100 Mitchell Canyon Rd, Clayton, CA 94517, USA
Welcome to Contra Costa County! Our first hot spot to check out is Mt. Diablo – a popular peak to hike and camp at for all experience levels. This is a moderate hike and the trail is well marked. It is quite rocky with some parts being wide and some sections narrowing to a single-file track. It is recommended to start earlier in the day when temperatures are cooler. The way up the mountain is long, but it’s well worth the climb. From the summit, you’ll enjoy a breathtaking 360-degree view. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Golden Gate! A small museum at the summit occupies a lighthouse that guided planes to the Bay Area in the early 20th century. Perhaps you’re wondering about the sinister name given to this peak? No need to be concerned. According to local lore, after arriving in the late 1700s, Spanish explorers and the accompanying soldiers nicknamed the area "Monte del Diablo." This term described the dense thicket of willows at the north end of the valley, which soldiers believed was possessed by spirits of the Bay Miwok people. As a result, the Spanish name "Monte del Diablo" was attributed and essentially translates to ‘thicket of the devil.’ Despite the name, I doubt you'll need an exorcism after you’ve reached the summit. Instead, your reward will be the rush that comes from conquering the mountain. The Mitchell Canyon Visitors center, where you find yourself now, is the most popular spot to park for people who want to start their hike at the bottom and climb all the way up. For folks who want to enjoy the many trails and picnic spots throughout the park’s 20,000 acres, there are plenty of road entrances that allow you to drive into the park, even up to the summit itself! Leaving the visitor center will take you north into our first city, Clayton.
119015007, Clayton, CA 94517, USA
Welcome to Clayton! This charming downtown area is the heart of this first city on our route. The first spot you’ll notice on your right is the Ipsen Family Bocce Park, which was created as a joint project between the eponymous Ipsens, the Clayton Business & Community Association, and Skippolini’s Pizza, located just next door. If you’ve never played bocce before, you should check it out sometime! Originating out of present-day Italy, Bocce is incredibly popular in the Balkan region of Eastern Europe and is the third most-played sport among Special Olympics athletes. Further down the street, you’ll pass Cup O’Joe, a cozy cafe, the Clayton Club Saloon, with its daily happy hour specials, and Moresi’s Chophouse, a locally owned bistro. At the end of Main Street on the right, you’ll get a glimpse of the Grove, a city park with benches, picnic tables, and a playground for the kids. You’ll make a left at the end of Main Street, followed by another left on Clayton Road. Across the street, you may catch sight of the fairways of Oakhurst Country Club, whose 18-hole golf course winds its way through the canyons and valleys that surround Seeno Hill. Clayton Road will take us out of the historic downtown and into Clayton’s more commercial area.
5479 Tara Dr, Clayton, CA 94517, USA
Up ahead, we’ll cross the border into the city of Concord. This stretch of Clayton road is lined with shopping centers, where locals head for groceries, clothing, and other essentials. Coming up on the right is Clayton Station, where you’ll find a Safeway, a Walgreens, and a breakfast restaurant that specializes in waffles. Across the way on your left is Clayton Valley Shopping Center, with an Outdoor Supply Hardware store and plenty of restaurant options. Continue straight through the intersection. If you were to turn right here onto Kirker Pass Road, you’d quickly arrive at Concord Pavilion, an outdoor music venue that’s been operating since 1975. Concord city residents even have access to presale tickets for events, so you’ll never have problems with sold-out shows! Speaking of Concord, you’ve just entered it! Clayton Road connects these two towns and is lined with shopping centers all along the way. We’re going to take a more scenic route, however. Make a left up ahead at Ayers Road.
