The hike is hard enough that everyone will feel like they’ve accomplished something, and at the end there are nice campsites with a lovely view of the valley.
This can be a “split route” campout, with the older Scouts taking the more challenging McCorkle Trail. Both trails leave from near the same parking lot and both end up a the entrance to the backpack camp area.
The campsites are spread out enough that other campers are out of sight and hearing, unless you meet at the water spigot or latrine.
You will probably be in Eagle’s Eyrie (10 people) or Star’s Rest (30 people). Those sites are at the highest elevation, both with great views.
Most hikers should take the Camp Ohlone Road along Alameda Creek, then the Backpack Road up to the camp area. The Camp Ohlone Road is rolling, slow climb. You’ll see tons of people until you get to the Little Yosemite area, then probably nobody after that.
The backpack camping area is spread up the side of a ridge, with the highest camps (Star’s Rest and Eagle’s Eyrie) 350 feet above the gate to the area. The trail is very steep, with no switchbacks. Expect to take a lot of rest breaks during the last half mile from the gate to your camp.
Everyone will need plenty of energy for this last push to camp. Our glycogen reserves are usually depleted after about two hours of hiking, so you are likely to run out of energy exactly when you need it. Plan a mid-hike stop for everyone to replenish with an energy bar, so Gatorade, or both. This might be at the picnic tables at Little Yosemite or where the trail leaves Alameda Creek to climb out of the canyon. If you haven’t stopped buy then, you might need a 30 minute packs off and snack break at the gate to the camping area.
If the group is feeling good after the hike in, you may want to hike back on the McCorkle Trail. It has about as much climbing as the last stretch to the campsite, but much less steep. This is the easy direction for the McCorkle Trail. It is much harder going to the camp.
Why go here?
At the end of this challenging hike, you’ll be in a campsite away from other people with a great view down the valley. The only time you’ll see another person is going to the water faucet or latrine.
Schedule your campout during a meteor shower and you’ll have a good chance of seeing shooting stars. The camp sites are far enough inland to get less fog and not that close to city lights.
Reservations and Planning
$5 per night per person plus $8 booking fee. Open all year.
Check availability at ReserveAmerica Sunol, California – View Available Campsites & Reserve Online | ReserveAmerica, but reserve by calling East Bay Parks at 1-888-327-2757.
Reservations may be made up to four weeks in advance. The latest they can be made is two days before your arrival date.
Links and Resources
- Official park page: EBRPD – Sunol
- Excellent descriptions of the campsites: Sunol Backpack Camping Area
- Photos from a trip in January 2010, camping at Eagle’s Eyrie. Sunol Backpacking, January 2010 | Flickr