I love California. I could ramble off a long list of reasons why I have called this state home for the last 10 years of my life, but for the purpose of this post – I’ll stick to one main reason – adventure at our fingertips.
As an avid hiker and lover of all things outdoors, a friend of mine and I got the recommendation to journey 30 minutes outside of our current bubble and explore a new hike in the Easy Bay. (For my non-Bay Area friends – the San Francisco is the “Bay” and the 60-75 mile stretch from the “North Bay” (North of San Francisco – Napa, Sonoma, Marin, etc…) and the “South Bay” (San Jose, Santa Clara Valley, etc…) and also the “East Bay” (Oakland, Berkeley, Fremont, Walnut Creek, etc) and the “Silicon Valley” (essentially, the West of the Bay – Palo Alto, Cupertino, Mountain View, Redwood City, Sunnyvale, etc).
So we woke up extra early for a Saturday morning (ouch) and carpooled out to Fremont at 6:00am – stopping for Starbucks first.
Our destination – Mission Peak Regional Preserve (East Bay Regional Park District Website: https://www.ebparks.org/parks/mission/).
We were advised to get there by 6:30am – which was the goal, but the coffee didn’t kick in soon enough and it took us an additional 15 minutes to find the trail parking lot (off Mission/Stanford Ave – behind the housing developments). And in that extra 15 minutes, the entire trail parking lot was already full (way before the sun came up) and we had to park a few blocks down the hill (appropriate as “hill” was the theme for the day) and down the street once we could find a parking spot. If parking is any indicator of popularity, we could already tell this was going to be worth it.
The bottom of the trail (at least this trail start) has a few porta-potties and picnic benches – so come prepared with your own water (snacks and hand-sanitizer) the trail head is pretty much an invitation to hit the trail – but (very) limited amenities.
Depending on when you start your hike, you’ll definitely want to check the weather temperature. We knew it would be low 50’s and dark when we started, but there was a great deal of dew and moisture in the air – and a fair amount of mist. I had hiking boots in the car, but ended up wearing my running shoes since judging by pictures, the trail looked pretty carved out. There were only a few (2-3) areas with lose gravel that made me wish I had my boots – but nothing smart foot placement and a cautious pace couldn’t handle. I also had gloves and a warm hat which came in handy as we got closer to the top. As the elevation increased, the temperature actually got colder (especially if you plan to make the climb before the sun comes up).
I’m not gonna sugar-coat it – the path to the top is a CLIMB. Based on my GPS watch (Garmin Forerunner 945), it was 2,244 feet of elevation gain on the 3.43 miles to the top of Mission Peak. My suggestion – spot something in the distance (like a park bench or directional post) and commit to walking non-stop from point to point. The smaller goals take your mind off the fact that you could look up at any minute and realize that you still have so much farther to go… Your calves, hamstrings and glutes will be on fire – but think of it this way, you could pay $30+ an hour for a workout class and not work your (literal) booty off this hard – so be grateful for the free burn (your wallet and a$$ will thank you later… just not the next day (like today) where todays theme is “Sore & Hungry”).
While we fancied ourselves of the “more fit” of those attempting the hike that morning, peoples of all abilities made it to the top and there were 4-5 benches along the trail for people to stop and rest if needed. And the incline was hard, but it never got to the point where you would need an arm rail or need to use your upper body to climb.
The top has a unique pole that everyone stops to take a picture with – the true “I did it” badge of honor to show that you’d climbed Mission Peak.
Just as we reached the peak, we heard a large group singing Happy Birthday with plastic cups filled with champagne to toast the birthday girl (Note to Self: Surround yourself with friends like that).
We took photos for the people who made the ascent before us – and the people behind us took our photos – the natural understanding and sense of community that I hope people carry back down the mountain and into their everyday lives. After the 3.4 miles of climbing I loved how strangers made sure they took the perfect picture for you – because they also understand what it took to get to the top (including the shared muscle fatigue and exhaustion).
Our timing – even with the 15 minutes of getting lost looking for the trail head – could not have been better. We got to the top to meet the sunrise – and take some pretty awesome pictures to welcome the sun and celebrate the climb!
For the anyone wondering “How did you get those photos?!?!” (the most popular question I get on my posts) – I use my iPhone for candids up and down the trail and used my GoPro Hero 8 Black to capture these awesome (and high resolution) photos.
I’m sure some people had no idea what we were doing – but we didn’t care. We were going for capturing the moment, excitement and accomplishment… and handstands for the sake of doing handstand!
And if the climb (I have to reiterate CLIMB) to the top wasn’t rewarding enough, we had an equally enjoyable time back down the trail. And to our surprise, with the sun up we got to see more of our surroundings and the breathtaking Jurassic Park-vibes the trail was serving that morning…
And the morning mist I was low-key complaining about when we got started, showcased its true value to us on the way down as we had this beautiful rainbow paint the sky in front of us the entire hike back down to the trail head.
It wasn’t till hours after the hike (and a much needed nap) I took a good look back at these pictures and saw the subtle double-rainbow that wasn’t visible to us in the moment.
Overall, it was another great day to be alive and a beautiful adventure in California. I strongly suggestion Mission Peak for anyone wanting to see the East Bay from a new point of view – and get in a solid leg workout!
Wake Up Early (like at 5:45am on a Saturday)…
Go the Extra Mile (or 3.4 miles each way…)
Bring a Friend (to share the experience with…)
If you know of any other fun Bay Area adventure, please let me know and comment or send me a message! I’m eager to share this trail with friends and excited to see what next adventure is on the horizon!