1055 Oakleaf Ct, Concord, CA 94521, USA
On your right, you’ll see the southeastern tip of Newhall Community Park, with 126 acres of athletic fields and walking trails centered around a pair of ponds. There’s also a dog park, and, staying true to the theme, a set of bocce ball courts! Up ahead you'll turn right onto Ygnacio Valley Road, which takes you around the back side of Walnut Country, a planned community of homes centered around a central clubhouse with fitness facilities and pools. You won’t stay on this road too long, making the first available right onto Cowell road. As you make that turn, take in the view of the Lime Ridge Open Space, a vast swath of undeveloped hill country that divides Concord from Walnut Creek. Cowell Road takes you through some of Concord’s best residential neighborhoods, giving you a good idea of what life is like in Contra Costa County’s largest city. These suburban neighborhoods of tree-lined streets are a great place for families, and the city provides plenty of amenities to keep residents of all ages entertained. Cowell road will take you right into downtown Concord. Along the way, you’ll pass a gravel trail that leads into the Markham Nature Area and Arboretum, a quiet park where you can relax or even meditate on the shady banks of Galindo Creek. Just past the Arboretum is Concord Community Park, with a public pool that keeps the neighborhood cool all summer long. There are also seven tennis courts, a playground, and plenty of green space for people and dogs to stretch their legs. At the end of Cowell Road, you’ll cross under the BART train tracks that connect Concord to the greater Bay Area and make your way to the center of town.
2020b Willow Pass Rd, Concord, CA 94520, USA
We won’t spend a ton of time downtown, but I wanted to make sure you got to see the city proper on our route today. Up ahead, turn right on Grant, then Right again on Concord, which we’ll take to our next stop. The park on your left is Todos Santos Plaza, a square in the very middle of town where folks who work nearby will often take their lunches to enjoy the fresh air. Just off the Plaza, you’ll find The Old Spaghetti Factory, a kitschy Italian restaurant that celebrates the old-fashioned style of the Bay Area at the turn of the century. There’s even an antique trolley car right in the middle of the dining area! Their renowned spaghetti recipe includes a greek cheese called mizithra and a secret browned butter sauce. Concord Boulevard becomes Clayton Road when the two streets converge. When that happens, look to the left to see Ellis Lake Park. Situated just behind the historic Keller House, the park is made up of sloping lawns encircling the titular lake. Wildlife lovers can see dozens of species of waterfowl and turtles that call the park home. The Keller House was moved to this site in 1984 and provides an excellent example of architecture from the early 1900s. Up ahead, we’ll jump on the freeway for a short trip over to Pleasant Hill.
15 Crescent Dr, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523, USA
Although the development of this area began in the 1920s, the city of Pleasant Hill was formally incorporated in the early 1960s as post-war suburban development expanded throughout the East Bay area. Immediately noticeable on your right as you exit the highway is the robust shopping plaza located at the heart of town. Crescent Plaza, on the right side of the road, features both local and chain restaurants and boutiques in a convenient “park-and-walk” configuration along Crescent Drive. Among others, some standouts include the Century 16 cinema, Jack’s Bar and Restaurant, and the Crescent Bistro, where you can enjoy delicious wines and modern American cuisine on a spacious outdoor patio. One of the central landmarks of Pleasant Hill is the Soldiers Memorial Monument coming up at the intersection of Boyd Rd, where you’ll make a right turn. Erected nearly 100 years ago, the towering concrete monolith commemorates American soldiers that fought in the First World War. Boyd Road takes you back into the neighborhoods of Pleasant Hill, where you’ll get a good look at the ranch-style homes that make up this community. You’ll also pass Sequoia Elementary and Sequoia Middle School, where Pleasant Hill’s young minds grow and learn. Once you’ve made a left on Patterson, keep an eye out for the corner of Pleasant Oaks Park, a recreational space with baseball and softball fields located adjacent to Pleasant Hill Middle School.
