China Wall near Alamo

5 Mar

Length: 3.9 miles (roundtrip)
Time: 1.5 hours
Difficulty: Easy
Dogs: No, because part of trail goes into Mt. Diablo State Park where dogs aren’t allowed.
Calories: 600 or so 
Elevation Gain: 667 feet.
Best Season: Winter or spring when not muddy
EBMUD Permit Required:  No
Highlights: China Wall is a very unique and special geological feature in Mt. Diablo State Park!
Directions:  Take Highway 680 to Livorna Road. Exit and go east about two miles. Park at Livorna Staging Area.
Trailhead:  After parking, look for the Alamo Trail between Stonegate and Serafix Roads.

Over the past few years I’ve been on countless hikes with good friends, including Michael Dawson.  Michael introduced me to this hike and helped author this post.  The beginning of a partnership? I think so.  You may also know Michael as one of the fearless leaders of Save Lafayette Trees.

To see the Great Wall of China requires over 15 hours in a plane, but visiting the “China Wall” in Mt. Diablo State Park only requires a 15 min drive to Livorna Staging Area in Alamo! Combined with the 45 min of hiking required, you can be at the Mt. Diablo State Park China Wall in about an hour.  But all kidding aside, the China Wall is a surprising rock formation and one of the most unique geologic features in Mt. Diablo State Park.  Sandstone that was once underwater and level has been thrust 90 degrees and skyward, and now creates a line of rocks up and down the hill that do look just a little like a miniature version of the Great Wall of China.

After parking at the Livorna Staging Area, look for the Alamo Trail just to the left of Serafix Road.  

Alamo Trail

After about ¾ of a mile you will enter the 1,060 acre Diablo Foothills Regional Park, which is best known for Castle Rocks and Shell Ridge. Stay left and past the cattle gate until you reach the Hanging Valley Trail.  Take a right.  Go about a third of a mile until reaching the Briones to Mt. Diablo Regional Trail.  Take another right.   

Most of the hike is through open grasslands with scattered valley oaks.  Make sure to bring a hat, water, and sunscreen!

Scattered Valley Oaks

You will soon enter Mt. Diablo State Park and in a little less than half a mile you will reach the China Wall feature.  You won’t be able to miss it! The sandstone rocks form what geologists call a “hogback”, a narrow ridge of eroding rocks that extends like a saddle up both hillsides.  

China Wall with Mt. Diablo in the distance

Have fun exploring, taking pictures, rock climbing with kids, taking in the views, etc. and then return the same way you came. A narrow trail extends in both directions – it’s worth the extra effort to explore since some of the best viewpoints are at the highest locations.

Exploring China Wall

Rock outcrops in Diablo State Park shelter garter and gopher snakes, western fence lizards, southern alligator lizards, tree frogs, and California salamanders. Not sure which of those hang out at China Wall. 

Please keep watch for rattlesnakes that may burrow near the rock outcroppings. On a recent visit, a large rattlesnake was seen absorbing the afternoon sun, too lazy to shake its tail or return to its hole nearby.  


If you desire a longer hike, you can take the Foothills Trail from the staging area to the Stonegate Trail, to the Hanging Valley Trail..

It’s worth mentioning that Save Mt. Diablo has played a huge and central role, for over 50 years, expanding the amount of land protected around Mt. Diablo.

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