Sunday, January 25, 2009

Trip Report: Mission Peak Dayhike

Mission Peak from the Stanford Ave. trailhead parking lot, Fremont, CA.

Rumored to have amazing views, I've wanted to hike Mission Peak for a while. So after watching Obama's inauguration, and being a mostly clear, warm January day, I headed down to Fremont for a butt-kicker of a hike. Just before reaching the trailhead, I stopped to enjoy a western bacon cheeseburger guilt free (one of my favorite guilty pleasures) as I knew I would definitely be burning it off on this one.

Dayhike Stats:
  • Date: January 20, 2009, Inauguration Day
  • Location: Fremont, CA, Mission Peak Regional Preserve
  • Mileage: ~6.3 mi round trip
  • Elevation: +/-2100'; lo pt 378'; hi pt 2,517'
  • Trailhead: end of Stanford Ave., Fremont
  • TH Lat/Long.: 37.50419998, -121.908493
  • TH Facilities: toilet, water fountain, picnic table
  • Trails Hiked: Hidden Valley Trail, Peak Trail
  • Route Type: up and back
  • Trail Terrain: steep double track/fire road with gravel; rocky near top; rated strenuous.
  • Why go?: 360° views; oak savanna/grassland; ground squirrels galore, coyote, birds of prey; dogs allowed (pick up poo bags please); Plenty of benches with views along route.
  • Caveats: cows = muddy when wet; popular = people & trash (pack it out!); 2100' elev. gain in 3 miles = strenuous; gravel on a steep grade = slippery
  • Official Website: EBRPD Mission Peak Regional Preserve
  • View the photo album.
Coyote looking for a meal.

Invasion of the Ground Squirrels & One Coyote

I've never seen so many ground squirrels in my life. There were hundreds and that is no exaggeration. They were chirping and chasing and digging—doing squirrel work. Near the summit I saw a hunting coyote stalking the plentiful ground squirrel prey. Thankfully I didn't see him actually eat any, but I was hoping he scored a delectable dinner eventually.

The artifacts of a consumer culture.

Trashy Lazy People

On the hike up, I noticed an inordinate amount of plastic water bottle and orange peel discards. At a semi-flat spot just below the peak there were these two trash cans overflowing with plastic garbage. There was also plastic garbage strewn about the summit.

It's sad and maddening that people find it acceptable to trash such a beautiful place. What's worse is that they carried this stuff up the hill full. They can't carry it back down empty thus lighter? I realize some of the offending parties who normally wouldn't litter felt entitled to use the trash cans, even though filled way beyond capacity, just because they were there, and hey, we are tax payers and some "public servant" is going to come up here and clean up after us right?

Well I picked up and carried out several bottles begrudgingly, as I feel litter bugs should be forced to wallow in their own filth, but unfortunately they are already deep in it and are so oblivious they don't realize it. Where is Woodsy Owl when you need him?

Me with Flag

Me standing with the flag on Mission Peak which is not the actual peak.

The Peak is Not The Peak

The actual peak of Mission Peak is not the flag pictured above. It is the lump behind me in the photo. While standing next to the flag, I noticed that the hump behind me was higher so I went exploring. There is a surveyor's mark and a little hand made sign consisting of a sawed railroad tie and nails acting as text. The few people that were up there when I was just went to the flag and then off they marched back down the hill.

I didn't realize it at the time, but the metal post thing with the funny pipes sticking out of it that the flag is attached to actually points out landmarks. I'll have to see if there is a key. The metal post has numbers so somewhere there has to be an explanation.

Mission Peak Sign

My shadow and the official(?) railroad tie and nail sign marker for Mission Peak.


  1. Nice. Hiked Mission Peak myself. It snowed real deep recently, stayed for three days. They say it might snow more.

  2. Got a pic on my blog of Mission Peak with snow.

  3. My family has lived on Mission Peak since 1884 and owned the Peak from 1923 until the East Bay Park took the land in 1978. I have hiked the Peak unnumbered times and it has always been inspiring...until the Park opened access for hikers...then came the vandalism of sites and the garbage. Now I hike only two or three trails where there is little to no garbage. It is so sad to know how many people care and yet those selfish, lazy, or ignorant few that care nothing for the pristine beauty of the open space and use nature as their garbage dump marr it for the rest of us.