2914 Putnam Blvd, Walnut Creek, CA 94597, USA
You’ve just passed into the city of Walnut Creek, one of the longest-inhabited sites in the East Bay area. The creek after which the city is named was an important spot for trade for the Saclan, Volvon, and Tactan tribes of the Bay Miwok people, the original inhabitants of what is now Contra Costa County. Between the creek and the naturally-occurring crossroads on the route from the Bay to Sacramento, this spot has proven an invaluable location for centuries. In fact, if you were to turn left on upcoming Geary Road, you’d wind up in Contra Costa Center, a hub community that surrounds the Pleasant Hill BART station. Located in the “no-man’s-land” between Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek, Contra Costa Center is made up largely of hotels, apartment buildings, and shops that serve the commuter crowd. Crossing over Geary instead, you’ll make your way past Larkey Park, one of Walnut Creek’s many recreational amenities, home to a public swimming pool, beach volleyball courts, and a tennis center. This is also where you’ll find the Lindsay Wildlife Experience, the country’s first wildlife hospital. Every year their veterinarians, husbandry experts, biologists, and teachers treat more than 5,000 wild animal patients. But it’s more than just a hospital – it’s an interactive museum where kids and adults alike can meet their 70 animal ambassadors and learn all about wildlife conservation! Speaking of conservation, did you know that Walnut Creek has more preserved natural land per capita than any other community in California? The city is surrounded on all sides by dedicated open spaces, which preserve the natural beauty of the valley and provide an area for hiking and picnicking to its residents. Keep following your GPS to travel through Walnut Creek’s quiet suburban streets and make your way over to Main Street, where the Walnut Street BART station is located. Our next stop is Walnut Creek Town Center, the busy commercial center of the city.
1420 Lincoln Ave, Walnut Creek, CA 94596, USA
Welcome to Main Street! This is the center of town, where you’ll find the best restaurants and shops Walnut Creek has to offer. The creek that gives the town its name is the centerpiece of Civic Park, located just a block to your left. Home to downtown’s public library, the park features beautifully maintained gardens and gazebos, making it a perfect spot to enjoy Walnut Creek’s unique microclimate. The valley and surrounding hillsides shelter the city, which stays balmy all year even when snow falls on the peaks of Mount Diablo. But we’ll talk about parks a little more later. Right now, I’m sure you’re noticing the plethora of shops and restaurants that line Main and its cross-streets. With its mix of boutique shops and larger retailers and department stores, The downtown area functions as a massive outdoor shopping mall. A short walk through town gives you access to stores like Nordstrom, Williams-Sonoma, Tiffany & Co., and local shops like Flashlight Books, Shoes on Solano, and White Star Vintage Jewelry. There’s something for everyone in Walnut Creek! Up ahead, you’re going to make a right on Mount Diablo Boulevard. When you do so, keep an eye out for two of Walnut Creek’s top-rated restaurants. Located on the right side just before you turn is Teleferic Barcelona, a Spanish restaurant known for its authentic paellas. With plenty of tapas to choose from and a vast selection of imported and California wines, you can spend hours working your way through their menu of shareable treats. Across Mount Diablo Boulevard, on the left side after you turn, you’ll find Va de Vi Bistro, with small plates inspired by cuisine from around the world. From Turkish Lentils to Kung Pao Cauliflower to Italian favorites like pasta and risotto, this cozy spot is a great place to sample local wines and enjoy an evening with friends and loved ones. The next leg of our journey takes us on a loop through an area known as Lamorinda, a portmanteau of the three cities that comprise it: Lafayette, Moraga, and Orinda. We’ll take highway 24 all the way out to Orinda before looping back and heading into the San Ramon Valley.
