cave Point, to Windy Point and Riggs Canyon.

Ted Clement, executive director of Save Mount Diablo, said visitor reviews have been "incredibly positive" so far.

"It's just an amazing loop with incredible views, and even though you're in the San Francisco Bay Area, you feel like you're in a really remote, wild place," Clement said.

Save Mount Diablo considered the canyon to be the final unprotected canyon entrance to Mount Diablo and acquired the 1,080-acre property in 2013. Visitors once had to climb in and out of four canyons from Rock City to Riggs Canyon -- now, they can just follow a ridgeline.

Mangini Ranch Educational Preserve

In 2022, the organization also opened several miles of trails at its Mangini Ranch Educational Preserve, an outdoor space between Walnut Creek and Concord that is available for group sizes of three to 100 people, free of charge.

Classrooms, recovery organizations, religious groups, yoga retreats and any other collective in need of an outdoor classroom are all encouraged to gather amidst grasslands and stream canyons. There, they can spot wildlife like deer, coyotes, burrowing owls and rare species like the Hospital Canyon larkspur, a type of herb.

Though so close to the Bay Area's bustling cities and suburbia, Clement said the sounds of cars and human activity fades on the ridgeline. The preserve only hosts one group at a time so people can safely use the space without interruption.

"It's been really great to see the community embrace it, but I also have a feeling that there's still a lot of people that aren't aware of it yet," Clement said.

The space situated between the Crystyl Ranch residential development and Lime Ridge Open Space has previously been used for nature photography courses, environmental science class field trips, artist gatherings, grief counseling support groups and outdoor recreation clubs.

Depending on the time of year, spots are either readily available or there is a short waitlist via the online reservation system, according to Clement.

"I think there's so many groups that could benefit from this very intimate time in nature, where you and your group have [outdoor space to yourselves for the day," Clement said.

He added that the new trail segment and preserve collectively work together to foster deeper connections with nature for Bay Area residents. The trail segment gives the general public more access to the backcountry, while the preserve can provide a contemplative and intimate experience in nature for groups.

Whether it's admiring a sunrise on a summit or spending time in a quiet forest, Clement said that people need touchpoints outdoors to care about preserving natural lands.

"I have come to believe that the biggest environmental threat facing our planet is the lack of deep, meaningful connections between people and nature, which results in us lacking the love and will required to solve serious environmental threats like the climate crisis," Clement said.

"Love is the basis of good stewardship, and love comes from a direct connection with nature," he added.

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