Hiking to Monument Peak from Ed Levin County Park, huffing it over to Mission Peak and returning is a true test of mettle for San Francisco Bay Area trekkers.
If you're up for it, this is a great way to summit Mission Peak and skip the crowds--and parking hassles--at the popular Stanford Avenue entrance to Mission Peak Regional Preserve.
Instead, take a southern tack from Ed Levin County Park just east of Milpitas. The long, steep hike up from Ed Levin is one of the toughest in the South Bay, but it has some of the best vistas in the region.
As you near the Monument Peak summit, watch for the mysterious stone walls: some believe they were built by indigenous peoples who inhabited these hills for centuries before European settlers arrived.
Best time to go is in the springtime when the wildflowers are out in force and the hills are a shimmering shade of green. Winter's nice, too, especially after the hills have been dusted with snow. Summer is brutal and fall is bone-dry.
Trails on this track: Tularcitos Trail > Agua Caliente Trail > Monument Peak Trail > Bay Area Ridge Trail (BART) > Mission Peak Summit > Peak Trail > Eagle Trail > BART > Agua Caliente Trail.
On your return from Mission Peak, you can turn right at the Agua Caliente Trail near the transmission tower at Monument Peak; note this is an extremely steep descent in places. Retracing your original route might be preferable if downhills punish your knees.
Lots of cattle graze in Ed Levin County Park. Given them plenty of room and you should have no problems -- but do not come between a cow and her calf.
Wear sunscreen: this is an extremely sunny hike.
Bring lots of water: there's none available on the trail and you'll need every drop.
Contact: (408) 262-6980
Hours: 8 a.m. until sunset
Fees: $6 per vehicle
Dogs: OK on leash.
Driving directions: From either Interstate 680 or 880, take the Calaveras Road East exit in Milpitas. Go east towards the foothills on Calaveras Road. At the park sign, turn left onto Downing Road and take it into the park.
Round trip in 5 hrs; tough but not crippling. Good hike through the Oak groves up Monument Peak. Encountered lots of deer, wild turkeys and some Coyotes but not much flowers at this time of the year. Passes by what looks like the source of the Calaveras Creek. When you get to Monument Peak it is still an hour hike to Mission Peak through a trail on the ridge that connects several peaks. You pass by Ellison Peak but it is closed to hikers. Visited on Oct 10, 2012