Reactive Hiking: Black Diamond Miles Regional Preserve

I started a new work schedule on Jan. 1st this year (4×10’s Monday – Thursday) so I am dedicating my Friday’s to hiking with Odin. Having a reactive dog makes everything harder especially hiking, having to plan out low traffic times, ensuring that the trails are large enough to create space, etc. In general, I have a rule about hiking and do not hike with Odin on the weekends as the trails are usually crowded with other dogs and it would not be a good environment for him. Since I now have a weekday off work, I will be able to hike new trails and regional parks with him. Every Friday will be a new hiking adventure and I will be documenting our adventures and rating the trails for reactive dog suitability (the parks will mainly be East Bay/SF California area).

I love hiking with Odin this time of the year. The weather is a great deterrent for most people. Most people don’t want to hike in 40 degree (Fahrenheit) weather  on muddy trails. But, put on the right clothing and you are all set!

This past Friday (1/10/20), Odin, my husband and I ventured to Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve located in Antioch, CA. This park is a part of the East Bay Regional Parks District . The preserve contains relics of 3 mining towns and an old cemetery that have been preserved for public viewing. The park contains over 60 miles of hiking trails. It is dog friendly, allows for off leash dogs (200 ft from any roadway), and allows horses/bikers on the main trails. I chose to go to this park first, as it had rained the day before and thought that might deter other people (and horses and bikers) from going to the park. As I expected, the foot traffic was super low and we only saw 2 dogs at the very beginning of the hike.

First thoughts of the park: This place is absolutely off the charts beautiful. Since we were coming during the start of the rainy season, the hills were starting to turn bright green again. The twisting, leafless oak trees looked amazing against the bright green backdrop.

The park is very large with a ton of different trails and areas to explore. We decided that we would explore the center of the park first and do a short ~1 mile hike to see a grouping of mines and other displays/attractions.

I would not recommend this area for reactive dogs on the weekends or if you see a lot of cars in the parking lot. The trails are very tight with no room for creating distance and a lot of blind corners. We took a risk based approach and decided to do the short loop since we knew there were not a lot of people (and Odin is not people reactive) and our chances of running into another dog was really low.

Around the loop, there are a lot of cool things to look at, entries into the mines, air shafts, old rail roads, and large chambers. The mud was not too bad in this area, there were not large puddles, however the ground was visibly moist. The attractions were not well labeled on the trails so it took us a while to find 6 and 7 on the map, but eventually we found them.

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Next, we started our long hike out to “Jim’s Place”. We decided to take Nortonville Trail and Black Diamond trail (our plan was to take Coal Canyon Trail back but this trail was way too tight and too wild for us to take with Odin).

The trails were wide and spacious on both Nortonville and Black Diamond. There was a lot of available space if we did encounter another dog or horse. For the most part, Nortonville Trail is  surrounded by fields. At the top of the hill, there was a small cemetery (Rose Hill Cemetery) at the top and we wandered through  the gravestones. It was a great place to take a rest as it was near the top of the hill. These two trails overall were very hilly (2x 200 ft elevation climbs, and they were fairly steep).

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The section of the Black Diamond Trail that we traveled was also fairly open. There were only a handful of spots where you might need to back track if you came across a trigger in order to create space.  Jim’s Place was a little lackluster compared to everything else we had seen in the day. But it was a good turn around point for us. Instead of doing a loop, we decided to take the same route back to the car. This was a great decision as I was able to let Odin off leash once we made it back to the Nortonville Trail. He ran around and enjoyed sniffing for ground squirrels. I was able to see far ahead up the trail.

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Overall, we very much enjoyed this park and can see ourselves coming back again to explore some more areas.

Pros:

  • Wide trails (specifically Nortonville Trail and Black Diamond Mines Trails), lots of room to escape, only a couple of areas where you would need to back track.

  • Beautiful views and interesting landscapes

  • Not much foot traffic on weekdays during the winter

Cons: 

  • Off leash dog area almost the entire park.

  • Bikes and horses allowed on main trails

  • Cows are present in the park (however they were on the other side of the park the day we visited)

  • Center of the park has tight trails

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