5175 Somersville Road
Antioch, CA 94509
Toll Free: 888-EBPARKS (888-327-2757), option 3, extension 4506
Download PDF Map
Jan. 1 - 31
8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Feb. 1 - March 8
8 a.m. - 6 p.m.
March 9 - April 13
8 a.m. - 7 p.m.
April 14 - Sept. 1
8 a.m. - 8 p.m.
Sept. 2 - Nov. 1
8 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Nov. 2 - Dec. 31
8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Sidney Flat Visitor Center:
Closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Greathouse Visitor Center:
10 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., weekends, March - November. Closed on Thanksgiving Day.
Click HERE for upcoming events
Seasonal, weekends and some holidays: $5 per vehicle (when kiosk is attended); $4 per trailered vehicle. Buses: $25/per bus
$2 per dog. Guide/service dogs free.
Grazing in the Parks
1-888-EBPARKS or 1-888-327-2757, press option 2
No reservable sites
> Browse Park Programs on EBParksOnline.org
> Go to Website Program Guide(s)
Plan a field trip to this park
1-888-EBPARKS or 1-888-327-2757
All trails are open but may be muddy due to winter rains. Good wet weather alternatives include the Chaparral Loop trail (near the Somersville Rd. staging area) which is in sandy soils and the first two miles of the Stewartville trail (starting at the Fredrickson Lane trail head) which is graveled. Please call 510-544-2767 to report trail problems.
Please check our Closures Page for up to date information.Grazing Update
Seasonal cattle grazing, which occurs throughout the Preserve, begins in winter and lasts until mid-spring. There is no grazing in the Chaparral Loop and Manhattan Canyon trail area. For more information on our grazing program, please click on the Stewardship/Resources link on the left side of this page.For more information on our grazing program please see our Stewardship / Resources pages.
Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve
The East Bay Regional Park District began acquiring land for Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in the early 1970s. Today, most of the mining district is within the Preserve's nearly 6,096 acres. The area is an ideal location for hiking, picnicking and nature study. Naturalists conduct a variety of programs relating the Preserve's natural and historic resources. For information phone (510) 544-2750.
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Native Americans have lived in the greater Bay Area for thousands of years. Black Diamond was located in the back country between three tribes: Chupcan (Concord), Volvon (Clayton) and Ompin (Pittsburg). All three nations spoke the Bay Miwok language. With the arrival of Spanish, Mexican and American settlers after 1772, the Bay Miwok way of life changed rapidly.
Until the discovery of coal, cattle ranching was the major industry in this area. After the mines closed, some miners found a new career in ranching. Abandoned mining town buildings became barns, railroad ties were used as fence posts, and boilers were converted into water troughs. Descendants of original mining families still graze cattle in the Preserve.
From the 1860s through the turn of the last century, five coal mining towns thrived in the Black Diamond area: Nortonville, Somersville, Stewartville, West Hartley and Judsonville. As the location of California's largest coal mining operation, nearly four million tons of coal ("black diamonds") were removed from the earth. The residents of the mining towns were from all over the world, and their life was characterized by hard work and long hours. Occasional celebrations and a variety of organizations and social activities served to alleviate the drudgery of daily existence.
The coal mines had a significant impact on California's economy. By the time operations ceased due to rising production costs and the exploitation of new energy sources, much of California's economy had been transformed from a rural to an industrial base.
In the 1920s underground mining for sand began near the deserted Nortonville and Somersville townsites. The Somersville mine supplied sand used in glass making by the Hazel-Atlas Glass Company in Oakland, while the Nortonville mine supplied the Columbia Steel Works with foundry (casting) sand. Competition from Belgian glass and the closing of the steel foundry ended the sand mining by 1949. Altogether, more than 1.8 million tons of sand had been mined.
Rose Hill Cemetery
Although little remains of the coal mining communities, a historic cemetery serves as a monument to the lives of the former residents. Buried here are children who died in epidemics, women who died in childbirth, and men who died in mining disasters and of other things. Although over 10 nationalities resided in the mining area, Rose Hill Cemetery was a protestant burial ground, and many of the people buried here were Welsh.
Over the years, vandalism has taken its toll on the cemetery, which the Park District is attempting to restore. If you have information concerning people buried here or the location of missing gravestones, please call the Black Diamond office at (510) 544-2750.
Click HERE to view (and/or download) a list of individuals buried in Rose Hill Cemetery. (Acrobat PDF - 200KB, 9 pp., Last updated: 07/06/2009)
Sidney Flat Visitor Center
Behold remnants of the past and peruse the wonders of the park in a building original to the coal field. The Sidney Flat Visitor Center contains displays of photographs and artifacts from the 1800s and early 1900s and is open some weekdays; please call ahead before visiting. During the winter months, the visitor center is regularly open 10:00 am – 4:30 pm weekends, December – February. Admission is free. The parking fee is $5 per vehicle on weekends and holidays. The center is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. For more information call (510) 544-2750.
