Couples Backpack to Mission Peak

There is a little-known campsite at Mission Peak, but it is one of my favorites. The views are wonderful and it is a perfect base camp for catching a sunset from the peak, or a sunrise, if that is your persuasion.

My wife and I restarted our backpacking with an overnight to this spot, accompanied by another couple. This was my first non-Scout backpacking in years, and it was lovely.

Mission Peak is a very popular hike—we were amazed at the number of people up there at sunset. The rest of them had to hike all the way out in the dark. We strolled back to our campsite. This photo is only a sample, we counted over fifty people. It was a party.

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Eagle Spring Backpack Camp is just north of Mission Peak at about 2100 feet (roughly 400 below the summit). Make a reservation through the East Bay Regional Parks District. The park website has a nice PDF map, though you’ll probably also need a Sunol Regional Park map (if you take my advice).

I like hiking Mission Peak from the Sunol Regional Park trailhead, especially for an overnight. Most people take the 3+ mile trail from the Fremont side, but that is steep for backpacking and the parking is problematic. Starting from Sunol adds an entrance fee and a $2/person Ohlone Wilderness access fee, but the trail is a nice, steady spread climb over five miles and the park closes at night, so your car is relatively safe. Most of the trail is a fire road, perfect for groups who like to chat on the trail. Vintage gear connoisseurs might want to check out Tina’s Lowe Alpine Systems pack.

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All of the campsites have clear views north to Mount Diablo. Three are out in the open, and one is up a rise and sheltered under a spreading California bay laurel. Tina likes trees, so we camped there.

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Climb the peak from the south side. The north approach is a too-steep, rutted mess. The southern trail to the peak is a regular trail in fine condition. Even on a day hike from the north side, it is worth going around.

And if you are still not sure about the view from this camp, here is a something from an earlier trip. Think about all those people heading home on the I-680 freeway while you are relaxing with a priceless view of Diablo. This is one of my favorite computer backgrounds. Feel free to use it.

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FInally, here is a Flickr set from the trip. It is short, less than twenty pictures. I’m a tough photo editor.

Mission Peak from Sunol

The other times that I’ve climbed Mission Peak with the Boy Scouts, we’ve started from Ohlone College. That is a 3.5 mile, steep, shadeless, climb on dusty roads through cow pastures. This time, I took the advice of a nice person at the East Bay Regional Park District and we started from Sunol. Still mostly on roads, but lots more shade, the climb is spread out very evenly over 5.5 miles, and the views are of Mt. Diablo instead of cows.

Even better, we overnighted at the Eagle Springs trail camp. Here is the view north across the campsite:

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And here is a view of I-680, Dublin, and Mt. Diablo a bit later:

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We had at least an hour and a half of sunset color.

I have a flickr set with a lot more photos from the Mission Peak trip, if you are interested.

Hiking Mission Peak

Eight Scouts and six adults had a great time hiking up Mission Peak on Saturday a couple of weeks ago. The weather was great, sunny but not hot, with clear views of our next peak to climb in the Rim of the Bay series, Mt. Diablo.

One of our Assistant Senior Patrol Leaders was our leader and a new Scout, on his first outing with the troop, was our navigator, checking the map at each junction. Two Scouts on this trip had hiked Mission Peak two years ago as their first outing with the troop. A tradition!

We started up the trail at 9:18. The first section of the trail is almost as steep as the final climb to the peak, so we took two rest stops in the first hour. By 10:30, we were over that hump and stopped in the trees to snack and pull off our boots. No blisters! Out of the trees, we climbed up to a ridge with great views across the bay and a view of the peak ahead of us.

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After another rest stop and a tough hike up the last stretch, we reached the peak at exactly noon. We sat down, put on our windbreakers, and had lunch. The ASPL and I had a Scoutmaster Conference for his Eagle Palm. It set a personal record for the nicest location for a conference. We posed for a group photo, of course. I’m the one on the far right. If I look like I barely made it into the frame, it’s because I had ten seconds to get from behind the camera to on top of the rocks.

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The view was wonderful, from San Francisco down to San Jose, on the other side up to Mt. Diablo, and out to the Central Valley. We could see Del Valle Reservoir and the Ohlone Wilderness, where the troop will be taking a 20 mile backpack trip in the spring. To the south, the range of peaks continues, starting with Mt. Allison, which has a very impressive set of radio towers.

After a half hour lunch break on the peak, we chose to come down the other side of Mission Peak and discovered that the trail is much easier on that side. We circled back around the peak past the Eagle Spring trail camp, four sites with a wonderful view out to Mt. Diablo.

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As we came down off the ridge, the hang gliding club started launching, so we could see them playing along the ridgeline. As we were almost back to the Ohlone College trailhead, we could see a grass fire burning close by in Fremont.

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We got back to the trailhead at 3:10, just under six hours on the trail.

The hike leadership and navigation was great. It was clear that I was comfortable with the navigation, because I gave away both of my maps to two different people who asked me for directions. I was a bit sore for a few days, mostly because I’m still recovering from a bad ankle sprain, but it was a great hike and I’d do it again.