Mission Peak Walk

Mission Peak

[Update: Here’s the route for the hike.]

A holiday week outing, down to Fremont, then up Mission Peak. With our trademarked late start, we left home just about 2 p.m. and were on the trail just before 3. A surprise: There was a pretty good crowd setting off the fairly steep fire-road trail toward the peak. The climb is about 2,140 feet, in about 3 miles, from the Stanford Avenue parking lot. The peak elevation is given as 2,517 feet, just a little under the top of Mount Tamalpais (which was visible far to the north above a smoggy-looking haze). I’m used to having trails in our more northerly reaches of the East Bay pretty much to ourselves; meaning sure, you see other walkers, but generally they’re some space between groups. One exception to that: Nimitz Way in Tilden Park, above Berkeley, which has a large parking lot that generally seems mobbed on the weekends (the main reason, along with the asphalt paving, I haven’t walked out there in years). But I think the crowds are drawn to the Nimitz Trail because it’s easy, whereas the Fremont Peak walk involves a pretty decent grade most of the way (for my knees, easier up than down).

The day was warm and the light was gorgeous all the way up. The mountain gets rockier and more “alpine”-feeling the higher you go. We got to the top just after sunset, and I had the thought as several groups passed us on the way down that maybe we’d be the last ones up there for the day. We hung out for a few minutes, took some pictures, at sandwiches that Kate had made, gave the dog some water, broke out a headlight to negotiate the rocky parts of the trail in the dusk, then started down. And here came another surprise: hikers, alone and in small groups, climbing up the trail in the dark. We stopped one group of three to ask whether this was a local custom. It is. Since the park is open until 10 p.m., this is a popular destination at night; and that’s a big difference from the Berkeley Hills, where the parks seem to clear out completely at dusk even though they’re technically still open as late as the ones further south.

The picture above: Looking west from Mission Peak across southern San Francisco Bay. The light really was that good, only better.

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