With a heart-pumping ascent to extraordinary above-it-all vistas, Mission Peak is one of the most rewarding East Bay hikes. The only downside is the huge weekend crowds it attracts to the Stanford Avenue trailhead, where the parking lot fills up quickly and forces hikers to park on neighborhood side streets.
This bundle offers alternatives to the most-traveled path to the summit.
* Horse Heaven Trail: While this one uses the Stanford Avenue trailhead, it takes a far more compelling route to the top that few hikers use.
* Ohlone College: Parking at the nearby community college requires a small fee but offers a more gradual approach to the summit.
* Sunol Wilderness: This 10-miler is my favorite route to the summit.
* Ed Levin County Park: This 12-mile hike can be a beast, but it's a great way to see the backcountry of the Diablo Range.
Use plenty of sunscreen, and dress for weather that can shift rapidly over the course of a day. Gale-force winds often pound the peak, so at least one wind-proof layer is worth taking along.
Cattle often graze throughout Mission Peak Regional Preserve -- give them plenty of space and don't come between mothers and their calves, or you could get charged.