Calories Up, Caution Down

June 2019 Hiking


  • Location: Mission Peak Regional Preserve
  • Date: 15 June 2019
  • Distance: 8 miles, there and back
  • Climb: ~2100’ (640 meters)
  • Info: East Bay Parks, The Hiking Project
  • Fee: $4, but only during the semester
  • Other: Other fun factoid

The tale

In mid-June I ventured to one of the area’s more ambitious peaks, climbing about 2,100 feet in four miles.

At 2,517 feet (761 meters), Mission Peak isn’t quite Mt. Umuhnum (3,478/1,060m) or Mt. Diablo (3,849/1,173m). But it’s easier to reach from the metro area. The trailhead starts at a local college with a 900-spot parking garage. But being close to civilization didn’t make the summit climb easy.

A friend canceled at the last minute, making this a solo hike. But I wasn’t alone. This was the most crowded hike I’ve been on so far.

I ventured to Ohlone College on a foggy June morning. After a record-setting heatwave, this morning started near 60°F. Parking was generous in Ohlone College’s 900-spot garage. June is between semesters, so I didn’t have to pay the $4 fee.

Sign with Bay Area Ridge Trail
This trail is part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail.

From the start, the climb was enough to make me shorten my trekking poles. The steady climb didn’t let up for half an hour. I crossed a brief flat area with shade. Then the trail continued to climb.

A major junction included sweeping views, a picnic table, and a token toilet facility. I took the southwest branch to see the hang-glider takeoff point; this was close enough to Ed Levin CP for paragliders. But today, no one was flying.

View of the Santa Cruz mountains
Looking back over the clouds toward Mt. Umunhum in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

A surprise greeted me on the way back to the junction. The hill-scraping clouds disappeared within 10 minutes, and suddenly I was wishing for more sunscreen.

The final climb to the summit was the steepest and least developed. The way was still crowded, even though many people had trouble getting up and down.

Crowd for photos at the summit
The line to get photos taken at Mission Peeker was impressive.

Finally, I reached the summit. And I wasn’t the only one who thought the view was worth the effort. A long line of people waited their turn to get their photo taken on the official marker nicknamed Mission Peeker. Munching a snack, I decided not to wait.

The trail required calories going up and caution going down. My poles helped me negotiate the rugged downhill jaunt, but most people didn’t have those. Some didn’t have decent footwear. Luckily I didn’t see any injuries.

Low clouds and switchback
A switchback under low clouds.
Switchback under blue skies
The same switchback on my way back felt like a completely different hike.

I snapped more photos to illustrate the change in weather. The weather had reached the mid-70s when I returned to the college.

This is a hike I wouldn’t mind making again, regardless of the weather.

For next time

  • Prepare for changes in weather. Related note: Bring more sunscreen.
  • Bring Gatorade or equivalent. This was a thirsty trail.
  • Although the last stretch is steep and rocky, most of the trails are wide and hard-packed. Rubber tips are a good idea.
  • Maybe a dawn or dusk venture would get more interesting photos.


A few weeks later, I joined Sleep Late and Hike for a sunset trek to Mission Peak. I reached the summit with 15 minutes to spare. The views were worth walking back after dark.

Silicon Valley at sunset
Silicon Valley and the south end of San Francisco Bay, minutes before sundown.
Looking across hills to the north at sunset
Low-angle lighting reveals rugged terrain to the north.
Hikers watching sunset from the summit
A few dozen people watched the sun set across the bay.
Skyline after dark
Silicon Valley lit up as we made the four-mile downhill return. Headlamps were mandatory.