The Diablo Canyon Recreation Area is a wonderland of black rocks, dramatic cliffs and sand. It is worth the bumpy drive along the washboard road to get there.
Directions are below. You will see the towering rock faces as you get near. As you begin your walk, you might see some little dots on the sheer rock cliff face above you. These dots are people who climb this massive rock: remarkable and inspiring, and for those who prefer to stay close to the ground, downright scary. Luckily, you will be on solid ground, and it makes climbing the big black boulders below seem very safe by comparison.
With little ones you will prefer to stay in the sandy, beach-like wash that navigates between the sheer face on your right and the pile of boulders on your left. The canyon narrows and then opens up, widening and eventually reaching the Rio Grande. You can walk down as far as you desire, which is often not too far with kids who love to create their own games and play, jumping off the big rocks. There is usually spring of water seeping up from the sand which makes for a fun play spot.
If your kids are a little older and you have confidence scrambling over big rocks with them, you can walk up the black rocks on your left and go as far as you feel comfortable. I have been to the tippy-top of the mesa with some confident climbers in the 9-12 year-old range. If this is your cup of tea, it’s a blast: inspiring confidence and memorable moments. If you are a nervous mom or dad, you may want to keep the kids on the down low.
I have seen rattlesnakes here in the summer, so do keep your eyes peeled and don’t stick your hands into dark places. Winter should not be an issue, but it is getting warm, so look for them sunning themselves. They will not bother you if you don’t disturb them.
How to Get There: Take Highway 599, get off at Camino La Tierra (Las Campanas exit), and then drive until you see Old Buckman Road on the right. Take the right and you will see a trailhead and parking area after seemingly endless miles of washboard road. You will pass some of our city wells along the way, which in interesting to point out to the kids, and talk about where our water comes from. Total drive from downtown is about 45 minutes or so.