The Greathouse Visitor Center is located in an underground chamber excavated in the mid-1920s. View the workings of a 20th-century sand mine and learn about the lives of 19th-century coal and 20th-century sand miners. The center contains displays, photographs, videos, brochures and artifacts depicting the park's coal and sand mining eras. It is open weekends and some holidays, 10 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., March through November (closed on Thanksgiving.) Admission is free. Parking fee is $5 per vehicle on weekends and holidays. For information call (510) 544-2750.
From the mid-1920s to the mid-1940s, the Hazel-Atlas Mine produced silica sand to make jars, bottles, and other glass items. Today, tour participants can take a 950-foot walk into the mine to see mine workings, ore chutes, the shifter's office (mine boss), and ancient geological features. Because of its size and the need for safety, visitors will be taken in only on guided tours, with a limit of 15 persons per tour (minimum age seven years, parental participation is required).
First come, first served tours lasting one and one half hours are offered at Noon and 3 p.m. weekends only March through November. Arrive at least an hour early to have time to get to the mine entrance and to ensure a spot on the tour. The tour costs $5 per person, and tickets can be purchased at the Greathouse Visitor Center.
One and one half hour-long, advance-reservation tours are offered at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 2 p.m. on weekends March through November. A 10 a.m. tour is available on weekends, March through November, to groups of 10 or more by advance-reservation only. For advance-reservation tours, call 1-888-EBPARKS (1-888-327-2757), option 2.
School groups (third grade and up) and other organized groups (10 persons minimum) can take a mine tour on weekdays. Advance reservations are required: call (510) 544-2750 for information.> Download: Hazel Atlas Brochure
The Preserve's 65 miles of trails traverse areas of grassland, foothill woodland, mixed evergreen forest, chaparral, stream vegetation and exotic plantings. Notable among the latter are several tree species introduced by the coal miners. These include the black locust, pepper tree, almond, eucalyptus and tree of heaven.
Black Diamond is noted as the northernmost location of Coulter pine, black sage, desert olive and dudleya. In addition, several species that are restricted to the Mt. Diablo area occur here, including the Mt. Diablo globe lily, Mt. Diablo helianthella and Mt. Diablo manzanita. In the springtime, the hills are covered with some of the most remarkable wildflower displays in the Bay Area.
Black Diamond supports a healthy wildlife population. Coyotes and snakes are commonly seen. Mountain lions, bobcats, foxes and deer are occasionally spotted, while birds of prey soar overhead. Over 100 species of birds have been seen, from the rare golden eagle to the ever-present meadowlark.
The side-blotched lizard has its northern limit in the Preserve, and one rare animal species has been found here--the Alameda whipsnake.
There are two camping areas in Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve. Reservations are required for both--call 1-888-EBPARKS or 1-888-327-2757.
Star Mine Group Camp Area is available all year for organized, educational groups only. It can accommodate up to 35 people. It is located in a grassland/oak woodland community at the eastern edge of the Preserve. Overnight camping is limited to two nights. Parking (maximum eight cars), picnic tables and a pit toilet are available at the site. Campers must bring in their own water and haul out their own garbage. No water is available at the site. Camping reservations must be made at least ten (10) days in advance.
Stewartville Backpack Camp is for the general public. The fee is $5 per night per person. Camping is limited to two nights during the spring, summer and fall. There is room for 20 campers. Picnic tables and a pit toilet are available, as well as water for horses (the water is non-potable and must be filtered or treated for human consumption). The camp is located 3.2 miles from the Preserve headquarters, near the Stewartville and Upper Oil Canyon trails. Camping reservations must be made at least five (5) days in advance.
For information on upcoming programs please call (510) 544-2750 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Download Movie Clip (4.2 MB QuickTime movie): How to Tour
Download Movie Clip (24.5 MB QuickTime movie): Suggested Hike
If you don't have QuickTime, you may download QuickTime here.
The Interpretive Information Headquarters and the restroom and drinking fountain in upper parking lot are wheelchair accessible. Sidney Flat Visitor Center is also accessible. Please call ahead (510) 544-2750 for assistance.
Trail Accessibility Reports
- Nortonville Trail: Download PDF format | Download Word format
- Stewartville Trail: Download PDF format | Download Word format
Black Diamond is located in Contra Costa County, south of Pittsburg and Antioch. Take Highway 4 to the Somersville Road exit in Antioch, then drive south (toward the hills) on Somersville Road to the Preserve entrance.
Transit & Trails: Black Diamond Mines / Contra Loma Regional Park
(Transit, biking, and walking directions)
Available from Black Diamond Visitor Center or Arcadia Publishing: Images of America - Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, an illustrated history of the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve published in 2009 and written by Supervising Naturalist Traci Parent and Black Diamond volunteer Karen Terhune.
|Also available for purchase is Rose Hill - A Comprehensive History of a Pioneer Cemetery in the Mount Diablo Coal Field, written by Supervising Naturalist Traci Parent and published in 2011 by the East Bay Regional Park District. This nearly 1,200 page book is based on her 30 years of research into the history of the people buried in the pioneer cemetery at Black Diamond. The book can be purchased at the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve Visitor Center.
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