Whether you’re a beginner, an avid hiker or just enjoy the occasional nature walk, the trail itself will make or break your hiking experience on mission peak.
You’ll probably be using one of your few precious days off work to go hiking. Therefore, you want to make sure that whatever trail you’re spending your time with is well worth it. This way you can also prepare the necessary hiking gear that you need.
Of course, when it comes to hiking trails, you’ll have your fair share of both hits and misses. What’s important is that the good experiences outweigh the bad.
There are a lot of factors that go into selecting a hiking trail. The very most basic of these is location—while if you live in the city you can expect to have to travel a little to get to a good trail, you don’t want to spend more time in the car than outdoors.
California is a huge state, full of both urban and rural areas aplenty. With such a large area to draw from it can sometimes be challenging to find the best hikes close to you. Same is true even for those that are worth traveling to. That’s why we’re here, to provide information on one of mid-California’s most high-rated hikes: the Mission Peak Loop.
This trail is in the Mission Peak National Preserve near Warm Springs District, CA. It is the highest rated trail of any in the Preserve and has been growing popular over the past years. But what should you know before venturing out on this Californian trail? Below, we’ve provided comprehensive information on everything you need to know both setting out and during the trail. It is our goal to provide you with the accurate and insightful knowledge to prepare you before hitting the trail.
The Mission Peak Loop is approximately 5.8 miles all the way around and has an elevation gain of 2,135 feet. This trail is typically rated as difficult.
The trail is near Warm Springs District, CA and starts out from Stanford Avenue Staging Area. This trail provides a gorgeous view of the South Bay and features great views of the city skylines in the Bay Area, such as those of San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose.
The trail arcs up in a steady uphill until you reach Mission Peak. Afterward, you will have a mostly downhill descent looping back around. This uphill climb can range between moderate and strenuous, leading to the trail’s rating as difficult.
This is a highly trafficked trail, attracting hundreds of hikers every day. Due to the Bay Area’s temperate weather, it is a popular hike year-round. Hikers tend to spend 3-4 hours hiking this trail.
Frequent users of this hike suggest getting there early to avoid the worst of the usual crowds. This hike is also described as not for the faint of heart – you’ll definitely be getting in a workout with all that uphill.
There are two different standard options. Your first option is to park at the Stanford Avenue Parking Lot, which is at the end of Stanford Avenue off Mission Blvd. This parking lot will place you right at the trailhead. The lot only has 40 spaces, however, and as mentioned above this is a heavily trafficked trail. So, you probably shouldn’t count on being able to park here.
There is the option to park along the streets leading up to parking lot, or on residential streets that you can turn off into. There is, however, another parking lot alternative.
Parking at Ohlone College is ideal for the Mission Peak trails, located off Mission Blvd and accessible through Pine St and Witherly Ln. There are over 900 spaces available in this lot, so you don’t have to worry about fighting off the masses for a parking spot. Trailheads start at the parking lot that lead you to the Mission Peak trail.
Do note, however, that parking here will generally add roughly two miles to the hike. The park and the lots are open from 6:30am to 9:00 pm, so make sure you head out on the hiking trails at reasonable times. Otherwise, you could be facing up a fine.
Facilities and Activities
The Mission Peak National Preserve does offer wheelchair accessibility, primarily on the Hidden Valley Trail. Unfortunately, the rest of the loop does not lend itself to this accessibility. If you’re the type who likes to have a trail map on them at all times, you can find a detailed map on the East Bay Regional Parks website.
If you’re interested in other activities in the National Park that don’t relate directly to the trail, you can participate in interpretive hikes, backpack camping with Eagle Spring, radio control flying, and even hang gliding and paragliding. WIth this you better be prepared with your camping gear.
Your furry friends are perfectly welcome to come with you on the Mission Peak Loop trail. Hikers frequently bring their dog because it's dog friendly hiking trails, or even ride up on horseback. Just be sure to bring plenty of water not only for yourself but your animals, too.
The loop begins with the Hidden Valley. This is a wide section of trail ideal for humans and horses to walk side by side. This is straight through cow grazing area, so be aware of this and be sure to give them a wide berth.
The majority of the trail is gravel and dirt fire road, and it is fairly broad most of the way up. As you ascend to Mission Peak, the trail is necessarily uphill and sometimes rather steep.If you’re feeling a bit winded, however, never fear: there are six benches located along the trail where you can stop and rest and enjoy the views.
Once the peak is in-sight, the trail will become a lot steeper and more difficult, but will still maintain its gravel road form. It isn’t until the final quarter mile to the top that the gravel trail runs out and you must instead negotiate a rocky section to the top.
This rocky outcrop requires careful footing, so be sure to be fully aware as you scale this final portion of the trail. Good hiking shoes or boots are highly recommended for this section to support your feet and ankles and prevent slippage.
Of course, what comes up must come down. You can either return the same way you came or instead turn it into a loop and descend a different way – just be sure to keep an eye on where you are on the map if you’ve brought one.
There is very little shade on this trail, so you will be very exposed to the sun most of the way up. So, we highly recommend bringing a hat and plenty of water.
A note if you park at Ohlone College:
Starting out at Ohlone College, you can take either the Peak Trail or the Panorama Trail, which will lead you to the Mission Peak trails. Total, this will add on roughly two easy miles to the hike, so this is something to be aware of should you choose to start from there.
The Destination: Mission Peak
Now that we’ve detailed the Mission Peak trail, let’s talk a little more in-depth about Mission Peak itself. Once you’ve reached the summit, you will see amazing views that extend for miles in every direction.
You will be able to see the way to the South Bay and also behold the city skylines of San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland.On the summit is a monument in roughly the shape of a thin obelisk with siting tubes.
These siting tubes are numerous and point to other landmarks that you can see and identify from Mission Peak. Many visitors enjoy looking in the directions that the siting tubes point, seeing if they can identify the landmarks to which they’re pointing.
In recent years, it has become increasingly common and popular to take a selfie from the summit with the monument. Some even credit the trail’s growing popularity to this selfie trend.
A Few Considerations
Now that we’ve sold you on Mission Peak’s awesome views and you’re ready to start planning your hiking trip, let’s go over a few quick tips and considerations. As stated above, spots of shade on this trail are few and far between.
It is therefore important that you have everything you need to compensate for this lack of shade. Bring a hat, sunglasses, and apply sunscreen more than once.
Also make sure to bring plenty of water – we recommend bringing at least one liter if not two per person. Bring more if your dog is accompanying you.
We also recommend hiking this trail early and preferably on a weekday. This trail is very popular, and you can expect the trail to be full on weekends and holidays around the midmorning period.
The point of hiking is to feel closer to nature, and this is a lot easier to do if you’re not constantly surrounded by other people.
This truly is one of the best hikes the state of California has to offer because of its stunning views.We hope that you get a chance to enjoy it for all it’s worth.Happy trails!
Image: CC 2.5, David Ball, via Wikimedia Commons