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Fremont, California, United States

Horse Heaven Trail to Mission Peak

See San Francisco Bay from high atop Mission Peak in Fremont, CA, USA. Strenuous 6-mile loop hike

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Difficulty: Difficult
Length: 6.0 miles / 9.7 km
Duration: Half day
Overview: Mission Peak, one of the most popular East Bay hikes, is a great workout with 2,000 feet of climb in two miles and spectacular views of San Francisco Bay and the Diablo Range once you reach the summit.

Most hikers are content to take the so-called Hidden Valley Trail (which is neither hidden nor in a valley) to the summit, but there is a far more rewarding path to the top along the Horse Heaven Trail. Horse Heaven is a steep single-single track that attracts far fewer hikers and offers far more solitude than the standard up-and-back everyone else takes. Who wants to hike with everyone else?

Tips: This is a strenuous hike -- be sure you're up for it.

Footing is tricky near the summit.

You might see a rattlesnake; if so, give it plenty of room and don't provoke it.

The cattle are harmless, as long as you give them plenty of room and don't spook them.

What to bring:
Sunscreen (there's very little shade).
Lots of water, especially in summer.
A windbreaker for the summit: it can be extremely gusty up there.
Hiking poles can ease the strain on your knees on the return trip.

Points of Interest


Stanford Avenue>Horse Heaven Trail

Start out from the Stanford Avenue parking lot and take the first right turn, less than a quarter mile up the trail. This route passes through a gate; you'll see a corral over to the right; don't go that way. Bear left and head up the hill on the wide trail. Climb for about another mile till you hit a trail junction with a post marked "Horse Heaven Trail." Turn right here and head uphill (it's all uphill from here).

Horse Heaven Trail>Summit

Keep climbing and following the Horse Heaven Trail posts. About two miles into your hike you may see three holes carved in the rock: these are mortars created by the Ohlone People to crush acorns, a staple of their diet. (It's possible to miss the mortars if you get off on a spur path).

Keep climbing -- the summit will be at your left the whole way. At about 2.3 miles in you'll reach a fence and a gate at the top of a ridge. Pass through it and head downhill for less than a hundred yards.

You'll reach a bog and need to rock-hop across it. Once you're on the other side, you're on the final ascent to the summit. Pass through the gate and follow more sign posts.

Eventually you'll reach a saddle with the summit at your left. The rest is obvious. Just watch out for mountain bikers on their way down as you head to the top, about a quarter-mile away. Vistas from the Mission Peak summit are simply awesome. Take a picture of the Summit Post to prove you were up there, rest up and rehydrate and prepare for the trip back down.


The return trip is straightforward with a few options (typically you can just follow the crowds): Once you pick your way down the rocky summit approach you'll see a hitching post over at the right and a wide descending trail. This way offers a much more gradual descent with easier footing, but if you're in a hurry you can follow the use trails along the fence row.

Both paths end up at a break in the fence -- pass through it and turn left at the first trail junction. From there it's simply a matter of following the wide road back to the Stanford Avenue gate.
Pictures in this guide taken by: tommangan
I have been to Mission Peak two times and I will be going back again soon. It is a very very good workout. Really easy to get to, since you'll see a herd of people walking uphill to the park. Make sure to plan ahead of time, I got a citation for being there after 6.30. Luckily, I didn't have to pay, but you might not be as lucky.
Visited on Nov 15, 2014

by Gabrielmeh on Oct 20, 2015

Horse Heaven Trail to Mission Peak Trail Map

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