Black Diamond Mines Trail

posted in: Travel Fun | 10


There is so much to see and learn in one beautiful preserve. You get plenty of history, wild life, and stunning views while you get a great workout going up and down rolling hills of Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve.

This preserve was once the biggest coal mining operation in California. As much as 4 million tons of coal was removed from the earth, hence the name Black Diamond. There are 65 miles of trails to explore, walk, or bike on. This is a 6 mile round trip hike with a elevation gain/loss of 1,450 feet. The trail is well marked and a pamphlet is provided at the visitors center.

We learned that 50 million years ago Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve looked like a beach. Then over 100 years ago Somerville was home to 900 people who worked on the coal mine.

Coal was mined from 1850s to the 1900s here. This coal was used to heat homes and power steams engines.

Knobbers was the name used for boys (as young as 8 years old) who worked in the coal mines.

After the coal mines closed at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve sand mining began here from 1920s to 1940s. You can actually tour the sand mines but only a few times during the year and children have to be 7 years of age.

It is amazing how once this place was a dangerous work place for so many boys and men and now it is a place that so many are able to enjoy.

Coal is a sedimentary rock made of carbon and hydrocarbons. It takes millions of years to make coal because coal was formed from plant life which was buried in the earth millions of years ago.

Coal is used to produce electricity in manufacturing facilities as well as making steel.


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black diamond

Making Crystals from Coal:

Do you want to know what mining families did for fun with their coal? They made coal flowers or crystals.

What you need:

-3 tablespoons of salt

-3 tablespoons of ammonia

-6 tablespoons bluing

(mix the above ingredients together)


-spray bottle with water

-food coloring

-8 charcoal pieces

Place 8 pieces of charcoal in a pan. Pour the salt, ammonia, and bluing mixture on top of charcoal. Add food coloring to the charcoal. Spray water on top of the charcoal. You can also do this with crushed charcoal. I think for better results it is best to get the charcoal completely wet then shake off the water and place on the bowl and proceed as described above. The below pictures are after 7 hours of mixing the solution. You want to add more of the salt, ammonia, and bluing mixture in two days. I recommend wearing gloves and doing this outside due to the smell. This is so beautiful and fun to watch. Who would have thought that something that looks like ashes can be turned into something that looks like crystals.


crystals from coal 1 crystals from coal 2





10 Responses

  1. The lesson on the coal mine was so educational. It is so amazing that you guys got to visit such a cool place. I really love the experiment on how to turn coal into crystal.

  2. I always enjoy reading and looking through your beautiful pictures. Your homeschool is so much fun! I’ve been meaning to try growing crystals with the boys. Can’t wait!! Thanks for sharing all your wonderful ideas :).

  3. Looks like a really neat place to explore!

  4. I really enjoy your video and the educational journey of your vacation. You have such a beautiful family. Cherish the moments. 🙂

  5. what a fun field trip and lesson for the kids! It looks like you all have a great time. I love the area!

  6. What a cool trail! We live in Southern CA, but seeing this makes me want to take a trip up north. Thanks for joining the Family Joy link party this week.

  7. Growing coal crystals is so much fun. My son just did that 2 weeks ago; the crystals turned out beautifully. Your pictures are just stunning. I love the “walking away pics”; such a neat angle.

  8. I enjoy reading your posts and the way you engage your kids for different DIY projects. This place looks fun and glad to see that you had an amazing time with family!

  9. What amazing pictures. It looks like it was a lot of fun. We enjoy growing crystals; we’ve never tried it with charcoal. That will be the perfect summer science project. Thank you. I’ve pinned it so I’ll remember

  10. What a beautiful place!! The wildlife and the scenery are just beautiful. It’s very different from what we have around here, the landscape is just flat so seeing the hills is very different for us. Your pictures make me yearn to visit California!!
    We love exploring the local nature trails and learning about the history behind them the kids love it and it has instilled a love for learning in our kids. Sharing your science experiment video over on my Science Pinterest board, and following your YouTube channel to watch for your new videos!! I am working on putting videos together for YouTube just haven’t finished editing them yet.

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