322 Village Square, Orinda, CA 94563, USA
Nestled up against the ridge that forms the East Side of Oakland is the town of Orinda. Orinda Way, the road you’re on, is the center of town, where you’ll find a few shops and the local library and post office. At the end of this street lies the golf course of the Orinda Country Club. The par-71 course winds its way through a carefully planned residential neighborhood – each hole has a name that corresponds to a story from the area’s history. Some of the more colorful names include “Mousetrap”, “Long Tom”, and “Graveyard”. At the end of Orinda Way take a left at the light to head south on Camino Pablo. The area on the west side of the road is the Siesta Valley Recreation Area, part of a massive complex of protected redwood forests in the Oakland and Berkeley Hills along with Tilden Regional Park and Nature Area, Wildcat Park, and the San Pablo Reservoir. The creek that flows from the reservoir’s dam runs along this road on your left side, forming a valley that the locals call “Sleepy Hollow”. Up ahead, we’ll pass under highway 24, which divides Orinda in two. The road had a profound impact on the town’s development, which began in earnest with the completion of the Caldecott Tunnel in 1937. Before that time, the area was a loose collection of estates surrounding the Orinda Park Post office. All traffic from Oakland had to make its way up the narrow Claremont Valley and through a pass at the ridge’s summit. Though a smaller tunnel was built in the early 20th century, the completion of highway 24 made Orinda a viable suburb for Oakland Commuters. An even more ambitious tunnel now connects Orinda to the city – the 3.1-mile Berkeley Hills Tunnel carries the BART train directly from the Orinda Station to the Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland, allowing commuters to make the trip downtown in mere minutes. On the other side of the highway and the train track, Camino Pablo becomes Moraga Way, which travels through suburban Orinda. This quiet neighborhood is filled with low-profile homes that complement and add to the natural beauty of the hillside. In fact, along this route on the left side you may get a glimpse of a home by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, whose “Prairie Style” emphasized the fusion of architecture and nature.
1280 Moraga Way, Moraga, CA 94556, USA
Two blocks to your right, up the hill, stands the oldest building in the entire East Bay Area – the Moraga Adobe. The adobe was built in 1841 by Don Joaquin Moraga, the grandson of the founder of San Jose. The home was the central dwelling on a 13,000-acre land grant given to Moraga by the Mexican government. The adobe was purchased and renovated twice by private homeowners, who added bedrooms, a veranda, and additional buildings. Since then it has fallen into disrepair, and the private owners have fenced off the area. As of the writing of this tour, a campaign is underway to purchase the property for renovation and public use. Moraga Way leads us past Miramonte High School and the Moraga Country Club into Moraga’s town center. Like most of the suburban towns we’ve seen today, Moraga is made up of large residential areas that surround a central shopping center with a grocery store, a pharmacy, a hardware store, and a couple of restaurants. In Moraga’s case, your dining options include La Finestra, a Sicilian restaurant wirth plentiful outdoor seating, and the Canyon Club Brewery. The brewpub serves classic bar fare, like wings and burgers, alongside its rotating menu of in-house beers. At the end of the road, make a left on Moraga Road. You’ll drive right alongside Moraga Commons Park, located at the intersection with St. Mary’s Road. The park’s largest feature is its disc golf course, but you’ll also find volleyball courts, two playgrounds, a skate park, and more! St. Mary’s Road leads to its namesake institution – St. Mary’s College of California. This small private college has a student body of under 4,000 undergraduates, but manages to hold their own in athletics with 17 Division I sports teams. Interestingly, the school does much of its recruitment in Australia, giving it a cult following “Down Under”. Players like the NBA’s Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova got their start with St. Mary's’ unique recruitment tactics. Thankfully for the neighbors, St. Mary’s College has a reputation for being a serious, focused community and not a party school, so you won’t have to worry about rowdy kids keeping you up all night. Moraga Road continues on into the city of Lafayette.
821 Moraga Rd, Lafayette, CA 94549, USA
Lafayette began as a stopover spot for travelers between San Francisco and points east. Missouri native Elam Brown purchased the land from the local ranchero and built a mill on Las Trampas Creek. A hotel was erected in 1853, encouraging traffic on the trail that would eventually become Highway 24. Much Like Orinda, it was the completion of the tunnel in the 1930s that led to its rapid development from an agricultural town into a suburban city. Unlike the last two communities, Lafayette features a substantial commercial strip along Mt Diablo Boulevard, where you’ll make a right turn. This downtown area has several delicious restaurants that keep both locals and passers-through full and happy. Hamburger fans should make a point to check out Roam, where the traditional combination of burgers, fries, and shakes is taken to the extreme with high-quality, locally sourced ingredients. Choose from ten styles or create your own with toppings like Brie cheese, cremini mushrooms, and house-made pickles. For more creative takes on casual foods, head to Batch and Brine, where you’ll find a menu of creative sandwiches inspired by global cuisine. From a sushi-inspired tuna burger to duck Banh Mi to Nashville Hot Chicken Sliders, you'll find the perfect dish to complement their inventive cocktails and California wines. Passing the Plaza Center, you’ll make a left on First Street and a right to get back on highway 24, heading east. The Plaza center is the neighborhood’s primary stop for groceries, with both a Safeway and a Whole Foods. For the last stretch of our tour, we’ll take Highway 24 back to Walnut Creek, where we’ll get on I-680 and head south to Danville.
