Contra Costa County Highpoint Trip Report

Mount Diablo (3,849 feet)

Date: November 29, 2008
Author: Adam Helman

Comment about Mount Diablo's viewshed

The myth about this mountain's tremendous summit view has now been publicized in the venerable San Francisco Chronicle. The Sunday, November 23 edition features an entire article about Mount Diablo on page E7 in the "California & The West" section.

California state completer Fred Johnson mailed to me the newspaper clipping, and I feel it appropriate to share this information with other county highpointers.

Most fortunately the article sides with the rational opinion that this myth is just that - a myth. The following exerpt tells the tale better than I can ... (however I inserted paragraph breaks where appropriate).

"The back story: We're sorry to have to report this, but Mount Diablo's claim to fame is nothing but a curiously durable myth - so durable that the Mount Diablo Interpretive Assocation devotes quite a bit of space to debunking it in its current newsletter.

The claim was invented out of thin air (so to speak) by Robert Burgess, a local real estate developer hoping to lure traffic up the toll road he built to the top.

In truth, Diablo doesn't even command the grandest view in the U.S. You can see 18,000 square miles from the top, but that's nothing compared to the vista from the summit of Mount McKinley in Alaska - 72,000 square miles. Still, Diablo's view is the most sweeping you're ever likely to enjoy without ropes, crampons, or a retinue of Sherpas.
[comment: that is nonsense. We know PLENTY of nontechnical peaks with a greater viewshed - including Kilimanjaro.] You can peer into 38 of California's 58 counties.

The mothball fleet in Suisun Bay, the windmills of Altamont Pass, the Sierra Buttes, - an impressive swath of northern California is laid out at your feet.

The view is so extensive because Mount Diablo stands alone above a mostly flat landscape, and because of the topography of the Sierra Nevada, where peaks get taller the farther east you go, offsetting the view-blocking curvature of the Earth."

The newspaper article continues with descriptions of what to do at Mount Diablo, including camping and hiking opportunities in addition to the easy summit drive. There are also lists of nearby hotels and eateries.