The Eye of Diablo – Walnut Creek, California - Atlas Obscura
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Walnut Creek, California

The Eye of Diablo

This mountaintop beacon is only lit once a year but shines like some kind of all-seeing eye. 

The “Eye of Diablo,” an aerial navigation beacon at the peak of Mt. Diablo, looks out on one of the finest views in the world.

Installed by Standard Oil Company to assist in commercial aviation, it was originally lit by Charles Lindbergh in 1928, but was extinguished in 1941, shortly after war was declared on Japan. Since 1964, The Eye of Diablo is ceremonially lit once a year on December 7th, to honor those who lost their lives at Pearl Harbor.

Located 30 miles east of San Francisco, Mount Diablo is an unmistakable landmark in the State of California and boasts the largest view shed in the western United States. The view from the summit encompasses 80,000 square miles, and includes 60% of California. From the observation deck below the Eye of Diablo, eight bridges are visible: the San Mateo, Bay, Golden Gate, San Rafael, Carquinez, Benicia, and Rio Vista. You can see San Francisco and Farallon Islands to the west, Mount St. Helena and the Cascade Mountains to the north, Mount Hamilton and the Santa Cruz mountains to the south, and the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys to the east.

Mt. Diablo itself also is a geologic anomaly. Its double pyramid, twin peak formation is the result of volcanic activity and the compression caused by the movement of the Earth’s tectonic plates. The volcano lies between converging fault lines and continues to grow at a rate of three to five millimeters a year.

Mt. Diablo was named in 1806 by General Mariano Vallejo, after he and his fellow soldiers supposedly encountered a spectral apparition while on a military expedition. In 2005, a local man demanded that the name be changed because it offended his Christian sensibilities. He argued that the Devil was a living being, and was thus banned by federal law from having a place named after him. He suggested that the name be changed to Mt. Reagan, as President Reagan had recently become eligible for a place name. 

In the Lord of the Rings, the Eye of Sauron is depicted as the “All Seeing Eye” conducting mass surveillance, and the Eye of Diablo on top of Mount Diablo certainly can see all. To experience this all seeing eye’s spectacular and sweeping views for yourself, climb to the summit of Mt. Diablo, and pay a visit to the recently refurbished Eye of Diablo. Just make sure it is on December 7th for the full effect.