At 2,517 feet, Mission Peak towers over the southern arm of the San Franciso Bay. It offers a 360-degree panorama that extends from San Jose to Mount Tamalpais. On a clear day, you can even see the Sierra Nevada range to the east.
“Perhaps the denizens of this valley are so accustomed to the sight of Mission Peak that they fail to appreciate the dignity and individuality which it gives to the landscape. Whether the outlines, snow-capped may be, are sharp and distinct on a clear, frosty morning in winter, or overspread with the purple afterglow of a summer sunset; whether rising grim and rugged agains black storm clouds, or emerging into the sunlight from unwinding fog wreaths, the mountain has a majesty of its own.”
Clearly the denizens have long since discovered Mission Peak, as anyone who has been to the Stanford Avenue trailhead can attest. Today, Mission Peak is a popular hiking destination appreciated by hundreds (thousands?) each day.
This guide describes the out-and-back route that climbs 3.1 miles to the summit and descends 3.1 miles back to the trailhead at the end of Stanford Avenue in Fremont.
Getting to the Trailhead
There is a small parking lot with 40 stalls at 680 Stanford Avenue, Fremont, California. The lot is at the very eastern terminus of Stanford Avenue, so you can’t miss it. You’ll pass by the remaining building from the long-gone Leland Stanford Winery on your left. Overflow parking is available on Vineyard Avenue (about 150 spots). Read the street signs and parking rules carefully to avoid a ticket, and keep the noise down; you’re in a residential neighborhood. Get turn-by-turn directions via Google Maps.
Note that the posted trailhead hours (6:30 am to 9:00 pm) agrees with the hours posted on the ebparks.org website, but conflicted with the schedule on the East Bay Regional Parks District map for Mission Peak. What is clear is that they mean business. There were several signs warning that “Hikers in the park and vehicles in the staging area when the park is closed will be cited. Citations cost a minimum of $300.” If in doubt, choose the most conservative times, and note that the closing hour changes depending on the time of year.
Hiking the Trail to Mission Peak
The hike begins through a swinging gate on the Hidden Valley Trail. You are hiking through an area where cows graze. Be sure to give them plenty of room. Don’t attempt to touch or agitate them.
The trail itself is a broad, gravel and dirt fire road. There are six benches along the route to the peak, giving you a chance to rest and enjoy the view along the way.
Keep an eye out for wildlife as you go. We spied a rafter of wild turkeys on our way up.
The Hidden Valley Trail is a small part of the Ohlone Wilderness Regional Trail – a 28-mile route that is popular for backpackers.
At about 2.6 miles, you’ll reach a junction with the trail that heads to Ohlone College. Easily within view and short detour is a pit toilet and a bit beyond that, the hang glider launch area. It’s a worthwhile detour on your way back down if the winds are favorable for hang gliding.
Bear right around the ridge to the final approach to Mission Peak–a steep gravel incline.
The broad fire road finally ends about 0.25 miles from the summit. From here, there is a short, rocky section that requires careful foot placement and a single track trail to the summit.
The views from the summit? Amazing. You can see for miles in every direction.
There is a monument with siting tubes on the summit that is a popular place to pose for a summit selfie. The siting tubes are pointed at other landmarks you can see from Mission Peak.
Few people know that buried within the siting tube are a bottle of Zinfandel wine and five time capsules intended to be opened 100 years after they were placed.
See how many landmarks you can identify. Wait in line for your selfie at the monument. When you’ve had your fill of epic views, retrace your steps, heading back down the same route you ascended.
Stanford Avenue Staging Area to Mission Peak Trail Map & Elevation Profile
Mission Peak Tips
- Top tip: Don’t hike this route! Instead, park at Ohlone College at 43600 Mission Blvd. There is a nominal day-use parking fee (currently $4) but there is ample parking, more shade and fewer crowds. The is a little longer, being just shy of 8 miles round-trip. Plus, this route remains open until 10pm year-round, making it perfect for a sunset hike. Here’s the better route on GaiaGPS.
- Go early and if possible, avoid weekends and holidays. It’s much easier to enjoy this trail when the crowds are lighter.
- Carry at least a liter of water, more if it’s hot. Better yet, save this hike for a day when it’s not hot. This route is almost entirely exposed. Don’t forget water for your dog, too.
- Bring sunscreen and sun protection (i.e. a wide-brimmed hat). Even if it’s hazy or overcast, the UV rays can burn you.
- Wear shoes with good traction. The trail is steep and the gravel can make it slippery in sections. I wore trail runners; my wife wore hiking boots, and we were grateful for the traction.
More Mission Peak Resources
- Mission Peak Regional Preserve Trail Map (PDF) – Always carry a map in addition to whatever technology you use.
- Mission Peak: Silicon Valley’s “Big Hike for Beginners” – AlphaRoaming.com
- Why has Mission Peak Become the Thing to Do? – BayNature.org
An thoughtful look at the popularity of Mission Peak, balancing environmental protection and safety.
- Official Mission Peak Regional Preserve website – Get the latest on parking, hours, rules and regulations.