  4. I have heard about the McClure family history with Mission Peak and I feel his pain in the 'before and after' public access situation. I have been hiking MP for 3 years. It did not take long for me to get angry about the trash and irresponsible hikers and dog owners. My husband and I now pick up trash (we only go once a week though) as well as dig through the cans to recycle the plastic bottles. The money received from recycling is donated to my favorite charities as well as EBRPD. I am designating the money for EBRPD to go towards adding another garbage can on the trail.

  5. You are so right. This morning was my second time up. The amount of garbage is just unacceptable. How are more people not bothered by this. How can someone ruin it for everybody else. The other major problem is trail cutting. The hillsides are so scarred. The park authorities seem to be placing bigger signs and gates, but it's no use. So many just go around creating more scars. Finally, more then on any other trail people seem to think it is acceptable to blare their music and not use headphones. I love music but I don't necessarily love your music or want to listen to music on a trail while hiking.

    What they really need is a big sign as you go through the gate with some basic etiquette rules and explanations of why litter and going off trail in such a heavily hiked area or why being considerate of others is important.

    Also, another idea, since it seems that a large portion of those going up are students (high school?) from the area, maybe schools should do a bit more to educate the kids. After all, isn't the point of public education supposed to be turning out good, responsible citizens?

  6. I hike Mission Peak 2 - 3 times a week. In the Spring I hike with a friend and we pack wooden staves for cutting the Thistle alongside the trail. The rest of the year we hike with a glove on one hand and a plastic bag. It is good meditation to retrieve the flotsam left from the tide of humanity whom climbs it each day. The moment required to bend over is a chance to exhale and bless the beauty of the moment enjoying one of the most magnificent hills in the Bay Area.

    I have spent hours talking to the Park District about the need for erosion control concerning the bootleg trails to no avail. Discussions about installing signs, barriers and diversions has led to zilch. The overall impression I have of the Park District is that they are too overwhelmed to do more than empty garbage pans and grade the road once a year. Discussions about gathering people interested in positively impacting the hill has led nowhere. In fact, I am seriously thinking about getting more involved in the politics of the District in order to change behavior so that the hike I love is protected.

    In the meantime, I suggest that if you care, carry a shovel and remove the barriers that allow water to drain down the middle of the roads following a rain. Dig diversion ditches across the bootleg trails to allow water to run into the weeds not straight down the hill. Pick up the trash and carry it off the hill. Remove invasive weeds by cutting them in the Spring and anytime they reappear. Take a wire brush and when you see graffiti on the rocks, trees or park benches remove it immediately.

    Anyone interested in volunteering to supervise teenagers whom want to do community hours?

  7. I hike Mission Peak 2 - 3 times a week. The erosion caused by bootleg trails and bikes off trails is becoming a major issue. Who doesn't like a bootleg trail that is narrow in width as it can have a minor overall impact. However, some of the bootleg trails now reach 20 feet across causing very unsightly conditions. In addition, they create the potential for significant erosion when cut across steep terrain.

    In addition to the bootleg trails another issue is that the number of mountain bikes used on the hill has increased to the point where it is just a matter of time before someone gets hurt. I watch narrow misses each day as some of the bikers have no regards for speed or those hiking the hill.

  8. Having hiked Mission Peak for the last 2 years every 3 days, I can say that the erosion due to trail cutting has become extensive. Unfortunately, the rainy season is soon to come and the impact of denuded ground on steep hillsides will create massive cuts across many of the bootleg trails created between switchbacks. This is unacceptable and unfortunate. The park authorities are not doing enough to restrain off trail use and their use of barriers, signs and or hiking patrols is non existent. Ultimately, the public will pay in a landscape scarred by their deliberate decision to take no action. I would welcome any volunteer to hike the hill with me and summarize the damage at multiple points.