I recommend starting at Sunol Regional Wilderness Preserve and hiking to Mission Peak from the east side. That trail is longer, 5.5 miles, but not as steep. Also, the overnight parking is much safer because the park is closed overnight.
The hike is nearly all on fire roads. That is a harder surface, but our Scouts like it because they can walk side by side and talk the whole way.
About halfway up, there is hairpin turn with a driveway to a house on the north side of the trail. The interior of that turn has a bunch of old building foundations. This is a convenient spot to stop and have lunch or a serious snack.
It will be clear when you get close to camp, because Mission Peak will be right in front of you. When you hit the tee-junction, turn right, and you’ll be at the camp right away.
The trail rises 2000 feet from Sunol to the top of Mission Peak, but Eagle Spring Camp is about 400 feet below the peak, so you only have to carry your backpack up about 1600 feet of elevation.
Why Go Here?
The campsite has awesome views of the valley across to Mt. Diablo. You can watch the traffic jam on I-680 while you sit and relax. I had that view as my screen background for quite a while.
Mission Peak officially closes at sunset, even though you are likely to see dozens of people on the summit at that time. But they have to walk all the way back down in the dark and you only have to walk back to camp.
To get to the peak, take the trail up the south side. The north side approach is the worst trail in the Bay Area, steep and rutted. The south side is a perfectly normal trail.
Reservations and Planning
Normally, I’d say the East Bay hills are too hot in the summer, but I’ve camped here in early July and late September and it was fine. Not sure I’d choose August as a first choice, though.
$5 per night per person plus $8 booking fee. Open all year. To make a reservation, call 1-888-EBPARKS or (888) 327-2757 , press option 2.
The trail from Sunol crosses the Olohne Regional Wilderness, so each hiker 12 years or older will need a wilderness permit. Those are $2 each and can be purchased in-person at Sunol or over the phone. Fee for in-person purchase is $2/person/year; by mail/phone/online $4/person/year for first five permits and $3/person/year for each additional permit after five. You need a paper copy of the permit, so buy them seven days in advance if you aren’t getting them in person.
Links and Resources
- Official park page: EBRPD – Mission Peak
- Online wilderness permit: East Bay Regional Parks Online Registration
- Photos from a Scout trip in July 2009: Mission Peak, July 2009 | Flickr
- Photos from a personal trip in September 2012: Mission Peak 2012 | Flickr
- Blog post about the personal trip: Couples Backpack to Mission Peak | Most Casual Observer