I recently took advantage of a free weekday to check out the wildly popular Mission Peak hike at Mission Peak Regional Preserve in Fremont, California. Instagram popularity withstanding, it’s a healthy out-and-back hike covering a bit over 6 miles total and more than 2,000 feet in elevation.
Mission Peak Parking & Trailheads
Reading some of the 1,000+ reviews on Yelp, I learned that there are two main access points to hike up to the Mission Peak summit –
- Stanford Ave via Ohlone Regional Wilderness Trailhead: This is a very, very popular starting point, as Hidden Valley Trail on this side has sweeping views of the bay and surrounding cities. However, parking is extremely limited with only 43 spots in the official lot. On weekdays, you can park in the adjacent neighborhood, as the trail starts within a residential area. However, on weekends parking is prohibited outside of the designated parking lot. So unless you get there before 6:30am when the park opens, you’ll have to rely on luck to get a parking spot. Hours between April 1 and Dec 23 are 6:30am to 9:00pm.
- Ohlone College via Mission Peak Ohlone Trail: The college has 900 parking spots for use with the trail. A more detailed map of the specific lots and structures can be found on the official park page here. The Peak Trail starts right from the college and takes an alternate route to the summit. Park hours are 6:30am to 10:00pm from this trailhead.
Amazing views of the bay from the Stanford Ave side of the trail.
The trail itself is quite wide and easy to follow – though I went on a weekday, there were plenty of other folks on the trail as well, ranging from families to college students. It’s mostly hard packed dirt with a rocky and gravel-y layer on top that can be slippery at times, especially on the descent. I highly recommend shoes with good ankle support and traction, though I did see people getting by with regular running shoes. Hikers can take breaks at several benches along the way at vista points, and there are porta-potty / bathrooms at the start of the trail and at the junction of Peak Trail and Hidden Valley Trail.
If you bring your pup, be sure to bring enough water for both you and your dog. There are tons of signs on the trail warning folks to bring lots of water, as several dogs die each year from heat stroke and dehydration 🙁 I brought 2 liters of water myself and drank 60%+ over the course of the hike.
The 3.1 miles from Stanford Ave to the summit are very exposed with maybe 30 feet total of shade and tree coverage on the route. I went during the spring when it was 70 – 75 degrees out and worked up quite the sweat. I would avoid this hike in the summer unless you go very early / very late (but still within park hours – they WILL fine you!). The trail from Ohlone College is a little longer at 4 miles, but has a less steep incline overall and a bit more shade.
Cows everywhere! Watch where you step – they tend to leave presents on the trail.
Eastern facing view near the summit after Peak Trail and Hidden Valley Trail merge.
To the Summit Pole
While 90% of the trail consists of wide dirt pathways, the last couple hundred feet consists of a large rock scramble. There’s a skinny trail on the side that you can walk up, but it can actually be trickier due to slippery gravel and small rocks. The top has plenty of space for you to enjoy the views and take a break – it’s a great spot to have a snack or lunch before heading back down.
The famous summit pole sometimes has wait times of over 30 minutes on the weekend for photos – so definitely some patience required! On the Monday I went, it was fairly empty with no wait. Overall, it took me 1.5 hours to hike up and 1 hour to hike down. I’d absolutely recommend this hike, on weekdays if possible or early morning weekends to avoid the crazy crowds. With the much-needed rain over the past few months, the hills are beautifully green – something I haven’t seen in years!