954 El Cajon Dr, Danville, CA 94526, USA
The unincorporated communities of Alamo Oaks and Diablo are almost entirely residential, providing a quiet, safe environment particularly well-suited to family living. In fact, Monte Vista High School, which serves much of Alamo and Danville, is located just down Green Valley Road on your left. Having the school within walking distance of these neighborhoods is definitely a perk of living in Alamo Oaks. Oak Hill park sits alongside the school, with jogging trails and public athletic fields, and tennis courts. You’ll also drive right past the local swimming pool on the left, although many of the homes in this neighborhood have their own private pools as well. Continuing down the road, you’ll come to Diablo, which sits on the southern slope of Contra Costa’s famed central mountain. The southern entrance to the Park is located just minutes from the main road, giving Diablo residents unfettered access to the miles of trails, picnic areas, and natural splendor of Mount Diablo. Just downhill from the town, you’ll find the vast Sycamore Valley preserve, an open space ringed by estate houses. Diablo is also home to an acclaimed country club with a hundred-year history. The championship golf course was once a favorite spot of San Francisco’s “Big Four”, the railroad barons famous for their Nob Hill mansions. The course was redesigned and renovated to include drought-friendly fescue and hybrid Bermuda grasses. The renovation was led by course architects Watson and Neville, whose courses have hosted 11 US Opens across the country. Diablo Road becomes Blackhawk Road as it leaves town and heads to the last stop on our tour.
51 Oakridge Ln, Danville, CA 94506, USA
The rolling hills and valleys of Contra Costa County make it a particularly attractive place for golfers, and the Blackhawk Country Club on your left is no exception. With two 18-hole, par 72 championship courses that wind their way through a community of estates, Blackhawk is a golfers’ paradise. In addition to golf, the country club offers social memberships and events, a tennis center, a pool, and a fitness facility. Keep heading down Blackhawk Road to its intersection with Camino Tassajara. That’s where you’ll find Blackhawk Plaza, the center of the community, and the end of our tour. Blackhawk is largely made up of gated communities that radiate out from the central plaza. Built around a picturesque duck pond, Blackhawk plaza provides the community’s essentials – grocery stores, a CVS Pharmacy, a cinema, and several restaurants. A local favorite, the Grille at Blackhawk is a perfect spot to grab a bite and a glass of wine after a long day of hiking or golfing in the valley. The unpretentious dinner menu prominently features burgers and sandwiches alongside pub classics like fish and chips, bacon-wrapped meatloaf, and baby back ribs. Lovers of classic cars should make a point to stop by the Blackhawk Museum, a stunning building that serves as the focal point of Blackhawk Plaza. In addition to its automotive gallery, it contains exhibitions from around the world, including permanent collections of Chinese and African Art, artifacts from the Old West, and even a Natural History exhibit. Well, folks, I hope you’ve had a great time getting to know the towns and cities of Contra Costa County. If any of the neighborhoods you’ve seen today have inspired you to begin your search for a home in the East Bay Area, Make sure to contact Barbara Brodrick, our local expert Realtor, at 925-403-1213 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re interested in seeing more of the East Bay Area, check out our tour of the Tri-Valley Area, which begins just a short drive south of here in San Ramon. Thank you so much for taking this UCPlaces tour – have a great day!