Thank you to Annie Burke sharing her terrific tips for exploring Black Diamond Mines with kids in tow.
There's something cool about exploring an old mine and an old town. It's kinda sorta like a ghost town, but not as spooky. There is a beautiful cemetery up on the hill which is fun to explore. There are tunnels and caves and interesting nooks and crannies to explore all over the place. And the Greathouse Visitor Center is really cool. Kids of all ages love it.
When to go:
The spring is definitely the best because the hills are green and the air temperature is pleasant. But if you live near the bay and the fog gets you down, going in the summer can warm your bones and make it feel like, well, summer. The Greathouse Visitor Center is actually in a mine tunnel and it's at least 10 degrees cooler in there at any point in the year.
What to bring:
Pretty much the same things you take with you anywhere with kids: water, food, sun protection, warm clothes in case it gets cold, and some bandaids. You don't have to travel far from the car to feel like you've gotten away at Black Diamond Mines.
For older kids and adults:
There are many fire roads here that are great for mountain biking. It's hilly so you better love yourself some hills. If you're up for walking 4-5 miles you can explore lots of town sites, old mines, and historical sites in the park beyond the valley where the parking lot is located.
For younger kids:
I'd walk from the parking lot to the Greathouse Visitor Center, and then up to the Stope and then back to the car. I'd move slowly and let the kid(s) determine how fast you go and what you explore. It will be maybe a .8 mile walk but there's lots that little people tend to find to play with, run up, jump off, and generally explore.
Get yourself to Highway 4 in Antioch and take the Somerville Road exit. Head south on Somerville Road until the road goes no more. You'll travel through the town of Antioch and then through houses and then into rolling hills. Just past the parking kiosk (costs $5 on weekends) there's a small visitor center which is alright. I recommend driving till the end of the road. There's a nice picnic area in the shade there, and plenty of parking. And on your way out you can stop at In ‘n Out or a host of other fast food restaurants in Antioch before getting back on Highway 4.
Huge thanks to Annie Burke for sharing her love of the East Bay Parks with this post. See more of her photos on Golden Hills and Cold Tunnels on her super website Outside Kids!
[Photos provided by Annie Burke, used with permission]